Sermons 2007
Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Advent 1A 2007 Matthew 24:36-4

Now we are standing on the threshold of the great change, that liminal time of Advent. Advent can be depressing as we rush about buying, wrapping, mailing, stacking presents, planning to have or to go to Christmas parties (whoever heard of an Advent party?), planning and cooking Christmas feasts, buying and decorating Christmas trees. Or we can choose to be joyful, and not dark.

Jesus didn’t give us much help in today’s gospel. He speaks in apocalyptic, end of times language. End-time fixations were not exclusive to ancient communities. On October 23, 1844, thousands of Christians sold their possessions, dressed in white robes, climbed the highest mountains they could find, climbed trees to get even higher, and waited for Jesus to return. One William Miller, a farmer from western New York who dabbled in apocalypticism had declared to his followers that this was the date of Jesus' return based on his exegesis of the Scriptures. The next morning, when no one went anywhere but back down the mountain, he announced a calculation error. He then announced that the real date was six months later. It also came and went and so did his followers -- for good.

Jim Jones was another such leader. He moved his People's Temple Full Gospel Church from San Francisco to Guyana, where he could wait for the end-times by creating a community that would live as if the end-times had already occurred. On November 18, 1978, Jim Jones and 911 of his followers drank cyanide-laced Kool-Aid – end time dor them indeed. Less suicidal apocalyptic communities, from Shakers to the Oneida Community, focused their apocalyptic energies into crafting furniture and silverware. (1)

My cousin Will Willimon tells the story of a funeral he attended when he was serving a small congregation in rural Georgia. One of his members' relatives died, so Willimon and his wife attended the funeral held in a hard shell country church. He wrote: "I had never seen anything like it. The preacher began to preach. He shouted; he flailed his arms. 'It's too late for Joe. He's dead. But it ain't too late for you. People drop dead every day. Why wait? Now is the day for decision. Give your life to Jesus.' "

Will thought this was the worst thing he had ever seen. He fumed and fussed at his wife Patsy, complaining that the preacher had done the worst thing possible for a grieving family - manipulating them with guilt and shame. Patsy agreed. But then she said: "Of course the worst part of it all is that what he said is true." (2)

There was once a depressed composer who battled the successes of the past and a fear of the future. Bankrupt and with a cerebral hemorrhage that had left him partially paralyzed he worried that the creative spark was gone.

One day the musician met a man who had compiled scriptures together in story fashion. He asked the composer to add music to the text. The musician looked at the text that read, "He was despised and rejected of humanity," and he felt that way, too. He read texts of the suffering one for whom "no one had pity." But then he read about the one who trusted God still. Then the words, "I know that my redeemer liveth." And then "rejoice" and "hallelujah." That night George Frederic Handel sat down to write music for the Messiah in reality and glorious music . (3)

We all live in the shadow of the apocalypse nd the Cross - the dark reality of the end of our time and the end of the world's time. That is the warning of Advent. But there is also the promise of Advent - the promise that in the darkness, in the shadows, in the unpredictable anxiety of our unfinished lives, God is present. The Cross was not the end of the story. God is in control, and God will come again. With the light of our lives, the shadows recede, and the promise comes closer. With our lives, we proclaim that the light still shines in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome it. The promise is that even when there is darkness and dread in our lives and in the world around us, God is still present with us and in us and hope is alive. And as long and dark as the night seems, morning will come - in God's good time and God's good way. (4)


1. Leonard Sweet, Advent Sermons, eSermons Illustrations for 2 December 2007, adapted.

2. in Susan R. Andrews, The Offense of Grace, CSS Publishing Company, eSermons Illustrations for 2 December 2007, adapted

3. Richard A. Wing, Deep Joy for a Shallow World, CSS Publishing, eSermons Illustrations for 2 December 2007, adapted.

4. Andrews, op. cit.