To see the scripture texts for Advent I, please click here.
Oh that you would tear the heavens and come down. So that the mountains might quake – And the nations tremble at your presence. Oh that you would tear the heavens and come down – To do things we don’t expect. To do things we need. To make things right. To bring peace – to so many places in the world that are in need of it… Places in the Middle East like Iraq – and Syria – and Jerusalem. Places like Russia and Libya. Like North Korea – and Ferguson.
Oh that you would tear the heavens and come down – So that the nations might tremble at your presence – So that we might not practice war any more – but justice – and peace. So that your people all over the world might finally be able to just…live. We live in a world that is aching…aching for peace. And for equality. And mostly for love. We live in a world that is literally dying – for love – for Jesus.
If you’ve been watching the news lately – you’ll have seen riots all over the country in response to what’s happening in Ferguson. You’ll have seen Christians – and other innocent people – who are now – if they’re lucky – refugees – running from the violence in Syria. If you’ve been listening – it’s impossible to miss the sound – and the noise – of injustice – and discord. And now – as we enter into this time of Advent – we are waiting, too.
We are waiting for Jesus to come again into our lives. To bring us hope – and light – in the middle of a dark New England winter – But also in the midst of a world that is in chaos.
It can be overwhelming to think about it all. And to think about what Jesus would have us do. Us – here, in Meriden, far away, at least geographically – from much of this headline-capturing conflict… But not far away from the conflict on our own streets…in our own families even – around the holidays? Anyone?
What are we supposed to do – in the face of all of this?
Well on this St. Andrew’s Day – we can look to our patron saint. The saint for whom this parish is named. When Andrew met Jesus – he was casting a net into the sea – with his brother Peter. And as they threw out their net – hoping to catch fish – Because they were fishermen by trade – Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee –
And out of all of the people there – others rushing about their own business –
Fishing – Jesus calls to Andrew and Peter and says “Come – follow me – and I will make you fish for people.”
Andrew is the patron saint of many things. Of fisherman. Of Scotland. Of sailors. And textile workers. And pregnant women. And my favorite – of happy marriages! The name Andrew – comes from the Greek word for Valor. Which reminds us of people who are bold – and brave – and often face great danger for what they believe in – what they stand for. Andrew – is a saint who can tell us a lot – about living in a world that is messy – and chaotic – and dangerous. He is someone that we can look to – and learn from – and we can be a bit proud of our association with him. Because Andrew did something very important. Tradition tells us he was the first disciple to be called by Jesus.
And not knowing what that meant – or where he would be led – Or what he would be asked to do – He simply did it. He put down his net. And when Jesus said – follow me – He did. He was willing immediately to stop what he was doing – And to listen to this voice that was unlike any other – And then he was brave enough to go and follow him. And in those moments – choosing to stop – to lay down what it was that would have kept him from following – And then- in the getting up and going –
In these two very simple actions – Andrew became a part of something much, much bigger than himself. He did only these little things – right in front of him. Hearing Jesus call – he stopped – and then followed. And in doing only those little things – he became a part of something much, much bigger than himself. At the end of his life – I imagine he looked back on it – and realized he – with God’s help – and the help of his community – had accomplished so much more for the kingdom of God than he would have ever thought possible.
And yet. He endured a lot for this choice later in his life. And we know – that it wasn’t easy to be a disciple of Jesus. It still isn’t. To really be a disciple of Jesus – Who lives into that job description in the world – Someone who follows after Jesus – Occasionally making loving choices that might even just get us in trouble – Because the world knows not this love –
Well – it’s not always easy to be a disciple of Jesus – if we’re really living into it. If we’re trying to be fishers of people – Who share the good news – And work to build up the Kingdom of God. Who share the work together – of raising our children in the faith – To understand not only who Jesus is – but what it means to be part of this parish family – To be people who join in the labor of this place – Giving of our time – and our money – and our talents – To care for and love and build up this place…
And then still – who go back out into the world – and do all of the things you have to do – for work, for family, - and STILL try – in each choice – to follow Jesus by loving God – and loving your neighbor.
It’s a lot. It’s a richly blessed way to live, but it’s a lot.
Especially in a world that doesn’t understand who we are – or why we do what we do. Especially in a world that feels as dangerous – and messy – and…empty…as this one. And so – in Advent – we wait. For the light we know is coming into the world.
The light that someday will come cosmically – with clouds descending – with thunder and fire – But the light that first came into the world as a small child. A helpless infant. Born into a world that did not know him. An infant who was immediately the enemy of others – who would have seen harm done to him. An infant who would grow into a man that lived – and died – as we do. So that God could in fact be with us – in a new, important way.
And so each year – we wait – to celebrate that feast. The feast of the birth of a child who would change everything. Because he would ask people to follow him – to do the impossible – and they would. They did.
Like Andrew. Like us. And each year in Advent we wait also – for the time when the mountains will quake and God will put things right.
Today we will celebrate a bit – this new beginning of the church year – and the heritage of what it means to be St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.
After the celebrating – when you leave this place today – I hope your mind will return to the more serious idea – of what it means to be a Christian in this world. Of what it means for us to be Advent people in this world – who wait for the coming of Christ – and yet follow and serve him now. What it means for us to believe that the kingdom is coming – and also that we are responsible for helping to hold onto it now – by reaching for peace and justice – because in Jesus Christ the kingdom has already come near.
I hope you will think about how – and when – Jesus is calling you to follow. To drop what you’re doing – and to do something else for the sake of the kingdom. May we all – in this season of waiting – be a little more like Andrew. As we stop. And listen.
And wait…but don’t wait too long. Jesus wants to make you a fisher of people. And he is coming. Amen.