Sermons 2003-2004

Left Behind? Advent 1A, 28 Nov 2004, Matthew 24:37-44
Home | Christmas Eve A, "Are we really ready?", Luke 2: 1-20, 24 December 2004 | "Finally! Well, almost...." Advent 4A , 19 December 2004, Matthew 1:18-25 | Faith and Doubts, Advent 3A, 12 December 2004, Matthew 11:2-11 | John the Baptist, Advent 2A, 5 December 2004, Matthew 3:1-12 | Left Behind? Advent 1A, 28 Nov 2004, Matthew 24:37-44 | Some King of kings! Proper 29C, 21 November 2004, Luke 23:35-43 | "Not one thrown down", Proper 28C, 14 November 2004, Luke 21:5-19 | All Saints and for all the saints, 2004C, 31 October 2004, Luke 6:20-36 | The Lambeth Commission Windsor Report, the Pharisee, and the tax collector, Proper 25C, 24 Oct 2004 | "Lord, teach us to pray." Proper 20C, 17 October 2004, Genesis 32:3-8, 22-30; Luke 18:1-8a | "It's all in the choosing", Proper 23C, 10 October 2004, Ruth 1:1-19a; Luke 17:11-19 | "Increase our faith", Proper 22C, Luke 17:5-10, 3 October 2004 | Proper 21C 2004, 26 September 2004, "R&R: Response and Relationships", Luke 16:19-31 | Proper 19C 2004, 12 September 2004, "Lost and Found", Luke 15:1-10 | Proper 18C 2004, 5 September 2004, "Preaching or Meddling", Luke 14:25-33 | Proper 16C 2004, 22 August 2004, "The Narrow Gate ", Luke 13:22-30 | Proper 15C, 15 August 2004 | Proper 14C, 8 August 2004 | Proper 13C, 1 August 2004 | Shrinemont: "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", Proper 15c, 15 August 2004 | "Lord, teach us how to pray," Proper 12C, 25 July 2004, Genesis 18:20-33; Luke 11:1-13 | The Summary of the Law and the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise" Luke 10:25-37, 11 July 2004 | Independence Day 2004. "The Creative Tension of the Church: Who is to be included?" | "Now! Now! Now!", Proper 8C, 27 June 2004, Luke 9:51-62 | "Star Throwers", Proper 7C, 20 June 2004, Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 9:18-24 | The more things change the more they remain the same, Pentecost 2C, 13 June 2004 | "O Holy Triune God, most Holy Trinity; here are we. Send us." Trinity C, 6 June 2004 | "Come, Holy Spirit", Pentecost C , 30 May 2004 | "That they all may be one", Easter 7C, 23 May 2004 | The Holy Spirit: Paraclete, Pneuma, Ruach, Easter 6C 2004 | Agapate Allelous: Love beyond each other, Easter 5C 2004, 9 May 2004 | The Good Shepherd and the five people you meet in heaven, Easter 4C 2004 | "The God of the Second Chance -- and of many chances", Easter 3C, 25 April 2004 | Baptizatus Sum: I am baptized, Easter 2C 2004 | It is NOT an Idle Tale: Easter Sunday, 18 April 2004 | Palm Sunday-Passion Sunday Roller Coaster: What We Want or What We Need? | Who are the Wicked Tenants, Lent 5C 2004 | The Prodigal Son -- and so much more | God, the Gardener, and the Fig Tree | "The Hen and the Fox", Lent 2C | The Comfortable Rut of Ordinary Temptation | "Getting from Uh-oh to Aha", Luke 9:28-36, Epiphany Last C, 22 February 2004 | Jesus, Jeremiah, and the Beatitudes: What to Make of it All | The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon: God working in the world | Jesus, the Archbishop, and Annual Council The Dark Abyss of Schism | The Nature of Revelation: Jesus' Sermon at Nazareth | The Miracle at the Wedding in Cana | The King of kings and the Lion King | "The Magnificat, Watching, and Waiting" | "Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always" | A Voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord." | "Standing in the Day of Battle: Isabel and the Gospel" | Dogma, Doctrine, and the Theological Enterprise | The Little Apocalypse | Jesus and theWidow's Mite | One Priest's Response to the Election of Gene Robinson | The Great Commandment: Jesus Meant What He said | Who is blind? | Eyes on Jesus and minds on mission! | Tradition or Traditionalism? | Credo: Be doers of the Word and not hearers only." | Who do YOU say that I am? | "It's about Power and Winning" | Contact Wicomico Parish Church

