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2018-2019

 

J Nichols Adams et al

December 2, 2019, 1st Sunday of Advent

 

 

LectionAid 1st Quarter 2018-2019

December 2, 2019, 1st Sunday of Advent

Hope or No Hope?

Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalms 25:1-10; Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36

Theme: Being on High Alert for God

Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON

Starting Thoughts

Every time I get on a plane, I am reminded of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 which caught most of us completely by surprise and demonstrated that we were unprepared for such an onslaught. Since then, the Department of Homeland Security in the U.S., and similar organizations in other countries, have sought to train and equip people to "expect the unexpected." We must live with a vigilance and preparedness we did not heretofore believe to be necessary. However, for me it was a step back into my past where I had become use to a heightened sense of alertness having lived and worked in central London during the Irish Republican Army attacks. Added to all these anxieties we have added the constant worry about mass shootings. Every time we enter what use to be a safe and fun space such as an indoor Mall with its line of children waiting to see Santa Claus, we suddenly wonder is this a soft target for a lone gunman with a huge number of weapons. Life is full of anxiety. Secular society has been very successful in killing off any hope. The only real death has been the death of Hope.
The Christmas season runs counter to this kind of thinking. We are reminded during these four short weeks of Advent that we must so live as Christians as to always be ready for God to come to us or call on us. Whether this takes the form of literal Second Coming, as some Christians expect, or whether this is figurative language calling us to be ever about the business of showing compassion and announcing the Good News is no matter. The end result is the same: faithfulness in obedience to Christ's call to a godly life. This call to preparedness in the name of Christ is a fitting theme for the first Sunday in Advent. Maybe in our hopeless world we can call on others to be prepared to hope in the loving nature of Jesus.
This Sunday is the First Sunday in Advent, the season of hope and anticipation preceding the celebration of the birth of Christ on Christmas. Hope and tingling hope for the future is not a part of our every day life any more. We find hopelessness more comfortable than being hopeful. It is so easy to suddenly lose all sense of hope and it is not something we can switch back on like a light in a dark bed room.

