|Easter 2, Commemoration of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, 2018||April 8, 2018||Easter 2, Commemoration of the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King||Luke 6:27-36, Ephesians 6:10-20|
|Easter Sunday||April 1, 2018||Easter, Year B||John 20:1-18|
|Sunrise service, 2018 – “The Road to Emmaus”||April 1, 2018||Easter||Luke 24:13-35|
|Good Friday||March 30, 2018||Good Friday, Year B||John 18:1-19:42|
|Maundy Thursday, 2018||March 29, 2018||Maundy Thursday, March 29, 2018||John 13:1-17, 31b-35|
|Palm Sunday, Year B||March 25, 2018||Palm Sunday, Year B||Mark 15:1-39, [40-47]|
|Lent 5, Year B||March 18, 2018||The Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B||Psalm 51:1-13, John 12:20-33|
|Lent 4, Year B||March 11, 2018||The Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||John 3:16|
|Lent 3, Year B||March 4, 2018||Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22; Psalm 19|
|Lent 2, Year B||February 25, 2018||Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||Genesis17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:22-30, Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38|
|Lent 1, Year B||February 18, 2018||The First Sunday in Lent, Year B||Genesis 9:8-17, Ps 25:1-9, Mark 1:9-15|
|Ash Wednesday, Year B||February 14, 2018||Ash Wednesday, Year B||Isaiah 58:1-12;Psalm 103 or 103:8-14; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10;Matthew 6:1-6,16-21|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany||February 11, 2018||Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 9:2-9|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 4, 2018||The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31; Mark 1:29-39|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany||January 28, 2018||Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:21-28, Psalm 111|
First Sunday in Advent, Year B
Sermon Date:December 3, 2017
Scripture: Mark 13:24-37
Liturgy Calendar: First Sunday of Advent, Year B
“It is like a man, going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.”
I just can’t get Downton Abbey out of my head! (aaagaeede)
This Masterpiece series which ran for six seasons captivated both British and American audiences. The show featured the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants. The Crawley family lived at Downton Abbey and their numerous servants had the task of keeping the expansive house in running order, and ready and waiting any time the family returned from a stay in London or a long visit to some other aristocratic abode.
One familiar scene in the series, repeated frequently, features the servants lined up outside in front of the imposing entrance to the house, waiting to welcome The Earl of Grantham from some journey. Upon being greeted, and entering the house, he invariably will find that all inside has been well tended and all is prepared for his comfort and ease.
The servants of Downton Abbey know whom they are expecting in each of these welcome scenes.
But in Homer’s Odyssey, that great Greek epic written in the 8th century BC, after a long, long journey, Odysseus, the King of Ithaca who has been away at war and has tried to get back home for years, finally returns home disguised as a beggar.
Only his old dog, who was a puppy when Odysseus left home, recognizes his master.
Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, who has never given up hope for her husband’s return even though so many years have passed, doesn’t recognize her husband when he gets back.
Not until Eurycleia, his old servant, washes his feet and sees an identifying scar, does any person know that Odysseus himself has arrived at home.
I mention these homecomings because the season of Advent is about preparing for the homecoming of Jesus, not someone as aristocratic as The Earl of Grantham or a warrior king like Odysseus, but a homecoming for an infant lying in a manger—God, coming to us to live with us (!)
to experience our joys and our sorrows, and to know what it is to be unwelcomed, to suffer, and to die in a world that, for the most part, does not recognize Jesus and has no clue of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, and the King of Glory.
And this season is about a second homecoming as well—a homecoming that has yet to happen—the one we just heard about in the gospel, the Son of Man coming, as it is put, in clouds, with great power and glory. This homecoming of Jesus at the end of time is the homecoming we refer to whenever we say the Nicene Creed.
“And he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
And so the work of this season of Advent for us Christians is to prepare for Jesus, to make sure that everything is ready for his arrival in our hearts—everything dusted, the fireplace laden with wood, the beds made, the food prepared, and then to watch for his return.
