Worship Start Time: 10:30am
Worship Leader: Rev. Lee Spice
Theme: Advent One - Keep Awake
Come early for coffee at 10am. This Sunday come celebrate the beginning of Advent! We will kick off the season with our annual Turkeyburger Lunch directly after the service, and a fabulous 5 Choir Christmas Concert beginning at 1pm in the Sanctuary. Tickets for lunch are $10 each or $25 per family, and are available from the Office and at the door. Vegetarian options are available.
Many of us do a lot of grocery shopping this time of year, or perhaps purchase gift cards to give to family, friends or co-oworkers. Why not purchase grocery or gift cards and have a percentage of your purchase come back to the church? If this sounds like a good plan, talk to Mary Axworthy about buying cards through Fundscript - see the link here.
Sermon: Advent I: Keep Awake
December 3, 2017
Rev. Lee Spice
Human beings have always had a tendency to long for the future – to imagine better times ahead – to look forward to new beginnings, new horizons…
It’s something that keeps people going, especially when things are looking dire. Looking around the world today, lots of things are in a mess – it would be really nice to look forward and believe that things were going to get better.
The writers of scripture were no different. In the Gospel of Mark, we begin a bunch of writings that look forward to a future in which God’s realm of peace and justice shall come upon the earth. Although these writings happen all through the Bible, our schedule of readings, called “the lectionary,” piles some of them into the Season of Advent. In these four Sundays before Christmas (the last Sunday is the morning of Christmas Eve, this year), there are readings about the coming of this Realm of God, interspersed with prophecies and the predictions and the prelude to the birth of Jesus.
Strangely, all of this dreaming about the future can be a little paralyzing. Every year, we are called to look forward to God’s realm of peace and justice. Every year, we anticipate the coming of Jesus for 3 and a half weeks, then we have a couple of nice Christmas services, and go back to the real world.
A world that still has unpredictable leaders in high places, and famine, and war, and cancer, and addictions, and loss, and death, and crime. You know, the real world.
Is it ever going to happen? Where is God in our real world?
Maybe one of the problems is that we expect there to be SIGNS that things are looking up. Maybe, if God is going to start the great cleaning up of the world, God has to first have a big rummage sale. You know, like, you have to clean the office, but before you clean the office, you have to sort the books, but before you sort the books, you have to find a place for the ones that you don’t need, and so you have to clean another room…
So maybe things have to be more IN ORDER before the Realm of God will be born.
And when’s that going to happen?
The words from the prophet Isaiah are way less patient: “Oh, that you would tear open the heavens and come down.”
Humanity is tired, tired, tired of waiting.
We’re tired of war.
We’re tired of racism, sexism and homophobia.
We’re tired of terrorism, and even more tired of the fear that seems to forge so much of public policy.
Just tear open the heavens, Holy One, and get down here where we need you!
But tearing means that something gets broken.
Or, maybe, God can enter the picture when something has already been torn.
This week, I’ve been listening to the immortal Leonard Cohen. In his song, “Anthem,” he sings,
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
Maybe, just maybe, instead of having eyes to the skies, the work of the people during Advent is to watch for places where God is entering, right around us.
Through the cracks, wounds, heartaches, tears and tears of life, there is The Holy, slipping in unexpectedly.
Don’t get me wrong – I would never, never say that God causes bad things to happen so that you can somehow be an instrument of God.
But, if you think about it, God works through our wounded selves. That’s the thinking behind having a mentor in the 12-step program. That’s why some of the best people to talk to after a loss are those who have had losses, themselves.
The writer Henri Nouwen calls them, “wounded healers.”
God does not expect you to be perfect. God does not expect the world to be perfect. Time and time again, people have tried to create the best cathedral, the best organization, the best church, the best set of circumstances.
And people, well, people are embarrassed by our very humanness. Past mistakes line up like soldiers to torment us and call us down and keep us up at night.
“Kin-dom of God. Hah! Why would there be a kin-dom of God? Look, you’re a mess! The world’s a mess!”
And even as the quest for the best slips away, unachievable, our big surprise is that The Holy slips into the world through brokenness and imperfection.
Turns out that God doesn't have a big rummage sale after all.
Every Wednesday, we have a communion in the chapel, and we pour the juice from this little pitcher, which was found broken, one day, and nobody knows how it happened. And the cup that we use has a chip in it – that’s just wear and tear from being used over and over again. It’s a fitting reminder of how God works in the lives of those who gather around that table.
There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.
If you want to see God at work, look at the imperfections, the failures and the brokenness in your life. Look for the places that are ripped and torn – places that you want to hide from or forget.
God is there.
Look to the margins of society, to the places of poverty and pain. Look where people have been hurt, and you will find a source of healing.
This week, we heard a heartfelt apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the LGBTQ2+ communities. Oh, there is so much hurt, there. But I believe that those very people who have been hurt by these crimes of society will be instrumental in leading this same society towards wholeness.
In the same way, if we’re wise, Canada will look towards Indigenous communities for healing and wisdom for the age ahead.
That is the Jesus story – holiness born where you’d least expect it, into a broken and hurting world. That’s what we’re looking forward to – not a story that ends at Christmas, but one that carries on with hope for the world.
This Advent, watch for the coming of God into the world. Be awake to the possibility that God will not wait for everything to be perfect before heading into human life.
Look to the margins, to the brokenness, to the places of pain. Look into your life for the torn, ragged bits that you maybe had hoped to forget.
And maybe you will notice that the light is slipping in, right there.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
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