Tola’s sermon preached on Nov. 27, 2022

Posted by on Sun, Nov 27, 2022 in Advent, Sermons

The First Sunday of Advent

Nov. 27, 2022

Good morning. I’m going to make you wait for a moment. Not to join in prayer, but just to pause for a moment, until I speak again.

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We’re not good at waiting. We like to be doing things. We don’t like to get bored. If we’re tired, and didn’t get enough sleep last night, we worry about maybe showing the dreaded head bob.

In our Gospel today Jesus asks us to wait, for the coming of the Son of Man. For his return to us. He asks us to be patient. A few weeks ago, we heard him say in the Gospel of Luke “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and, `The time is near!’ Do not go after them.” Today he tells us “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

So we wait.

Waiting is so difficult for us, we come up with abstractions to govern our waiting. Seconds. Minutes. Hours. Days. They relate obscurely to the time it takes the Earth to turn on its axis, and the time it takes the Earth to orbit around the Sun. But there’s nothing particularly special about these units of time.

Yet we organize ourselves around them, and they even wind up shaping how we think. A second is about how long it takes to quickly react to something. I like to think that a minute is about how long it takes to communicate an idea. An hour is perhaps the length of time it takes to create something meaningful, or to *do* something meaningful. Note that our service takes about an hour.

We build our lives around waiting. We will leave here, and wait for lunch. We’ll wait for a show to start on television. We’ll wait to make a call to a loved one.

Waiting for God is tough. This summer in a sermon I talked about the fact that for so many of us, seeing Christ again is a matter of us going to him, not the other way around. In that sense we’re waiting either for the second coming, or our deaths and hoped for ascension into heaven.

We are frail mortal shells, limited by neurons and synapses and chemistry, and it shapes how we wait.

But what’s waiting like… for God?

God sees us and knows us entirely. He knows where we’ve been, and what we’re trying to do. He knows our limitations and frustrations, and he loves us anyway.

What’s waiting like for him? He is unbound by our human limitations, and he can check in with all of in less time than it takes me to say this sentence.

And he *is* waiting for us. He’s waiting for us to follow his path, to take in and act on the Good News, to follow his commandments. He’s waiting for us to embrace love and goodness, and reject Satan’s hatred and evil.

God is patient and loves us so much that it must be challenging at times. Waiting for us to get past our own little schemes, our petty distractions, our limitations. He’s our biggest advocate and our biggest supporter, and yet so often we fail and we fail and we fail. And still he waits, and he hopes.

When I was a teenager, growing up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, I thought life was a puzzle to be solved. I grew up pretty poor, and I looked at the families of some of my better off friends and thought “I’m going to figure it all out, and then I’ll be successful and happy like those folks.”

Well.

You get five or ten years into adulthood, and a funny thing happens. You don’t ever feel like you “get there.” You don’t feel like the road straightens out, and you don’t really feel like the load lightens up. You continue to struggle. New challenges arise- marital life, finances, parenting, and health issues. You may find some peace and wisdom in maturity, but it does start to dawn on you that perhaps there’s no “and they all lived happily ever after…”

This can curdle into doubt and frustration. It can lead you further away from Christ’s message, and instead into a spiral of self-absorption and wounded, frustrated behavior.

Meanwhile, God waits.

He knows we’re not perfect- he said so in book one chapter one! He doesn’t expect perfection. Thank goodness he has infinite patience and infinite love. He needs it, dealing with us.

“Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Is Jesus saying here to literally stay awake all the time and forgo sleep? No. I think he’s saying that he wants us to be relentless in striving to find him in our lives. He wants us to be awake to all the times we can live his message in our thoughts and actions. He knows we’ll have our good days and our bad days, but he’s given us the path in Scripture, and in the church that he told us to build. That path that led us to gather together in worship here this morning.

Whatever the waiting we experience for God, so much more it seems is his waiting for us.

I think we see this with our families. My mother certainly waited for me to figure out my teenage years. One particularly challenging year, she gave me a poster that I proudly hung on my bedroom wall: “Good judgement comes from experience. And experience comes from poor judgement.” She had faith that I would figure it out.

Sometimes our waiting is more painful. Several of my family members have struggled with alcoholism. Many of us have found that you can’t really “get” an alcoholic to do anything. All the prayer and fervent requests and loving support won’t do it. They simply won’t quit until they can’t drink anymore. Sometimes not even then.

So we wait.

Now take that love and concern that we feel for our loved ones- the counting the hours when we’re waiting and praying and hoping to see change and improvement- and imagine how it must be for an infinite and loving God who feels that billions of times a day. That’s what I imagine waiting is like for God.

Yes, we must follow Christ’s instruction from today’s Gospel. Keep awake! Be ready! Keep striving for Godliness, knowing that we are all sinners but also holding close God’s promise that he is out there, patiently waiting for us to come to him.

Amen.

© 2022 Tola Marts. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.