The Gospel: Luke 21:25-36
Jesus said, "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."
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: So, we launch into the Season of Advent and begin our journey through stories of this wonderful time with the words from the Gospel of Luke.
As we all know Advent is a dual celebration. We look back on the events of Christ's coming in anticipation of Christmas. The coming into human history of the earthly embodiment of the Messiah.
Or we look forward to returning Messiah. The coming and ruling King who will bring into being the new heaven and the new earth. Where he will rule and reign.
Last Sunday, because we celebrated our in-gathering of the Stewardship Focus we didn't stop to recognize that last week was Christ the King Sunday. Christ the King is a challenging Sunday.
We stop, on that particular Sunday, and acknowledge the Kingship and the Lordship of Jesus in our lives. A somewhat odd remembrance in our modern political circumstances. We are much used to electing our leaders in our democratic system. But we, as Christians, know that it is only in acknowledging the Kingship and Lordship of Christ Jesus in our lives that we find the peace that we long for so deeply.
Unfortunately for many of us, we see the Kingship of Jesus in the way that it is portrayed in the three slides in our PowerPoint this morning. A sort of archaic and somewhat distant portrayal of Jesus frozen in time in some historic pose. Many of us, have lost or we have never discovered that dynamic and living relationship from which we draw our life and our purpose. It is sometimes important that we take the time to remind ourselves that when we choose to live as citizens of the Kingdom that we are changed. We have a new way to look at our own lives and also to look at those in the community around us.
For many people, Christ the King Sunday provides that opportunity. It is a chance to pause and consider just who we are giving our allegiance and commitment to?
Of course Christ the King Sunday is also what might be considered a hinge Sunday. You know how hinges work right? They are there to help something swing from one place to another.
Christ the King Sunday helps us swing from Ordinary Time to Advent. In Ordinary Time we are seeking to understand and apply the Gospel to the everyday and ordinary lives which we live. Taking the word we hear in the Scriptures and apply it to our lives for the purpose of becoming more active and determined in our faith journey.
Christ the King Sunday helps us take our eyes off ourselves and to swing our focus to the centrality of Jesus. To raise Jesus up, in his glory and power, and place him centrally in our lives.
But we need time to do that and so we transition to Advent. Four Sundays where we focus on the Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love which is available to us in our Christian Faith. Our first Advent slide this morning says: "Advent: A time to prepare." We set time aside to prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Messiah as he came as a child all that time ago. His coming offers us the opportunity of new life with great moments of inspired life in him.
Frederick Buechner is an American writer, novelist, poet, autobiographer, essayist, preacher, and theologian. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister and the author of more than thirty published books.
He describes Advent this way: "The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment." Just in case, you can't read it that is what our second Advent slide says.
This first Sunday, as we see in our banner for this morning, we focus on the Hope of Advent. So what is that hope? Our next slide may be a little difficult to read as well so here is what it says: "Jesus is the only King who has opened the doors of his palace to everyone."
To truly understand what that means we have to spend a little time considering the events of the afternoon of the crucifixion. In Jewish tradition only the High Priest could go into the Holy of Holies in the inner sanctum of the Temple. That portion of the temple was kept separate by the curtain of the temple. The High Priest was the only one who could go through that curtain and into the central chamber of the temple.
The High Priest could only do that after he had been through a series of cleansing rituals. So it was his office and the cleansing ritual which allowed him to enter the Holy of Holies.
On the afternoon of the crucifixion as Jesus died the curtain in the temple in Jerusalem was torn from top to bottom. Jesus opened the way for those who believe in him as Lord to enter the Holy of Holies by his sacrifice.
We can enter into the most holy place because Jesus has taken our sinfulness on himself. When we acknowledge his Kingship, his Lordship in our lives then we will no longer be burdened and blocked from being in relationship with him.
Then we can take the words from the 23rd Psalm and hold them to be true for ourselves. What hope rises up in us when we can say without hesitation that the Lord is our shepherd we shall not want.
All of our wants - emotionally, spiritually, physically, intellectually, can and will be met in Jesus. All of our wants - emotionally, spiritually, physically, intellectually, can and will be met in our relationship and trust in him.
When we understand the amazing things that Jesus accomplished in the events of Palm Sunday and the events of the following weekend in the crucifixion and resurrection.
The Gospel reading from Luke this morning presents us with some troubling and disturbing images. These images are a picture of what Jesus predicted will happen when he returns.
"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."
For those of us who have placed our lives under the Kingship and Lordship of Christ will find renewing hope in the events that are to come. Our final slide for today says: "On this Feast of Christ the King, let us allow Christ to reign in our minds, our wills, our hearts, and our bodies!
Let us take the time this Advent to prepare. Let us take some time to consider how we are allowing Christ the King to reign within us.
Where are we placing our hope this Advent? Are we allowing Christ to rule and reign in our lives? The story of the Fig tree in the reading from Luke this morning could be a timely reminder for some of us. That we should be bearing the signs in our lives that indicate that the Messiah is coming soon. Perhaps we need to consider the opportunity we have and use it well to proclaim the coming Kingdom of Christ.
To end this morning I would like to read the Collect we heard at the beginning of the Service:
"Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."