Saturday, November 26, 2016

Gospel text for First Advent, Sunday 27 November 2016

Matthew 24:36-44        Jesus said to the disciples, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Reflection     What were the people who chose this reading for the First Sunday of Advent thinking? Why begin the New Church Year  in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew’s gospel with Jesus warning the disciples and us to keep awake and be ready for apocalyptic change, change that will be no less traumatic than the great flood in Noah’s time?  Why not let us bask in na├»ve innocence anticipating the powdery smell of a newborn infant’s birth? Why not walk us through the litany of Jesus’ genealogy, who begat whom, “Abraham was the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Issac… all fourteen generations until we arrive at another “Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.” (Matt1.1,16) 

I believe the vexing choice for this text was to insure we not get swept up in nostalgia,  not for a minute imagine we are preparing for the birth of an ordinary child. The unnerving message is, we are preparing to receive a child who will turn our world upside down. This child, this Son of Humanity, is going to shake us up and wake us up and show us the way to “beat our swords into plough shares and our spears into pruning hooks.”

There is no question. Twenty-seven hundred years after the prophet Isaiah proclaimed peace among all people,  two thousand years after Jesus walked the earth, we, the people of God, are still in dire need of teaching and guidance to become the peacemakers God is calling us to be. We must learn how to transform our weapons of destruction into tools turned for the good of all people; think  about transforming M16s into water purifiers, denaturing nerve gas into pollution control systems, converting biological agents into agricultural tools. And of course, translating our words of judgment, condemnation and hatred into words of welcome, recommendation and love. Jesus is unequivocal. In God’s economy words or weapons intended for violence will be reconfigured as the means to care for all people and institute peace on earth and it will turn our world upside down. 

How can we be proponents peace on earth when we ache over our families fractured by divisive politics? How can we extend good will to all people on earth while we squirm among friends and neighbors wondering if we dare say what we think, feel or how we voted?  Where is the vision of hope for all when so many people are suffering and worried about feeding their children, keeping their families together, holding onto their jobs or health insurance?

I believe these and many similar questions illumine our need to hear the apocalyptic story of Jesus’ intrusion into history today. Our days are rife with excess, indulgence, arrogance, irresponsibility, jealousy and greed -  nonetheless, we are preparing to welcome the birth of the Christ child. We are preparing to be made new again and remember that regardless of our situation, always we begin again shining the new light of Christ in the world. 

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