Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Advent 1 Hope

“And what I say I say to you all – stay awake!”

I want to invite you to take moment and think about the issues confronting us at the moment. 

As a congregation we are very small. We may be growing slowly but it takes so much energy.

On a personal level I know that for many of you have health issues which are of serious concern. For some of you your future in terms of where you are living is also playing on your mind.  all of us have our personal struggles and issues.

As a society Australia has become increasingly disinterested in the church and as we have found our selves on the sideline of the community we have become more insular.

I believe that we are facing far more serious global issues than ever before.  The issues of global warming and economic meltdown are raising question as to our way of life. Is this all indicating that the way we live now in the West may not be sustainable?

The confrontation between the West and other ideologies and religions has contributed to global instability.  The Middle East is in a state of terror.

To put it mildly you could say we are in a bit of a pickle.

It is exactly this kind of tumultuous environment that Jesus declares his hope to his disciples as he approached his death.

The words at the beginning of Mark 13 envisage a time when the temple will be destroyed and Jesus followers will be persecuted.  In these words Jesus indicates what lies ahead for the early Christians.  In the year 64 Nero began his persecution of the Christians in Rome – when Christians were subjected to horrors unimaginable.  In 70 A.D. the Temple was destroyed. 

Jesus words were words that described almost an end of the world for the Jews and early Christians.  But Jesus also spoke hope into this setting – the promise of the coming of the Son of Man, the promise that in the fullness of his return new life and hope would spring forth.

This said Jesus was what we are to do: we stay awake and watch with hope!

But staying awake and being hopeful is not that easy – some of you find it difficult not to doze in my sermons – but in this you can find yourself in the good company of the disciples.

In Mark 14, the following chapter, the scene shifts half way through the chapter to the garden of Gethsemane where we know the disciples kept falling asleep, even though they had been asked to stay awake with Jesus.

At the height of Jesus agonising over his impending death, when he needed a friend, his friends were found wanting.  When going gets tough the tough fell asleep!

In the midst of the demons of our time, the problems facing the world and the church, are we not like the disciples who found themselves alongside Jesus dozing off.

It is hard to stay awake if you think about it.

Have we been sung to sleep by the lullaby of the comfortable culture which surrounds us?  We live in safe homes, eat our nice meals, and access our almost free health care system.  We have good friendships, people to look after us, TV to entertain us.

Or maybe… have we become dazed by the bright flashing lights of the frenetic society around us?  Are we rushing around being busy because if we are not busy people might think worse of us?  So busy that we are all but asleep on our feet!

Do we think that we are stuck in bad dream waiting to wake up?

Jesus challenges us “And what I say I say to you all – stay awake!”

What are we staying awake for?  To see the signs of Jesus presence, to see the signs of Jesus coming!  Like a new leaf on the fig tree hope springs forth.  Little by little signs of new are growth stirring – the coming of Jesus.  Peace breaks out as the kingdom breaks in and Jesus reign is established.

As we struggle in this Gethsemane time, half way between sleep and wakefulness, like the disciples we can find our trust and hope in Jesus promise: whatever the outcome of our drowsy estate Jesus will come to make all things new!

So in this, our waiting is no passive thing, it is not a nothing time.  Our waiting takes place context in the rhythm of the pattern of our worship, of our lives lived with God and with each other.  Whatever confronts our God is with us; Jesus has come, is here and is coming!

As we begin our Advent journey as a congregation we face uncertain times and difficult choices what is God asking of us now.  How will we be God’s people awake and attuned to Jesus presence in the world around us?

I want to invite you to take a moment and think of the challenges that we face, what do you perceive God is calling us to do now. 

What hopes do you have for Jesus presence with us as a congregation and how will that shape who we are and what we do in the year to come?

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