|Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||March 2, 2014||Last Sunday after Epiphany||Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21. Matthew 17:1-9|
|Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||February 23, 2014||Seventh Sunday after Epiphany||Leviticus 19:1-2. 9-18; Matthew 5:38-48|
|Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||February 16, 2014||Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 5:21-37|
|John Hines sermon||February 11, 2014||Daily Office||I Kings 8:22-23, 27-30, Ps 84, Mark 7:1-13|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 9, 2014||Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-12, 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, Matthew 5:13-20|
|The Presentation, Year A||February 2, 2014||Presentation in the Temple, Year A||Luke 2:22-40|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 26, 2014||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 4:12-23|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 19, 2014||Second Sunday after the Epiphany||Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2014||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Matthew 3:13-17|
|The Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2014||Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Second Sunday After Christmas, Year A||January 5, 2014||Second Sunday after Christmas, Year A||Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23|
|Christmas Eve||December 24, 2013||Christmas Eve, 2013||Luke 2:1-20|
|Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 15, 2013||Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10, Matthew 11:2-11|
|➤First Sunday in Advent, Year A -The Circle of the Church Year||December 1, 2013||Advent 1, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Yr C||November 24, 2013||Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Year C||Luke 23:33-43|
First Sunday in Advent, Year A -The Circle of the Church Year
Sermon Date:December 1, 2013
Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44
Liturgy Calendar: Advent 1, Year A
Last Monday night, at the community Thanksgiving service at the high school, The Rev. Bambi Willis, who spoke for the Caroline County pastors, said that even though we may all have different theologies, every minister in Caroline County would agree that what we are working for and looking for is God’s kingdom here on earth, with our focus of course being on Caroline County.
Isaiah’s beautiful prophecy in today’s reading pictures the entire world coming to God—God’s reign on earth, God’s judgment and God’s peace, people walking in light.
Jesus tells us that we do not know when this day will be—the coming of the Son of Man–but our job as Christians is to be prepared.
I have to tell a little story about Ben Hicks here. Ben loves to “get notice” about anything out of the ordinary that might happen in our house. He does not like surprises.
One day last summer I lost my car keys at the hospital, so I walked to St George’s where Ben works to tell him that I was stranded, and the first thing he said to me was, “Why didn’t you give me notice about this?”
But when I got up that morning, I really didn’t know that I would lose my car keys—it was a surprise to me when it happened.
And that’s the way this day of the Lord that Jesus talks about will happen. We won’t get any notice. So—our job is simply to acknowledge that our time is in God’s hands, and to be prepared for the day of the Lord.
The Book of Common Prayer has this birthday prayer –
“O God, our times are in your hand: Look with favor we pray, on your servant as he begins another year. Grant that he may grow in wisdom and grace and strengthen his trust in your goodness all the days of his life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
This prayer describes part of what being prepared means—growing in wisdom and grace and trust in God’s goodness in the new year of the person’s life.
We tend to think of time as linear. We’re born. We move through each year of our lives, hopefully growing in wisdom and grace and trust. The Prayer Book outlines various milestones that we pass in our lives. We are baptized, we are confirmed, some of us marry, some of us have children, all of us sin, and some of us experience the rite of reconciliation, some of us are ordained to the diaconate or the priesthood, or the episcopate, all of us eventually die.
So we tend to see life as a line with a beginning and an end.
And yet, as Christians, we believe that when our lives here on earth end, and life as we know it is over, our times are still in God’s hands, and that our lives do not end, but that they change.
As the Prayer Book states so poetically in the Proper Preface for the Commemoration of the Dead—“For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.
And this beautiful prayer in the Rite I Burial Office describes what we’ll be doing in our changed lives—“increasing in knowledge and love of God, we will go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in God’s heavenly kingdom.”
Which brings me to the church year—and the gift of the church year is that it helps us to understand time in a different way.
Understanding time in this different way helps us to be prepared for the coming day of the Lord. We won’t need notice of that day, because understanding time in this way helps us to be ready, no matter when that day comes.
