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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
December 2, 2018 at 10:45 AM
Central Passage
Luke 21:25-36
Subject
Advent 1C
Description

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: December 2, 2018 – Advent 1C

Jeremiah 33:14-16; Luke 21:25-36

 

Thy Kingdom Come

 

            “Thy kingdom come”. Those three little words roll off the tongue so easily, don’t they? We memorized them in Sunday School or catechism class long ago. We continue to recite them every Sunday, at the close of council meetings, or for some of you, before meals. Yet, like all things we memorize, whether a few stanzas of poetry in seventh-grade English, or the years, coaches, and rosters of every single IU basketball team that won national championships, we don’t continue to put much thought into them. The words are present in the brain, ready for recall at the right time.

 

            Yet, if we reflected on what we were really asking for in the Lord’s Prayer, we might pause before uttering these words. What are we asking for? Nothing less than for the arrival of the reign of God “on earth” as it already is established “in heaven”. Nothing less than the return of Jesus in a clear, unmistakable way – “on a cloud with power and great splendor”, in the poetic language Jesus uses – to establish that reign of justice and peace forever. In other words, we are praying for the end of our world.

 

            Do we really think that’s going to happen? With all that’s going on in our world, with the evil that seems to keep perpetuating, do we really believe that Jesus will return? What Jesus describes in the 21st chapter of Luke sounds like crazy talk. And we know about crazy talk. We’ve had no shortage of it. We’ve seen, over and over again, what crazy talk leads to. 40 years ago, Indiana native Jim Jones compelled 909 members of his People’s Temple to commit suicide in a South American jungle. 25 years ago, would-be messiah David Koresh was killed along with 79 of his followers in an FBI raid on his compound outside Waco, Taxas. 20 years ago, the Heaven’s Gate cult decided to use Jim Jones’ tactic to hitch a ride on an alien spaceship following Comet Hale-Bopp. There have been many, many other cults and sects in the 20th and 21st centuries, obsessed with the end of the world, which have done great harm to human beings – physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Some religious leaders have even made a business out of end-of-the-world hysteria, such as Hal Lindsey, author of The Late Great Planet Earth, or Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, authors of the Left Behind series, or former disgraced televangelist Jimmy Bakker, now selling survival buckets on TV. When we hear and see all of this end-of-the-world hysteria and all the harm it can do to people, why would we take Jesus’ words seriously? It is too easy to become cynical in such a world where every end-times personality turns out to be a liar. It’s easy to lose faith. After all, the church has been waiting for nearly 2000 years for Jesus’ return – how can we believe him when we are bombarded with lies everywhere else?

 

            One of the problems we face as the church today is that we read these words of Jesus back through 2000 years of war, tumult, schism, and reformation of the church and society. We easily forget that Jesus is speaking in poetic, not literal language. When Jesus speaks about signs in the sun, moon, and stars, the roaring of the sea and surging waves, the shaking of the heavens, and the Son of Man coming on a cloud, he is using language from the Old Testament, specifically from the books of Joel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. This was poetic language used by the prophets to describe to cataclysms that they experienced – invasions by foreign armies, natural disasters – and to express their hope in the ultimate justice of God. When Jesus uses this language himself, the purpose isn’t to scare the hell out of us. Jesus is giving us words intended to strengthen our faith and renew our hope in the final arrival of God’s reign. As he says, “Now when these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, because your redemption is near.”

 

            Another Advent season has begun, and while the rest of the world is already in a rush preparing for Christmas, Jesus invites us to reflect on the meaning of his presence among us. The word “advent” means “arrival” or “appearance”. Jesus has three Advents, or “arrivals”, you might say – and we are in the middle of the second of them, preparing for the third and final. The first was in that stable, born to a teenage mother and an adoptive father, in a way that the world would never expect. The second is among us now every time we gather for worship – in Word and Sacrament, and in the community of saints, both living and dead. The third and final Advent will be at the end of time, “the end of the world”, when he will come, as we say in the creed, “to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” Jesus points us today to that third Advent, the final Advent, when the redemption of God’s people will be fulfilled.

 

            Why can we believe Jesus? Because he is already with us today. He is with us here today, in the words of the Gospel proclaimed to you, in the bread and wine given to you, within each and every soul here. We can believe Jesus because Jesus is already fulfilling God’s promises among us in this community. Jesus is already here and can be seen, experienced, and yes, touched, by faith. And his presence brings life and wholeness of being. That’s the difference between Jesus and all the other would-be end-times prophets. When Jesus speaks in poetic language that sounds frightening and strange to our ears, it is language that is designed to comfort and strengthen. When others use that language, they are using it to frighten others into submission. They use these words as a sort of spiritual vampirism, to drain the life from others. Jesus, in contrast, gives himself totally to us. When you eat and drink Body and Blood of Christ on the table, you become the Body and Blood of Christ in the world. Noted skeptic Ludwig Feuerbach was right. You are what you eat.

 

            And as Christ’s Body in the world, we are citizens of that kingdom – that reign – that has already arrived in you and will arrive for all to see one day. “Thy kingdom come”, Lord Jesus. Let us pray.

 

            Keep our faith strong, Lord Jesus, in you, and help to experience you now in this realm, in faith that we will see you face-to-face. Amen.

 

© 2018, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given

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