Advent 1A 2004 Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 24:37-44 Most of us have heard of the popular current series of “left behind” books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, now into twelve volumes. You can find many of these volumes in any library sale, hospital book sale, or yard sale. I think you can get all of them brand new in sets of four at WalMart. Some have been made into movies that you can rent in both Burgess and Kilmarnock. In these books and film, the focus is on the last days, the end of life and time as we know it, the end times stressed in the book of Revelation and in any number of prophetic and apocryphal passages in both the New Testament and the Old. Topics like The Rapture where some are spirited away and others left behind, Armageddon like great battles between good and evil, and the triumph of faithful Christians are the stock and trade of this 12-book series. They are very popular with those who agree and disagree with the books alike. The regularly appointed readings for the First Sunday of Advent – of which was just read only the Gospel -- present these themes, but with a lot less detail and a lot more challenge to the reader. First, in the prophet Isaiah, we read about a looming political, military, and social cataclysm in the 8th Century, B.C., when the kings of Israel had offered to pay tribute for protection from invaders, indeed trying to find any way out of the vise trap caused by the successive armies and empires of the Assyrians, the neo Babylonians, the Egyptians, and the Persians. The prophet First Isaiah proclaims the vision of a new Israel where tribute will be no more because all kingdoms will come to the “mountain of the Lord’s house.”

And then comes the vision of universal peace where “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” No one will learn war anymore. Anyone reading a daily newspaper would agree we are far from that vision today. But this vision has given people hope. A few years ago one organization provided people with pins made of metal from a scrapped warplane, forged into the shape of a plowshare as a reminder of that vision from Isaiah.

In his letter to the Church in Rome, Paul, who had not yet abandoned his sense of Jesus’ immediate return, focuses not on when it will be or what it will be like, but how we should live as though it were tomorrow.

Paul tells us to be awake, lay aside works of darkness, put on the armor of light, and live honorably. He doesn’t have any interest in doomsayers or seers predicting destruction. What Paul wants is for people to behave like disciples, behave like followers of Jesus. But this doesn’t mean only leading a life of just being pure as the driven snow. No, this is a gutsy mandate that demands treating others as we would wish to be treated.

In the Gospel appointed for today, part of the apocalypse from Matthew Jesus addresses people’s concerns about the end. He does this, incidentally, from the Mount of Olives where he is about to begin his own arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Jesus was certainly aware of what might happen to him as he spoke. We have a suggestion here of how universal that end will be—it will affect everyone, believer and non-believer alike. People engaged in work, and people partying are two extremes of those who will be caught up in the coming of the Son of Man. Sounds like Volume 1 of Left Behind.

And people were just as curious then as now. They wanted to know when, who, and what they had to do to be saved. Jesus doesn’t answer these questions directly now. He wants people to live a different way, not be afraid of living altogether. He has already answered this question in his great Summary of the Law.

Can we, as responsible disciples, bring in the Kingdom? Can we make the vision of Isaiah come true? No, not if we think we are the only people who can. Only if we work together and not tear each other apart. Do you think that day will ever come?

For some of us Advent is a time of quiet waiting. A time of quiet reflection and prayer, a time of probing and renewing the deep springs of our spirituality. For others it is a time of active searching. Searching for the spark of Jesus in others, repairing and polishing our own armor of light, and looking for hope when people say there isn’t any.

Advent is not about getting ready for Christmas, either. It is a separate, intense season of looking for, and listening for, the hope planted by God within each of us. It is a time of shutting out darkness, refusing to accept it as part of life. Even though it is the darkest part of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, Advent is a time to light the lamps and scatter the darkness, not brood over it, floods of light lighting our way into the kingdom of love that God intended. Floods of light scattering the darkness from before us. Light filling us with energy, love, and joy. Floods of light from Christ's birth, death and resurrection surround us all. This Advent walk in it, live with it, and respond to it, and your Advent will be one to remember. (1)

1. Adapted from a sermon by The Rev. Ben E. Helmer, of the Congregational Development staff at the Episcopal Church Center in New York, the Selected Sermon for Advent 1A 2004, Worship that Works, at