Exegetical Comments

In Jeremiah 33:14-16 we see the continuing quest for peace in Palestine which today gives this prophecy a kind of poignancy. This is a good Sunday to pray for peace in Palestine, and to pray for justice for all her peoples. God promises through the voice of Jeremiah that the promise will surely be fulfilled, that in some sense justice and righteousness will come to this land. Here is the Messianic promise: One will come who will execute justice and righteousness in this land. He will be a righteous Branch of the tree of Jesse, one in the lineage of David.
We view Christ as the fulfillment of this promise, and in Christ we find justice and righteousness. Wherever Christ is, there is justice and peace. This promise was fulfilled first in the ministry and salvific work of Christ, and then beyond the borders of Israel in the universal offer of peace in Christ to all peoples.
The promise of God of salvation and safety is one for whom all peoples yearn. Especially in a time of exile war or great upheaval, as in the time of Jeremiah, people yearn for home, for integrity, for dignity and safety. The aspirations of contemporary people are no different.
In the intertestamental period, such promises gave rise to a strong Messianic hope. Followers of Jesus believe this hope has been fulfilled in Him. In his ministry of compassion and liberation, Jesus embodied the justice and righteousness promised by God through Jeremiah. But even in the present age, the kingdom has not come in its fullness, hence the eschatological theme, which runs through all these readings.
When we turn to the five verses of 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 we find a hope and a prayer. They can be placed in the context of the warning Paul later gives the Thessalonians not to give up their livelihoods and normal living in lazy anticipation of the second coming of Christ (5:1-7). Paul yearns for reunion with them, having heard a good report of their faithfulness from Timothy. Thanksgiving is a theme in this early letter, even as it is in most of Paul's letters. This modeling of thankfulness sets a positive tone to a letter intended to address various problems in the Thessalonian church. Though Paul is concerned by some of what he has heard from Timothy, and some exhortation to better living is appropriate, on the whole he is heartened by their faith and faithfulness in the Good News.
Just to hear this good report has put Paul in the presence of God, rejoicing. His fondness for the Thessalonian Christians brings a desire to be with them, to share in the joy of their faith. So, Paul's earnest hope is that they can be reunited face to face, not only to be with them, but also to encourage them, to help them, to model faith once again for them, so that the problems he hopes to address can be corrected. The overwhelmingly positive mood of this letter is like a cradle of concern, holding up the Thessalonians and surrounding them with affirmation while they are also gently scolded! (There is a lesson here for parents.)
In verse eleven, Paul immediately is moved, out of his joy, to prayer. It is this prayer which contains the Advent reference: ". . . that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." (vs. 13).
Paul holds in tension his sure expectation of the second advent of Christ, and his certainty that no one knows when it will occur. So he admonishes believers to be, as C.S. Lewis put it, "at their posts," so they will be faithfully ready should Christ come. We know that some in Thessalonica were tempted to give up normal living in anticipation of the near return of Christ. While commending their faith, Paul later scolds them for their indolence. They are also grieving the death of some as if they lacked hope (4:13-18), and Paul gives them a reminder about the death and resurrection of Jesus (4:14), asking that they "encourage one another with these words" (4:18). Hope in the consummation of the Kingdom is the eschatological framework here, and it strikes a helpful note in Advent season
Finally, when we turn to Luke 21:25-36 we find Jesus using apocalyptic language reminiscent of Daniel 12 and the prophets before him (Isaiah 8:22, 13:4-11, 13; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:10, 30-31; Amos 8:9), conjuring up images in the mind of his Hebrew hearers of the Day of the Lord. By the time of Jesus, the term Son of Man was a clear reference to the Messiah, who ushers in the Messianic kingdom. Such events may be terrifying to those who do not see them as bringing redemption; but believers are to be heartened, since they know redemption is near (21:28).
The comment prompting this eschatological discourse was a remark about the beauty of the Temple, which was the imposing centerpiece of the Jerusalem power structure, and the crown jewel of Herod's massive building campaign. A magnificent building, studded with beautiful stones, redolent of the scents of cedar and incense, busy with the business of the Priesthood, sign of the presence of God with the people, the Temple must have communicated a weighty impression of permanence. But Jesus gave it a different perspective when he said "as for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down" (21:6).
The impermanence of things which seem so permanent to us is a divine perspective that quantum science, with its concepts of chaos and entropy, underscore. Not only will these buildings crumble, says Jesus, but indeed all things save the "words" will one day pass away. Only the eternal realities of God and God's intentions will endure.
Within the lifetime of that generation, the Temple was sacked and burned by the Romans, in 70 A.D., and on one inner leg of the Arch of Titus in Rome you can still see a bas relief showing the sacred objects being carried from the Temple. This fulfills Jesus's prediction that "this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place" (vs. 32). Jesus warns against being distracted or weighed down by the cares and worries of this world, and enjoins being on the alert, in order to be able to endure the struggles of this world and remain standing before the Son of Man. He asks us to learn from the fig tree the changing of the seasons, and to be alert for signs of change.

Preaching Possibilities

As we find hopelessness and anxiety coming from everywhere in our political life, we need to turn away from such thinking and focus on God. God alone is the real source of hope. Hope is not from more money in our pockets. Hope is not from more food in our stomachs. Hope is not from anything that our society can give us. Hope is only from God. The true hope of the world, the hope given to us by God is simply a small baby whose birthday we celebrate every Christmas.

Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON

Different Sermon Illustrations

Faith keeps many of us in situations we might otherwise walk away from, whether in our personal lives, our professional spheres or on a national level. As a small-scale example, hope and a treasured ideal in relationship allows a person to ignore the cheating or violence of their partner, in hopes that next time they really mean it when they say they love you, and that they are telling the truth when they claim that whatever variety of betrayal won't happen again. The death of that dream - the realization that the relationship will never change and that there is no hope for a different future with that person - is what finally frees one to leave the situation. (https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-08-28/death-hope-and-why-it-crucial-american-awakening)

John Nassivera is a former professor who retains affiliation with Columbia University’s Society of Fellows in the Humanities writes: Hurricane Michael’s path of destruction in Florida’s panhandle this year has brought apocalyptic environmentalists out of the woods in droves, reminding us that climate change is causing more and more hurricanes. However, a quick look at the National Hurricane Center’s records (easily found online) tells us that from 1851 till today there is little evidence of such increase. In the 1850s there were 19 hurricanes; in the 1860s 15; in the 1870s 20; in the 1880s 22; and in the 1940s 24, etc., etc. In the last decade there have been 11 hurricanes that hit the U.S.
My point is not to deny that there is climate change and not to deny that there is human activity causation involved. My point here has to do with the rhetoric and tone of the public discourse involved. It is so often so dire. The words “catastrophe” and “catastrophic” are employed constantly, also the phrases “approaching the tipping point” or “we have reached the tipping point,” along with truly frightening scenarios of massive human death tolls and loss of humans’ abilities to grow enough food, etc. To make matters worse, it is commonly stated that many, if not most, of these horrible consequences are pretty much unavoidable, since too much damage has been done already to the Earth’s ecosystems. (https://www.timesargus.com/opinion/perspective/on-faith-the-death-of-hope/article_eaa741f9-97d6-54ff-b112-cd9494baeb20.html)

Imagine, if you will, that you are 10 or 16 years old. Imagine, also, that you are confronted with this barrage of environmental bad news day in and day out. Imagine that it is even part of your school curriculum. That is a reality of life for young people in America today. On top of this, there are many areas in our country where the old industrial and light industrial jobs have evaporated, causing even more insecurity. This has hit both the young and the middle aged. Life is hard for a lot of people — very hard, with seemingly little prospect for improvement.
But even worse, one can sense a death of hope. That is sad and dangerous.
As far as I know, it was Saint Paul in his First Letter to the Thessalonians (1:3) who first names faith, hope and charity as the core of a healthy life: “...your work of faith and labor of love, and endurance in hope,” and then later (5:8) “...let us put on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope....” Prior to Paul and the early Christians, it was not part of western culture to praise faith, hope, or charity — “charity,” by the way, comes from the late Latin word “caritas,” meaning that special form of affection (love) that applies to family, friends and fellow humans. Most Greeks and Romans (and those of cultures surrounding them) were very fatalistic, and a huge number of them were slaves or plebs, little more than slaves. They had little use for, or even time for, faith, hope and charity. (https://www.timesargus.com/opinion/perspective/on-faith-the-death-of-hope/article_eaa741f9-97d6-54ff-b112-cd9494baeb20.html)

Also, our Greek and Roman ancestors were not prone to thinking that the natural environment was there to provide a home for human kind. No, nature was there to exist by and for itself and be run by the gods and the spirits who pulled the strings behind every field and stream. Those powers did not much care about humans, and all of those gods and spirits had to be honored and placated — or else everyone would starve, volcanoes would erupt, cattle wouldn’t breed and lightening would strike, among other even worse things.
We are fortunate that our western world, after the fall of the Roman Empire, became a society founded on a new set of values, and central to the new values were 1) the so-named “Heavenly Virtues” of faith, hope and charity; and 2) belief that the world was made by a loving God to provide us with a home wherein, despite past troubles (Eden and the Flood), God still wants us to survive and thrive. It troubles me to say something, but it needs to be said, and that something is fairly simple: Without belief (however shaky it might be) in a benevolent God and in faith, hope and charity, life can become very unpleasant very fast.
We are face to face with that unpleasantness right now. While I was still teaching college students, I saw it in their faces and in their discussions — both in class and outside of class. When I pass through economically hard-hit areas of our country, both urban and rural, I not infrequently encounter a death of hope in faces and in conversations overheard at the local diner. (https://www.timesargus.com/opinion/perspective/on-faith-the-death-of-hope/article_eaa741f9-97d6-54ff-b112-cd9494baeb20.html)

