Monday, December 3, 2018

The Beginning is Near

Advent 1
Jeremiah 33 & Luke 21:25-36
December 2, 2018

The prophet Jeremiah,
who wrote the first reading we heard,
lived about 500 years after king David.
There were many kings since David,
and most of them weren’t very good.

Starting with David’s son Solomon,
they began to lead the people away from
Yahweh to worshiping other gods.
And Jeremiah was called by Yahweh
to warn the people to change their ways.
The Beginning is Near
The Imaginary Foundation

Now Jeremiah is a whiny guy. 
He always seems pretty gloomy. A real downer.
He’s constantly railing against the people of the
southern kingdom of Judah.
He warns them about their worship of other gods
and their neglect of Yahweh,
about the greed and corruption of the leaders,
and the false prophets which are everywhere.

He warns the people of the consequence of following
charlatans promising quick results and ignoring the will of God.
He tells them that this way of life is not sustainable for them,
that destruction will surely follow, like it did decades earlier
for the people of the Northern Kingdom.

He was always telling them that they
needed to repent and change their ways
in order to continue as God’s people.
He warns them that unless they repented and changed,
they will be taken over by hostile forces. That God would
let the nation of Babylon win the battle they were fighting
against each other and they would be servants to King Nebuchadnezzar.
He was real wet blanket.

So, of course, instead of listening,
the people of Jerusalem think that the most expedient
solution is to shut Jeremiah up.
The typical story of prophets.
“He’s bringing down the morale of the troops” they said.
Just shoot the messenger instead of listening to the message.
They try to kill him, but when that doesn’t work,
they lock him up in prison.

So Jeremiah is locked up in prison,
and the country is embroiled in battles,
the country is pretty much leveled already,
the enemy is at the door,
and Jeremiah knows that they will lose.

It’s in these gloomy walls, with impending doom and
destruction all around him, suddenly,
Jeremiah turns into an optimist!
The warnings of doom are over,
and God has filled Jeremiah with hope.

After this inevitable destruction, the covenant will be fulfilled.
A righteous branch will spring up from the kingdom of David
which is now just a stump.

Even though the people didn’t hear the warnings and strayed
from Yahweh, God will not let these people go.
God won’t abandon them, God will still keep the old promises.

Now, things won’t go back to the way they were before,
back to the old days.  We can’t go back to yesterday.
That’s how we got into this mess in the first place.
It will be a new branch, a new day, new life.
Things will be changed, our suffering will have changed us. 
We will have learned, and repented.
And from that, new life will be able to form.

 And in every age, this is the promise that we wait for.
That out of the rubble of this age,
a new life, a better life, will be able to grow.
We know that with every end, there is a new beginning waiting.
We are assured that God won’t forget God’s promises to us.
That we won’t be abandoned,
even when we stubbornly lose our own way.

And we believe that branch, that promise was Jesus.
And new life has been revealed to us in him.

In the gospel reading, Jesus warns us again, though, that chaos is coming.
Distress among nations, people confused,
Foreboding and fear, the powers of heaven shaken.
It may feel like the end, but that is when our hope can start.
At the darkest times that is when the kingdom of God is nearest.
Look for the shoots on the fig tree.
Look for the new branch of Jesse.
Look for the places of hope and courage and light and life,
look for the signs that God is near.

We, the followers of Jesus are the whiny prophets of this age.
Habitually aware of the sin in ourselves and our world.
Uncomfortable with all the ways we live that are
contrary to God’s kingdom and vision.

These words on the wall show some of the things
in this world that stress today’s prophets out most.
Those things that seem utterly hopeless and insurmountable.
Things that plague our society and threaten to destroy us.
Like Jeremiah, we can feel the doom and gloom.
This is the time for warning, for alarm, for distress, and confusion.
Because this way of life is not sustainable forever.

But this is also the time to look for that shoot, that new branch,
Look for the peace makers, the helpers,
the ones who feed and house,
who act with courage,
the ones who speak works of righteousness and truth,
who work for justice,
who forgive and work for reconciliation

In the midst of inevitable doom and destruction,
these are the blooms on the fig tree.
That is God at work in the world.

We know when the end is at hand, the beginning is near.
We know then, that the world is about to turn.

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