For the second week in Advent we get to hear about John the Baptist out in the desert challenging us to Prepare the way of the Lord.. and I was thinking what does it mean to prepare the way of the Lord? It was a call by John to repent, to turn things around and get things in order with God. I wonder if part of it was to shake people out of their habits and rituals and make them think about what they were doing and what it really meant to them. How was it helping them live closer to God’s way?
It got me thinking what would John the Baptist look like in our current age, who are the prophets in the desert calling out to us to change our ways and what are they saying? The first that came to me was in Australia’s literal desert, and the Aboriginal communities there, challenging us to be more generous in how we treat those coming to Australia to seek Asylum. Then I remembered that our oceans are also considered a desert, a place with no drinkable water. Our pacific Island brothers and sisters have been challenging us with the concern for global warming and it’s effects on their homes. Then I was thinking that sometimes our cities can feel like deserts too, barren and lifeless.. and we can forget how easy it is for life to turn around in a flash and we can lose everything.. The message of John was not always liked by people, and sometimes our response to these modern day prophets can be the same..
But in all these cases we know that things are not as they could be and as a church we believe that God has answers, a vision and a way forward.. To make this happen we need to prepare ourselves ready to hear it.. What are your prophets saying to you about what you need to get ready?
Matthew 24: 36 – 44
But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
I often feel like this reading is a bit of a trap, no one knows when it is going to happen.. I found it interesting to notice in the reading that it wasn’t just the people but the angels and even the Son would not know when it would happen.. So the angels aren’t singing but are shocked as much as everyone else as to what is happening.. People would be there then they would be gone..
There are two things I always find interesting with end times talk, the first is the multitude of people who believe it is going to happen and they know.. I noticed myself with the whole new millennium it was easy to get caught up in the questions about it.. Now that I have safely lived through it, or maybe got left behind.. It is easy to laugh it off. It can quickly suck us in! As a rule this passage from Jesus means I have a clear answer, if you know it is going to happen, then it isn’t going to happen , cause surely if Jesus doesn’t know, there is a good chance God isn’t going to let you in on the act. In some ways it reminds me of impatient children, are we there yet? When is the show going to start? Maybe we never grow up. More the point is that what is really important about this passage?
Have you ever been left out of something, or found out about something after the event? It usually contains a great gamut of emotions most of which aren’t real good. I wonder if this reading is about being present and living in the moment well, sometimes we can get so caught up in what is to come or getting ready for what is next, that we miss the beautiful moment we have right now. Maybe it is being distracted by your phone when you’re having a coffee with your friend, or neglecting the dog because you are too busy, or feeling forever angry and frustrated because things aren’t moving the way we want the to. The thought of these images remind me of times when I have lost someone I loved, I recall our times of coffee and I miss them. We think of the end times as coming in a big bang but really we live it regularly with the reality of the changes in life.
So this week, as the first week in Advent, get ready by being real. Appreciate what you have in that moment and recognise the gift that it is.. You never know it might even take you to a place of gratitude in the process! I’m going to watch Star Trek with my family. See you next week.
Colosians 1:11 – 20
I have chosen the New Testament reading today but the gospel would work just as well. It is Christ the King Sunday! The week in the Church Calender that we celebrate Christ as King.. As I read the gospel reading and then through Colosians I was reminded as to the diversity of ideas people have of Jesus as Christ the King.. Lots of them have crowns, or thrones or mystical golden crosses behind His head. Some see the true power of Jesus by what he did on the cross, some just that he has inherited the great leadership from God, some see that the power comes that God came to earth as a child, others the power came right from the beginning..
What does Christ the King look like for you? What is Jesus ruling? What does His rule look like? For me I wanted His crown to be out of daisies and to have Him dressed like a hippy carrying signs of peace, because for me Jesus being the King comes about because people choose to let Him rule thier life, because of the love and peace and hope that He offers.
As I pondered this it reminded me of someone standing in a mirror maze (yes this is what it is supposed to be!) It is often difficult to tell which is the real person and which one, a mere reflection.. For me all the images we hold as Jesus as Christ the King is a reflection of the real Jesus King, depending on which angle you look at it from. I think when we hold things lightly like this and realise we are looking merely at a reflection so great our mind cannot comprehend, we are able to be open to listen to each other and learn. Each time we do this we gain a new angle of which to see Jesus from and hopefully the surprise and beauty of this moves us to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is.