The death of hope is bad enough in itself. But more troubling is the fact that when hope is gone, the door is the left wide open for hate to enter. This is hate not only of others who are made into “the other,” but, deep down, also a form of self-hatred. The self-hatred comes from a suspicion (perhaps quite unconscious) that we brought our plight onto ourselves — that we deserve our loss of hope because of our own failings and misdeeds.
Clearly this syndrome is at work in environmental apocalypticism. Our plight is dire and cursed and we have brought this upon ourselves through our greedy selfishness, especially throughout the so-called First World. The First World, by the way, is where the old forms of Christianity are dying — especially the old “main line” denominations of Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans and Catholics. But a new type of religion is taking shape, an environmentalist fundamentalism, which declares that all but a new, small elect are guilty of unforgivable sin against the Earth (Mother Earth, Gaia, Nature) and they all will be punished severely. (https://www.timesargus.com/opinion/perspective/on-faith-the-death-of-hope/article_eaa741f9-97d6-54ff-b112-cd9494baeb20.html)

There are many forms of death, but the death of hope is the worst. And the death of faith, hope and charity is the cruelest form of death of all. We don’t have to go there. We have a 2,000-year-old tradition that can help us out of this descent into hopelessness. Let’s not totally forget about it. (https://www.timesargus.com/opinion/perspective/on-faith-the-death-of-hope/article_eaa741f9-97d6-54ff-b112-cd9494baeb20.html)

Leonard Sweet, in a public presentation about rapid change, advanced the notion that change is now so ever-present and unprecedentedly fast that planning is almost impossible. "Planning is inadequate; we must be prepared." That means the Church must be more flexible and resilient than ever, and must strive to be equipped for whatever unexpected demand may come along, in terms of changing technologies, styles of worship, means of communication, or social challenges.

In the town of Santa Maria degli Angeli, at the foot of Mt. Subasio in Umbria in Italy, just below the town of Assisi, is a great basilica. Inside this huge, ancient church is a tiny chapel, the Porciuncola, where Francis founded his order of brothers. We were amazed to note, when we visited there in the Jubilee Year 2000, a large screen suspended in the basilica, just a short distance from the place where Francis had founded his order. The church was adapting modern technology in this ancient setting. But the anachronism was completely appropriate, considering that the movement Francis began was new and radical in his day, and sought to present the gospel in a way appropriate to its time, but also timeless. Francis is said to have admonished his men to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words."

What did Jesus do without a cell phone? I resisted the use of a cell phone for quite a while, until one day when I was caught in traffic trying to get to a wedding and realized that a cell phone could have alleviated everyone's anxiety. The day after I got my first cell phone, I had just left the church office when my new phone rang. "Don't go home," my Administrative Assistant said. "Go directly to the hospital. Paul has died, and Linda needs you right away." Because of this new technology, I was able to arrive at the hospital moments after one of our young members had died, and to provide pastoral care for his young widow, as well as to call one of our Deacons to help. While cell phones ringing inappropriately can be a nuisance, the appropriate use of this technology helps us be "on the alert."

I live in a town where people routinely sprint through red lights! One has to learn to be on one's toes, or death could result. While we may be annoyed at the carelessness of others, it is even more important to be prepared for it. Part of our Driver Education course in California was the philosophy of "defensive driving." Just assume, our instructors told us, that everyone else out there is a homicidal maniac, and you'll drive safer!

The motto of the Boy Scouts of America is "Be Prepared." All the training one receives as a Scout, all the camping, organizational skills, self-discipline, goal orientation, leadership training, skill and learning is all bent toward this motto: "be prepared" This habit learned in Scouting carries over into every other arena of life. Jesus commanded us to "be prepared" spiritually, for we never know when God may need us.

