Advent 1 Sermon

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable unto you O Lord our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
One of the things that drive me insane about the church is when the church is afraid to fail or mess up. I see it in meetings both in congregations and in the larger church. In whatever sense of failure is for the group who is meeting there is always this underlying, “we can’t do that because we might fail.” Or “that won’t work.” Or “if we do this then it will seem like we are not as good as those people over there.” Part of me just doesn’t get it. We as a church believe in death and resurrection. We confess it weekly in the creeds, it is foundational in our faith. And yet, anytime we talk about change, doing something new, or even death in our lives or in the church there is some sort of connotation that someone at some point has failed. And so in our lives personally and as a community and family of faith, we try to do everything in our power from doing anything that would remotely ever look like we are failing. And so, it makes me upset and sometimes a little mad when the church especially stops trying and stops living as though there is nothing beyond death. That there is no Easter morning.
When I read the Gospel for this morning, I know that some people get stuck in looking at these signs. I hear about it anytime there are natural disasters or conflict in the world. Or when someone gets extra television time because they have decided when the world will end. People have used this passage, in particular, to decide when the world will end. Pointing at things happening in the world and telling us to get ready, only for the next day to appear and happen.
But this text is not so much about what will happen with the second coming of Christ, but also what is about to happen. Our text from the Gospel proceeds the crucifixion of Jesus. In the passion narrative, we see these signs. The cockcrows when Peter denies Jesus three times. The earth shakes and rocks break as the curtain in the temple is torn the moment of his death. The sky goes dark as he hangs on the cross and takes his final breaths. These signs that point to the world turning upside down will happen shortly.
This passage does not talk about how the world will end, but rather that these signs will be the beginning of the birth pains. This means that these things are the end, there is more. And so Mark gives us a foretaste, a small sign that when these things happen, you know in a few days, that they are not the end! Christ’s death is not the end. The world will seem scary and uncertain, but it is not the end. There is more. Christ’s death is just the beginning, nothing will ever be the same again.
And so I started to think that even when we begin to put these false idols in our lives. You know the ones that tell us we need to be or look a certain way or do something in particular in order to be whatever. We all have them in one fashion or another. But that in spite of those idols or what we think we should be and who we should be, God meets us where we are and as who we are.
I think we sometimes forget that. Especially during this time of the year when the advertisers are trying to tell us what we should be and what our Christmas celebrations should look like. When Pinterest takes over the simple of task of Christmas cards and holiday decorations. When we ourselves have the Norman Rockwell idea of what our celebrations should look like with the perfect family around the table with the food cooked perfectly and no one fighting.
We get so lost in the trying to be a certain way or looking a certain way whether it is as an induvial or a community that we become paralyzed in the thought that we might be anything less than what we think we need to be. Instead of realizing that God doesn’t care about all of those things. The things that try to put in our lives as benchmarks to determine our worth or value. Rather, God cares about us. Children who are called beloved, children who sometimes fail and mess up and also get it right. And maybe this Advent season, instead of looking and trying to be who we think we need to be or should be; we can stop giving ourselves more idols and instead, focus on what really matters on God and who God calls us warts and all.
So let’s keep awake, not for what we think we should be or what we think people want us to be, but rather for the in breaking of God’s kingdom in our world. For signs of new life in the midst of death. For signs of God’s unconditional love in the midst of hurt and pain. Amen.

Pastor Katie has served St. Paul Hametown since July 2012. She is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg with a Masters of Divinity and a concentration in Theology and Public Life. She is married with three children.

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