Sermon for December 2, 2018     Advent 1                              “Longing for Hope”

We begin a new journey and a new liturgical year with the first Sunday in Advent. Like many I am drawn to the nostalgic, the longing for days that from this perspective seem oh so simple and uncomplicated. Jeremiah in his short teaching today nudges us to hope. Not the hope that I want the latest gadget or toy for Christmas but the longing for God’s justice and mercy. A longing for fierceness of spirit and tenderness of heart.

In Bible study this week, we had interesting conversation on the arc of God’s plan. The discussion stemmed from the question; do you think God is going to let humans thwart the plan for the earth or the universe? I am thankful for the wonderful minds and biblical adeptness of the folks in this study for they bring a wisdom and knowing to the study of our sacred text. Through all the stories of scripture, we could not find one example where God completely forgot about the people. And we moved that conversation to our present context where it seems unlikely that, even though others seem to have taken over Christmas and go to great lengths to call it something else, even though churches are being emptied and there are a remnant few remaining, God is not going to leave us wandering for much longer.

I am not talking about a second coming. I am leaning toward a new reformation, a new way of expressing our relationship with God. I suspect that the way we have grown accustomed to church will remain for some time. Like the church has done before will continue doing it will change. Into what, we will have to live into that!

While driving to Halifax on Friday we listened to a podcast from the “on Being” series where Christian Wiman was being interviewed. He grew up evangelical fundamentalist in the US south, left religion and in his 30’s returned to a mainline protestant church. His comment was, I like the energy and full integration of faith and life of the evangelical tradition and I like to openness of the protestant tradition. I just wish they could meet in the middle. I had the sense that he appreciated the welcome to all of his current church and missed or wished that the protestant church (that’s us) would embrace the energy of faith in all aspects of life of his childhood evangelical church. My longing in hope for the church is that we might from time to time, be a bit more revved up about our faith and our mission.

The advantage of the prophets is they had the capacity to see a longer view of future and God’s plan than the rest of folks. Jeremiah is speaking just after the people of Israel are returning from exile. They ask; now what? Jeremiah responds in faith and prophesy indicating that the promise will be fulfilled and the leadership of David will be restored.

My pondering is, how is that at all relevant now? My incomplete answer goes something like this: it is a call to hope and action, it is a call to pay attention to the details that each day requires and to gaze toward tomorrow. And for the believers in both views to trust one another and know that all are essential. Let me explain, my comfort zone, my happy place is in planning and dreaming and exploring possibilities. I love being there, so strategic planning is exciting for me. I also live and work in my less comfortable place, doing the details of each moment and each day. I love people who love doing that, making sure that all the little details are tended to, making sure what I call the ‘pretty’ is tended to. I think we all spend time in both realms and that we have a preference. What the prophet challenges us to live into is both the lived reality of God this day and not being so stuck that we cannot see any other way.

The challenge of Christian people all the time and in Advent is to live into our faith and live out our faith in the world as it is right now.  As we prepare as the biblical narrative does to welcome a foreigner into our hearts, may we hope and pray that we may do the same for the foreigner neighbour in our midst. My hope for St. Mark’s people is that we not be shy about our God and our Jesus. That we find ways to share the story in ways that welcome and engage. And,  above all in this week that we hope with a deep longing for the miracle to be, and we will have the sight and heart to know we are living in the miracle of God.