When I was growing up in the 1950's and 60's, there was a Cold War threat of possible nuclear annihilation. The balance of terror between the so-called "Free World" and the nations behind what Churchill had, in 1946, called the "Iron Curtain," was regularly made real to us through Civil Defense announcements, testing of "Conelrad" (a radio warning system), and an encouragement to build and stock fallout shelters. How real was the threat, and how much was bombast and naive fear tactics is debatable, but I well remember the perceived threat that charged the air with a kind of ever-present anxiety and dread, not unlike the terrorist threat today. This is not the tone of Jesus' command to "Be alert." His admonition is a positive encouragement to be about the ministry of compassion and the good news of God's love; for believers, the coming of Christ is hopeful, because it means our redemption is near.

Environmental degradation of various kinds has caused alarm and concern in the hearts of those who love the earth and the ecosystems that depend on its health. Opinions differ widely, even among working scientists, as to how real is the threat of global warming, or the loss of biodiversity. The Endangered Species List has resulted in the resurgence of a number of species threatened with extinction. Had not Rachel Carson and others raised an alarm to the general public, much more loss might have taken place. Public pressures, as well as the voices of concerned scientists have changed habits and practices that threatened further losses. Just as Jesus asked us to pay attention to the fig tree, so environmental concerns have raised people's awareness of the fragility of life on earth.
Automobiles are considerably safer now, in part thanks to Ralph Nader and others who were brave enough to raise questions about public safety, and press for engineering changes and modifications. While cost cutters in industry kept their eyes on the bottom line, in some cases in disregard of safety risks, Public Citizen and other watchdog non-profits opened people's eyes. While some warnings may state the obvious ("Coffee is hot"), no warnings would make the world much less safe.

Being alert requires freedom from impairment to the best of our abilities. Far too numerous examples exist of people impaired due to substance abuse, who then drive automobiles and endanger, and sometimes kill, others. Spiritual alertness requires us to keep worry in check, and eyes focused on the good news.

In preparing for presentations, Murphy's Law holds full sway: if anything can go wrong, it will. I was recently coaching two presenters for our church camp, who had prepared an elaborate multimedia presentation. "Assume," I said, "that the technology will fail you, and think through how you will make the presentation without it." Sure enough, even though they did two thorough run-throughs on site, when the time to present came, the technology failed. Fortunately, they had thought through how to tell the story with words, and it went fine. But we had to plan for failure to have success.

Tuck Everlasting, a beautiful film from the Natalie Babbitt novel of the same name, tells the story of a family who inadvertently stumbled upon and drank from a spring that gave them eternal life. Though many might see this as deeply desirable, the Tucks soon discover what a curse it is never to grow and age and to watch others they love grow sick and die. Angus Tuck, the father of the family, played by William Hurt in the film, tells a teenage girl who discovers their secret what he has learned over more than a hundred years of artificially prolonged life. "Don't be afraid of death," he says, "but rather of having an unlived life."

What does it take to keep people on an appropriate level of alert? Late last year the U. S. Department of Homeland Security began mulling the idea of encouraging citizens to carry beepers with them. The thinking is that the current system of informing the public of pending disasters through television or radio announcements is too slow and not effective at immediately conveying the needed information to everyone. If Americans carried beepers, the government agency theorized, the public could be warned about imminent nuclear attacks, biological threats, or tornadoes almost instantaneously. A preliminary news report indicated that the Department of Homeland Security was planning to provide everyone with those beepers. But a later correction stated that the government was merely considering the idea of encouraging people to purchase them and make use of them.