And we are so blessed to be watching for a master with the following profile, as Cleo would say.
According to today’s scripture, our God, the One coming to us, does awesome deeds that we do not expect, works for those of us who wait for him, and is always ready to shape us into new people. God saves us.
But God also hates unrighteousness. Those who work against God in God’s household may suffer from God’s wrath, as Penelope’s evil suitors suffer from the wrath of Odysseus when he finally gets home and slays them all.
But to put God’s wrath into perspective, please note that in Psalm 30, the psalmist writes that God’s wrath lasts but a moment, but God’s kindness and mercy last for a lifetime.
Not only does God’s kindness last for a lifetime, but God has given us servants all we need to prepare for God’s return. Paul notes in today’s epistle that God enriches us, we are full of spiritual gifts; that through Jesus we, the unrighteous, are blameless. Not only all of that, but God is now, and always will be strengthening us, because God is faithful to us, both now and in the life to come.
And so we can prepare without anxiety, knowing that God will give us strength even when we feel weak, or discouraged or sick. Even when we get distracted and off track, God is faithful. And God has given each one of us unique gifts that we can use to help everyone in the household of God to prepare for Jesus’ return.
And we will recognize Jesus when he returns if we are paying attention. As Eurycleia recognized Odysseus because of his scars, so too will we know Jesus when he comes, his outheld hands still marked by the scars of the crucifixion that he endured out of love for us. And in those scarred and outstretched hands are gifts of love, peace, joy, healing and rest for those of us who have been waiting and waiting for God’s return.
All of this is good news!
But here’s the best news of all!
As we are preparing for God, God is also preparing for us to arrive in God’s house!
Jesus tells the disciples that God will send out the angels and gather God’s elect from the four winds, from the ends of earth to the ends of heaven.
You and I are the elect! We get to go home! And God is preparing a place for us—just as Jesus told the disciples before his crucifixion—I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, you may be also.
I’m one of those incredibly blessed people who at my age can still go home to their parents. When I go home, my mother still runs to the door and gives me a big hug when I come up the steps and into her warm and inviting kitchen. My father comes into the kitchen, yes, now using a walker, but still on his feet, to welcome me with another hug. My mother wouldn’t think of having any of us come home without having prepared a banquet– more food than we could eat in a year, carefully and lovingly prepared meats, vegetables, casseroles, homemade cakes, cookies, biscuits, and the Baptist version of wine–sparkling cider–and the cheese straws that she and my father have made and carefully ration out during our stay. And I get to sleep in my own bed, the most comfortable bed in the world that sends me into a deep, safe sleep that brings refreshment for the new day ahead.
I gave my parents a rock a few years ago that has these words on it—“Heaven begins here.” They keep it by the back door that opens into the kitchen. For me, going home is a foretaste of what heaven will be like.
We also get to come home every Sunday. We prepare for God by preparing for one another, opening our hearts to each other, even when we differ. Many people work to prepare this time of worship we share. And we get to gather round this table to enjoy a banquet made up of the bread of life and the cup of joy that Jesus has given us to share.
Paul says to the Corinthians that God is faithful and that God is the one who calls us into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
That fellowship, that koinowia, is being in a sharing relationship with one another—nothing to divide us, no servants and master, no rich and poor, no black and white, no male or female, no Democrats or Republicans, nothing to divide us, but instead a sharing relationship, because we are one in our Lord and Savior.
We share divine love with one another because God has shared God’s love with us.
What a fellowship! what a joy divine! as that old hymn puts it so well.
And so in this season of Advent may we use our gifts and the strength God has given us and find the time to get ready, to prepare and to watch with expectation for our master and our friend to come among us yet again.
And may we prepare with joy, because we know that God is preparing a place for us as well, and that Jesus will gather us in and bring us home at last when He comes again in glory.