“Be on Guard! Be Alert! Redemption is Drawing Near!”
2 December 2018 – Advent 1
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Welcome to Advent;
A time of waiting,
A time of preparation,
For the coming of Jesus Christ.
Of course, we are all aware of the birth of the historical Jesus,
Which we celebrate every December 25th
Christ-mas, or the mass celebrating the birth of Christ.
Our God at work in salvation history
Approached and stepped into our world,
Forever altering the trajectory of our God – Humankind relationship.
Our God is a God of history.
Hopefully, you’ve been paying attention
And recognize the mysterious presence of Jesus Christ in our midst.
Though he ascended into heaven,
His Holy Spirit descended and remains in our midst to this day.
The Holy Spirit of Jesus is manifest in the Body of Christ,
The baptized assembly of Christians
Who draw upon the direction, will, and power of the Holy Spirit
To love God, love neighbors,
Bring new disciples to Christ,
Instruct new disciples with the Gospel,
And work to complete God’s kingdom.
How the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ works is truly a mystery.
This first Sunday of Advent
Shares with Matthew, Mark, and this new year, Luke,
The apocalyptic anticipation of Jesus Christ return in the future.
Jesus will return “in a cloud,” Luke reports,
“with power and great glory.” (21:27)
Our God returning as Jesus Christ will be truly majestic!
It is in this context –
Our God is a God of History, Mystery, and Majesty –
That we begin this sacred season of Advent.
Just two weeks ago from the Gospel of Mark
We recall Jesus teaching his disciples that it was foolish
To pay attention to false prophets claiming
To know when and how to understand the signs.
Today, in the Gospel of Luke,
Jesus is teaching in the Temple
That when you see the signs,
“you will know the kingdom of God is near.” (21:31)
Christ’s promised return,
The completion of the kingdom of God,
The end or this world as we know it,
Is known by the word apocalypse.
Apocalypse is characterized by writing style and setting
In Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospel scripture.
We pray for the apocalypse every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer:
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Apocalypse is cosmic in dimensions, Jesus promises.
The sun, moon, and stars will be altered.
Apocalypse is global in dimensions;
Distress among nations,
Even the sea and waves will be altered.
Apocalypse is personal in dimensions;
“People will faint from fear and foreboding,” Jesus promises. (21:26)
Do not fear apocalypse, Jesus teaches us.
“Stand up and raise your heads,” he encourages. (21:28)
Have no fear because it means that
God is coming to us,
God hasn’t given up on us,
And God is keeping God’s promises.
Do not fear apocalypse.
“Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Ibid.)
Like Jesus Christ,
Redemption has come, is come, and will come again!
Redemption is deeply rooted in our Hebrew lineage;
For it means
God acted to free our ancestors from Egyptian captivity, and
God acted to return our ancestors from Assyrian and Babylonian exile.
Our sin that led to our captivity had been repurchased,
Bought back by our God,
Whose action became more clearly identified
As our God of redemption.
In the Gospel of Luke
Mary anticipates redemption with her song of praise (1:46-55),
Zechariah anticipates redemption with prophecy (1:67-79), and
Simeon anticipated redemption even as he held the baby Jesus in his arms praising God. (2:25-32)
Redemption has come
By the action of Jesus Christ.
Jesus bought back our sins by his crucifixion.
We are delivered, individually and corporately, from captivity to sin and death.
By his resurrection,
Jesus saves God’s people
With redemption’s greatest reward: eternal life.
Redemption is come,
And, redemption is needed repeatedly.
Of course, we continue to sin,
Intentionally, or unintentionally.
We stand in daily need of deliverance.
Redemption comes in the present when
The Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ works in us and through us
To confess our sins,
To repent of our sins,
To make reparations for our sins,
And to commit to sinning no more.
Redemption is both personal and community wide,
Indeed, acting out daily on God’s global stage,
In Christ’s Holy Church.
Redemption will come again.
We stand up,
We raise our heads,
In the face of impending apocalypse
Because Jesus assures us of our deliverance;
Our freedom from the sin, pain, and evil of this world is imminent.
At any time,
At any moment,
Our redemption will come again.
We do not fear apocalypse because our redemption will have come.
We will stand before our divine judge,
Who is none other that the God of our redemption.
Our God who has committed to us …
Who has promised to us …
Who has made covenant with us …
To be our God of love, grace, redemption,
Is intent on saving the world,
Not condemning the world.
What better judge could we have
Than our God who is our Redeemer?
God wants you delivered from everything that holds you captive,
Be it sin, mourning, pain, disease, or illness.
God was willing to buy you back by his actions in Jesus.
God is willing to liberate you today, wholly, completely, and without reservation.
And God is coming again in majesty;
An apocalypse to truly look forward to.
Be on guard!
Stand and raise your head!
The Lord, and our redemption, is drawing near.