According to the Mayan Indians of Central America, the end may be getting near. On the winter solstice in 2012, the Long Count, the 5,200-year cycle of creation and destruction calculated by the Maya, comes to an end. So Jose Arguelles, president of the Foundation for the Law of Time, suggests that event may mark the end of time. Arguelles is the same person who organized the Harmonic Convergence in 1987, where he brought together people from the pyramids of Giza to New York's Central Park to supposedly save the world from destruction in 2012. Other Mayan experts, though, believe that Arguelles is completely off base with his theory. They point out that this will mark the fifth time that the Long Count has completed a cycle, and there is nothing in Mayan lore that suggests that this time will usher in the apocalypse.

John Hick tells the parable of two travelers. The two men are on a journey together, and as they pass through the countryside their experiences are quite similar. After a while, both experience the same times of weariness and refreshment. But the one traveler believes he is on his way to the Celestial City, heaven, while the other fellow has no such expectation and sees the journey as nothing more than an expedition that has no ultimate destination. The one man sees the pleasures of the trip as a foretaste of the great joy awaiting him at the goal, and so he endures the pains of the trip as a price that he is willing to pay for the future, final happiness. The other fellow, as he travels along, takes the good and bad as they come, making the best of a journey that ultimately has no real point.

Sometimes, instead of being on the lookout, we expect others to fulfill that duty for us. A widow and her two adult children sued a doctor in the Cleveland area, blaming him for the death of their husband and father. The physician was not charged with administering any bad medication or with botching a surgical procedure. Rather the doctor was brought to trial because the family thought that he did not sufficiently warn the man of the consequences he would face if he continued to be obese. The doctor tried to show how he had repeatedly admonished the fellow about being overweight, smoking, and not exercising. But apparently the jury decided that the doctor hadn't gone far enough, because they ended up awarding the family $3.5 million in their wrongful death action, an amount that was later reduced to $1.2 million.

Managers and staff people at Wal-Mart must always be on the lookout. It turns out that Walmart is one of the most sued companies in the nation. Because of things such as slips, falls, and other mishaps, each year about 5,000 lawsuits are brought against the company and its stores, which amounts to about one being filed every two hours, and juries returning verdicts about six times a day. Suing Wal-Mart has become such a lucrative enterprise that the American Trial Lawyers Association even sponsors a seminar dealing exclusively with tactics on how to successfully sue the company. As a result, Wal-Mart is always on the alert to try to stop any surprise accidents that it can possibly avoid from happening.

People might not always be looking ahead to the day of Christ's return, but many people are looking ahead and preparing for the time of their own death. Right now in the United States, more than $40 billion is invested in prepaid death arrangements. Each years total expenditures related to funerals and burials amount to more than $10 billion.

In the Talmud, Rabban Yahanan b. Zakkai tells a parable that is rather similar to one that Jesus told. He describes a king who invited his servants to a banquet, but he did not tell them exactly when the banquet would begin. The wise servants got dressed right away and sat waiting at the entrance to the palace. They thought to themselves: In a king's palace nothing is ever lacking, so the feast might begin at any moment. The foolish servants, however, figured: How can a huge banquet begin until after much preparation has been completed? Therefore, the foolish ones delayed in getting themselves ready, figuring they had much time to prepare. Suddenly the king appeared and all were ushered into the hall. The wise ones entered before the king properly dressed, while the foolish ones came in with soiled garments. The king was pleased with the wise ones, but he was angry with the fools. The king declared, "Let those who are properly dressed for the banquet sit down and eat and drink, while those who are not properly dressed are to stand and look on."

There are times when we are not on the alert because we figure that it is only others who are going to be judged. At a May court hearing in Nashville, Tennessee, a 19-year-old fellow was on trial for fatally shooting a man. During the proceedings, his 23-year-old friend entered the courtroom to lend his moral support. But upon seeing the friend, one of the witnesses pointed at him and identified him as the defendant's accomplice in the crime. The friend was immediately taken into custody and put in jail.

