Texts: Isa 2:1-5, Matt 24:36-44
Date: November 28, 2010
Place: Fellowship of Hope Mennonite Church (Elkhart, IN)
Author: Joanna Shenk
Preparing this sermon has been like a wrestling match in many ways. This past week has been intense, in part due to the changed pace of the holiday, and time with family and friends.
Many unexpected things have happened for me and, in some ways, I am still reeling trying to figure out what’s going on. So preparing this sermon has struck a deep chord and raised a lot of questions for me. Many of them I will share with you.
Rather than speaking for 15 minutes straight, or so. I want to share guiding images, thoughts and MANY questions that have resonated within me as I have wrestled with the biblical texts and the meaning of the season of Advent.
I ask you to reflect on how these thoughts and questions connect with your journey. What parts resonate with you? What is God saying to you as we enter this season of expectant waiting?
There will be times of silence interspersed with my speaking. I will ring the bell to indicate a time of silent reflection. Let us move now into this time of reflection…
In the Matthew passage that was just read, we hear a strong warning to be ready for the return of Christ. We are told the Christ will come like a thief in the night… when we least expect it.
But, is this return only one moment in time or can it be understood as many, many moments throughout our lives when we respond to the in-breaking of the kingdom of God? Are we awake to what God is doing around us?
Do we expect God to enter this world and enter our lives and transform us?
Are we willing to step into the mystery—step into the unknown spaces of transformation? When we do this in response to God, we may seemingly disappear from life as we’ve been living it. Could this be another way of imagining how the Gospel of Matthew talks about people being taken?
Others may feel abandoned as we choose to live in new ways.
Are we willing to take these steps? To become self aware of that which needs to change in us in order to embrace new birth—new ways of being?
Do we trust God enough to give up our familiar ways of being? How do we become a community that nurtures one another in the transformation process? Are we willing to embrace the pain and stretching that comes as new life grows inside us? Can we be midwives and dulas to one another as this new life is birthed?
In the Isaiah passage we encounter a beautiful image of people streaming to the mountain of God. It is envisioned here that nations will come together, beating their swords into plowshares… choosing peace rather than power struggle.
Reading this imagery in Isaiah, the older of the testaments, reminds us that the idea of peace is not unique to Jesus. From the beginning, the Eternal One has called Her people to embody shalom. In the older testament we find many times a God who calls us to embrace the stranger… to learn from unknown visitors… and to live justly with those around us.
Only when the people beg and cry for a king—so that they can be like other nations—does God grant this request. Yet, it comes with warning after warning and a clear message that this is not what God intended.
Rather than choosing to beat their swords into earth cultivation tools, we see God’s people over and over again choosing to carry weaponry and becoming divided, even among themselves. Even among ourselves…
Often when hearing this passage, I think immediately of all the wars happening in the world today. I think of the known and unknown horrors that have been exacted upon those considered ‘terrorist.’ I shutter when the reality sinks in that 66,000 civilians have been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
66,000. In the name of what? Continue reading