Scripture: Matthew 24:36-44,
Today, we celebrate our Stewardship Sunday and the first Sunday in Advent – and we mark the beginning of a new year in our church calendar. There are several ways you’ll notice our liturgical change. The hangings are now purple. The hymns are different. And, we move to a new Gospel this week. After hearing mostly from Luke since last Advent, we now enter Lectionary Year A, where we’ll hear primarily from Matthew.
We’ll have a better understand of the themes, the hymns, and the readings during this Advent season, if we start this morning with a bit of an Advent introduction. The word Advent means coming and we mark the season of Advent on the four Sundays before Christmas, as we await the coming of the Christ Child. Our work during the season of Advent, is to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ. We do this preparation as we anticipate his coming into the world.
Many theologians describe our current time as the time “between the ages.” Our present age is marked by sin, idolatry, exploitation, injustice, conflict between humans and nature, violence, and death. The coming age, also known as the Kingdom of God, will be marked by authentic worship, forgiveness, mutual support, heath, peace between humans and nature, and eternal life.
This morning, we hear Jesus calling on his followers to be awake and engaged. Biblical scholar Warren Carter says that the issue is not that we might miss the return of Jesus. That will be evident to all. “Rather, the point concerns not being distracted or diverted from God’s purposes, but living faithfully for this goal.”
As followers of Jesus, we are called to live faithfully for the goals of the coming age, the kingdom of God. We are called to stand against what is broken about our present age. Things like injustice, oppression, and environmental degradation. And, we are to lived lives marked by authentic worship, mutual support, forgiveness, health, and eternal life.
Another way of saying this is that we are to be awake to the problems of this current age, and engaged in solutions that help to bring about the coming Kingdom of God.
What does that mean in practical terms? Let me give you some real life examples.
My friend Rocky is a personal trainer. She does her work primarily in senior living communities. She also spends time working with people who are ill, helping them to get more physically fit, in order to live longer and healthier lives. Rocky is an active member of her church. She plays her flute in church each week and sings in the choir. One of Rocky’s close friends at church is a lady named June. For over a year, Rocky has been visiting June several times per week, and bringing a puzzle for them to do. I know that Rocky’s presence has helped June to feel less lonely, especially since she moved to a nursing home.
I have another friend named Arthur – he’s an immigrant to this country from Nigeria, and he’s a pharmacist. After years of working for a corporate pharmacy, Arthur decided to open his own shop. He lives in a pretty affluent community and could certainly have opened his shop there. Instead, he opened his shop an hour from home in a community I would describe as a healthcare desert. Arthur saw that people in parts of Vallejo lacked access to healthcare and medication and chose to place his shop in that community.
My final example comes from our eight-year-old granddaughter Lily. For as long as I’ve known Lily, she’s had a heart for animals. These days, she’s most concerned about the plight of the dolphins. Earlier this year, she baked cupcakes and raised $100 to send to an organization that protects dolphins. And she’s let us know that for Christmas, she wants a membership in this same organization. Our other grandkids asked for Legos!
There’s a word that young adults and others who concerned about issues of racism and social justice, are using these days, and that word is woke. It’s a play on the past tense of wake. These seekers after justice are challenging one another to stay woke or to be aware. I would describe Rocky and Arthur and Lily as woke. They are woke to needs in the world – and are engaged in responding to those needs.
The work of the first Advent has not yet been completed – and as we await the day of Christ’s return, we are called to stay woke and to be engaged with the world. We are called to live the values of the Kingdom of God, until Christ returns.
As I reflected on this reading in light of Stewardship Sunday, it seemed quite appropriate. St. Mary’s is the place where we each come to be inspired. We enter this place each week to worship God, to be moved by the Spirit, the hear the Good News proclaimed and to stay woke!
St. Mary’s enables us to be the people that God calls us to be. This church serves as a conduit for us to act to bring about the values of God’s new age to come. We give a portion of our time, talent and treasure to make that happen. In just a few moments, we will have our offering – and at that time, I will invite you to place your pledge card into the offering plate as a sign of your commitment to come together to do the work God has called us to do as we await Christ’s return.