Which God are we waiting for? Advent 1 sermon
Sermon Westmount Park United Church
Which God are we waiting for?
27 Nov. 2016
Readings Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44
As time goes by, I realise I have been waiting for the wrong God. But stop me there. ‘You lost me at the title Neil’.
We have a problem being religious. We so easily speak a language that makes no sense. How can you wait for God? Could God be late. It’s the ultimate arrogance n’est pas, ‘excuse me God but what were you doing all this time? Playing Pokemon? I have been waiting here for two years…….well OK two minutes….
And besides, when God arrives, what is that? How does God arrive? It is as incredible as God being late. One way to begin to make sense is to realise language about God is always by necessity different, and with the language come different perceptions, such as time, and waiting.
People do not appreciate the profound side of the approaching season of Christmas because most are not aware of time besides a relentless thrust forward, different speeds yes but still just forward. Now, as soon as you come in here, or to a synagogue or
mosque things are different: there are special times, all the time. Today, Advent is the beginning of a new sacred Christian year, spiritual time that goes backwards and forwards, remembering and anticipating,
Advent is said to be a time of preparation and anticipation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, some 2000 years ago. We place ourselves in the position of people before Jesus who prepared for him or anticipated him. We place ourselves in the
position of people who followed Jesus as first and second or third generation Christians, the ones who gave us their testimonies, remembering Jesus’ commands to love, to teach his ways and to be awake for the coming of God. Advent then becomes
our turn, to prepare and anticipate and already I have said enough to put off the casual observer, the person who is not seeking, finds this richness of understandings surprising, off-putting, as it demands new thoughts, challenges superficial spirituality and calls for new behaviour, new values.
We can easily find ourselves threatened by authentic Advent, as we all want to get along with our family and friends, fit in to secular living, have a good career, not upset our neighbours. And it goes further, when we are honest with ourselves about the sort of world we live in: Which God indeed, am I waiting for? Waiting for the God who answers my prayers, by fulfilling my wish list?
But wait, not my wish list, what about fulfilling the wish list which would make a perfect world? I have wrestled in faith with the world we live in, and the reality of how things are, and I have passed through crises to be able to say to you: The God that saves the duckling from dying of hypothermia, did not come. The God that heard the cry of the slave, chained awfully, below decks, in a ship sailing to the new land, did not come. The God that prevents a suicide bomber from killing themselves and people with them, did not come. At the same time, I recognise many never expect God to come at all, ‘never’ because they can find themselves in this poem:
Afraid you would smack my knuckles with a ruler, I kept my hands clasped behind my back,
and so you could not fill them with grace;
certain you were looking for me so you could scream about all the mess in the kitchen,
I quivered behind the door, hoping you would not look there, and so you could not gather me
up in your arms to wipe away my fears;
taught to believe you lurk in the shadows, prowling around looking for a way to get in,
I lock all the doors and windows, pull the drapes shut, turn out the lights and hide under the
quilt, refusing to answer the door,
and so the invitation to the party at your house gathers dust in the mailbox.
Thom M Shuman
Thankful I am, that I never feared God was like this. So why am I here, waiting with you? Let me repeat, this is about a different sort of time, sacred time, which can go backwards and forwards, and in which we always place ourselves. Waiting, is to place ourselves existentially, like people before us, to anticipate, prepare, for new life, change, the action of God.
Not any God. Not the God who interferes as rescuer of all the worlds problems. Not the God who terrifies us into obedience
but God who is the marrow of our bones, the maker of time and possibilities, the giver of life, being, freedom itself; So the God I am waiting for is never absent, yet rarely acknowledged, God the sustainer, makes new life, with hope, peace, joy and love.
Ultimately I am not waiting for God, I am waiting for myself, for God to be born in me. So it is this God who asks us to be awake
Not to join the growing ranks of people who cannot sleep. (Peace be with you!) Awake in a strange sense, like waiting in a strange sense. But what is this being Awake?
The closing verses of today’s gospel and four verses further: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?
It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards.
The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut
him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
So be awake in the sense of living up to responsibilities like a wise steward not a greedy one, awake in the sense of living a life of purpose, making meaning through care of one another, work in ways that add to life, for right human relationships, and of course right and hopeful relationships with the living planet upon whom we depend.
That’s what Matthews gospel teaches is to wait and I am attempting to be the wise steward with you today, fulfilling my responsibilities as minister: You see, I cannot stop praying, stop hoping, stop anticipating, stop sharing in the glory of this wonderful and terrible world, this extraordinary reality of being alive. I wait for the Living God who surprises out of ordinary things of the world we know, in the same way Mary waited, not knowing Jesus would break her heart.
So Begone the God of Hollywood happiness, the God of success, the God of the status quo. Advent is a time of year we are invited to ‘be’ different. For God to be born in us. Come God, vulnerable, captivating, sustainer of all.