In California there is a great deal of debate over the issue of forecasting upcoming earthquakes. Due to the relatively large number of fault lines running through the state, people are by necessity always on the alert for tremors. To help keep aware of what is coming, sensitive seismological instruments are set at various locations to record any unusual patterns of earth movement. Some scientists think that high tides and the moon's pull on the Earth contribute to earthquakes. Others, though, employ more unorthodox methods of prediction. One individual believes that checking the lost pet ads in the newspaper will show an increased number of missing animals just prior to a quake.

In Austria, the idea of judgment is much more prominent in their observance of the Christmas season. In parades through city streets in Austria, the figure of Saint Nicholas is seen walking along and handing out gifts to all the children who have been good. But going ahead of Saint Nicholas is a person dressed as the devil, who chases after those young people who have been bad. Children in that Alpine nation are therefore on alert that the coming of Christmas may mean rewards or punishments for them.

Soren Kierkegaard tells the parable of a fire that broke out backstage in a crowded theater. One of the actors, who was dressed in a clown costume, ran out toward the audience and began shouting, "Fire! Fire! Hurry and save yourselves!" But the crowd thought it was all a joke. They laughed and applauded at his words. So the clown repeated his warning, begging the people to avoid the disaster that would quickly consume them. Yet the audience just kept clapping and laughing, thinking that the whole thing was nothing more than a joke.

When a couple is about to have their first child, they quite often overreact at the sign of the first contraction. As soon as that first contraction occurs, they instantly want to head for the hospital, believing that the baby will arrive at any moment. In reality, though, there is usually considerable time between that first contraction and the ultimate birth. But the amount of time is never certain. In some cases it can be as short as one hour, while in other cases the birth pains can continue for more than twenty hours. There is no surefire way to know in advance how long it will take. All that is certain is that the baby is on its way. We cannot know with certainty when Jesus will return. All we can know right now is that the birth pangs have begun.

"There is no place for faith if we expect God to fulfill immediately what he promises." (John Calvin)

"Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of spiritual life." (Simone Weil)

"The perseverance of the saints is only possible because of the perseverance of God." (J. Oswald Sanders)

"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." (Corrie ten Boom)

"The fact that Jesus Christ is to come again is not a reason for star-gazing, but for working in the power of the Holy Ghost." (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

"I've read the last page of the Bible. It's all going to turn out all right." (Billy Graham)

Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)

Call to Worship (based on Psalm 25)

Leader: Make me to know Your ways, O Lord
People: Teach me Your paths.
Leader: Lead me in Your truth, and teach me;
People: For You are the God of my salvation.
Leader: Be mindful of Your mercy, Lord,
People: And of Your steadfast love, from of old.
Leader: God leads the humble in what is right;
People: All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness.

Prayer of Confession

O God of promise and of hope, we confess that all too often we are not ready to see Your grace, prepared for Your call, or aware of Your claim on us. We take life too lightly, and miss Your presence, or too seriously, and miss Your joy. Have mercy on our timid and lazy souls. Make us bold, that we may joyfully proclaim and show Your steadfast love to others, in the name of Christ, our coming King.

Prayer of Dedication

As a sign of our faithfulness, and a gesture of thanksgiving, we offer to You these gifts. Receive them with joy, as the expression of the thanks of grateful children, for all You have done in and for us through Your Son, Jesus Christ, who is, who was, and who is to come, Amen.

Pastoral Prayer

God of hope, You remind us that all we see around us is transient and passing away, except for Your Word. Give us increased faith in Your Word incarnate in Jesus Christ, and guide us to so live as to be ready for his coming. Whenever You call us to special tasks in Your name, give us gifts to equip us for Your holy work. In compassion, may we care for our neighbors, and so make Your good news real for them.
Whether Your kingdom be already here, coming soon, or coming in some distant time, we want to bring its realities of compassionate service and care into our lives now, and through us into the lives of those we touch. Rather than seeking justice, let us be just; rather than waiting for his coming, let us be kingdom people now; rather than seeking faith, let us be faithful. In this way, we may be alert to all You have in store, through the Spirit of the One who is to come, Amen.