Here’s what I mean—and this illustration is taken from Jerome Berryman’s Godly Play lesson on the Circle of the Church Year.
Here is a golden thread—here it is, being born. It is brand new.
Time begins. And as time goes on and stretches out, this new piece gets older and older as more time stretches out behind it.
At last, this time ends.
And so the beginning—what was so new, is now old. And the ending is the new part.
So the church does something very wise for us. The church ties the ending and the beginning together—and this is a reminder to us that for every ending there is a beginning, and for every beginning, there is an ending. This circle of life in God never ends, but becomes richer and fuller and stronger throughout eternity.
And we see this eternal truth about our lives reflected in the church year, which ends and begins and ends and begins, year after year.
So let’s walk through this church year now on this first Sunday of the new church year—so that we can see how the church helps us, throughout the year, to be prepared for the coming of God’s kingdom here on earth.
First of all, there are three great mysteries in the church year. These three great mysteries are the times in the church year when God draws near to us profoundly and deeply.
The first great mystery is Christmas.
The second great mystery is Easter.
And the third great mystery is Pentecost.
People can walk right through these mysteries and never even know that God is there in these mysteries, drawing near to them.
So we need time to get ready for these mysteries.
Here are the times for getting ready.
During Advent, we get ready for the mystery of Christmas.
During Lent, we get ready for the mystery of Easter
And during Easter, we get ready for the mystery of Pentecost.
And then we have the great, green growing Sundays of the year.
So let’s walk through the church year, and put all these Sundays in place on our calendar.
First, there’s Advent. Purple is the color of Advent. Purple is a serious color. The color of kings. We know that a King is going to be born and so we want to get ready. In some churches you’ll see the color of blue during Advent. Blue is Mary’s color. Blue is the color of heaven, heaven coming close to earth. (Place purple blocks on the circle.)
Then we get to the great mystery of Christmas. We celebrate this mystery for twelve days. (Place the white block on the line.)
And then we get to Epiphany and during the season of Epiphany we have some great green growing Sundays. The most Sundays you can have in Epiphany is nine Sundays. This year, we’ll have eight.
(Place eight green blocks on the line.)
Then we come to Lent. The color of Lent is also purple—we know that purple is the color of kings. But purple is also the color of suffering. And in this season of Lent, we prepare for the mystery of Holy Week and Easter, when God draws near to us again in the mystery of suffering, death and resurrection. (Place six purple blocks on the line.)
Now, Easter is so great a mystery that you can’t keep it just on one Sunday, so it spills over into six weeks –the six weeks of Easter. (Put six white blocks on the line.)
During this time, people met Jesus in a new way. He had died on the cross, but they kept meeting him. He was still with them, and he is still with us. Then something wonderful happened. Outside of Jerusalem, the apostles saw Jesus go to be with God, and then a few days later, the Holy Spirit came down—
Like tongues of fire, and the disciples were more alive than ever before. They were on fire when they spoke. And so Pentecost is red, like fire.
And then, we get to the great green growing Sundays, the Sundays after Pentecost. During Pentecost, we walk with Jesus and see God’s kingdom drawing near to us. We learn from Jesus what we can do to help the kingdom of God come nearer to those around us. During the green Sundays after Pentecost, we grow in wisdom, grace and trust.
And then the church year ends, and begins all over again.
And we come once more to the great season of getting ready for the mystery of Christmas, when God drew near to us one starry night in a cave outside of the small town of Bethlehem in Judea, when Mary had a baby and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.
So now, in this season of Advent, and throughout the year to come, as we pass through the endings into new beginnings, both in the church year and also in our lives, in the words of Isaiah,
“come let us walk in the light of the Lord” as we grow in wisdom and grace and trust, as we go from strength to strength, and as we prepare for the day of the Lord’s coming.
Berryman, Jerome. The Complete Guide to Godly Play, Volume 2. “The Circle of the Church Year.” 2002 by Jerome Berryman.