The temple in the time of Jesus was the ultimate place of God, some believed it was where God dwelt. They were admiring its magnificence, adorned in the best of the best to honor God. It must have felt like a special place, like those grand Cathedrals in Europe. People travelled a long way to be able to make their sacrifices to God there.I wonder if for the people it was the sign of the achievement of making God happy.. I wonder what things we have now that for us is the place where God dwells? Or the things we hold onto that make us feel like we have made God happy? In this moment of overwhelming awe at what the temple is Jesus breaks the bad news. The connection to God that you have on this earth is going to be destroyed and not just a little bit but it is going to be decimated.. As if this isn’t enough Jesus goes on to tell them the world is going to go into chaos it will look like it is all going to end! But before that happens you will be arrested and find yourself before great and powerful people needing to explain yourself.. But don’t worry..
I have the REM song going on in my head, it is the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine! I don’t know how things are going in your church at the moment but there is a lot of doom and gloom around. The temple that was has been knocked down almost to a point where it is not recognisable and the world is in a very scary way..Global warming, terrorism, wars, famine, then we have our leadership, it is hard to know who to trust and it doesn’t feel very promising.
But Jesus says don’t worry, don’t even prepare for it I will give you the words to say and it will be ok because by your endurance you will gain your soul. Jesus never promised it would be easy, he was also a big fan of not worshiping idols, but worshiping God. As people I think sometimes it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking if we just do this or go here we will make God happy. What makes God happy is a relationship with God, us being friends and making time with God, our lives being a living sacrifice.
I was thinking this week what if every Christian saw themselves as missionaries, more so light givers. That God had put them where they were to share the Good news of God to the people they are part of. What if the time and energy we invested into buildings and projects we invested in praying and seeking from God how to speak the good news to the people right beside us.. I’m not talking about speaking the formula, let me tell you about Jesus. I’m talking about the genuine knowing who people are and what of the Good news speaks to them.. That means we need to start with what does the Good news mean to me?
Things might be scary at the moment and it might be really easy to lose hope, but there is hope. Whether it comes to you as it did me through a woman soldier on the ground fighting ISIS, not afraid because she knows she is part of something so much bigger. Or my friend who has dilligently fought to have bottle and cans recycled and plastic bags banned in our State. Let us not quit at the overwhelming darkness. Jesus told us this would come, as it has for generations before us, but let’s be the people of light who will not stop believing in the impossible and putting it into action. Shine people Shine!
Have you every had a discussion with someone around an issue where they think you are an absolute fool for thinking the way you do? The sort where they don’t engage the discussion properly, but come up with these crazy way out there theories that would never happen, in their attempt to try to minimise your beliefs. I don’t know about you but I often just laugh and don’t continue the discussion because it is clear that they have already made up their mind.. But Jesus in all his graciousness (or sarcasm?) uses the weird ideas of the Sadducees that don’t believe in the resurrection as a teachable moment and really it must have been a fairly good teachable moment because here we are reading about it some 2000 years later..
Jesus in his response basically says the whole resurrection thing, it is going to blow your mind, it is so far outside your ability to understand, that is if your even good enough to be chosen anyway. The fascinating thing for me was this concept that God is a God of the living and that to God even the dead are living.. I was thinking about how we get caught up so often as human beings in the details, the law, who is ok to marry who is not, who is really attached to who? But life is never that simple, families even can be so complicated, we create laws to try to bring order and yet it really is so amazingly simple at the same time.. It’s all about love, the easy and the hard of it, the good days and bad, the living and the dead.. Love helps us to see each other in the best light even at our very worst.
I tried to ponder for a moment how God might see us.. How God can see the connections between us, even when we are so different or so far away on the other side of the planet or even living or dead. God sees us with love but also sees the potential for love between us.. For me I wonder if when that day comes whatever it looks like, that magnificent power of love that is from God and is God, will blow ours minds so profoundly that all we thought before will seem pretty trivial. Who will she be married to? Who knows, when we get there I don’t think it will matter too much anyway.. I wonder what else we will be laughing about on that day?