Sermon for Advent 1

Sermon for December 2, 2018: Trinity Fellowship ELCA & First Presbyterian, Rushford

Gospel: Luke 21:25-36

Good news statement for sermon: Jesus calls us to face uncertainty and chaos with courageous confidence.

The season of Advent begins today. It’s a time of year in which we prepare our hearts and minds. There are three different ways we talk about how Jesus comes into our lives during Advent: 
  1. We talk about how he comes as a baby born to Mary and Joseph. 
  2. We talk about how he comes into our hearts daily. 
  3. We talk about how he will someday come again - which is sometimes referred to as the Second Coming of Jesus. 
During Advent, our Scripture readings invite us to ponder all three ways that Jesus comes into our lives. 

Today, our Gospel focuses on the reality that Jesus says he will someday come again. The reading is from fairly late in the Gospel of Luke. 

Sometimes in the Gospels, Jesus speaks a word of comfort. Sometimes he heals people. Sometimes he teaches large groups and performs miracles. And sometimes - in passages like the one we’re exploring today - he talks about the end of time as we know it, and he does so in a way that no one completely understands. This Gospel reminds us that while we don’t fully understand WHEN Jesus will come back or what it will be like, he will someday, and he wants his disciples to know that. 

In these verses of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus gives his followers a model for how to posture ourselves in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. 

In the reading, Jesus describes that when the Son of Man returns, there’s going to be a lot going on…things relating to the sun and moon and stars and seas - confused and fainting people, etc. 

Jesus says to his followers…When you see all that happening, “Stand up and raise your heads.” He’s encouraging them to be brave and bold - no matter what is going on around them. 

Jesus goes on to encourage his friends to always “be on guard” and pay attention to what’s going on in their hearts…to watch and ensure their hearts don’t get weighed down by the worries of this life. 

Another way to translate the Greek word that is translated in our passage as “be on guard” is “pay attention.” Jesus is inviting his followers to ALWAYS pay attention to what’s happening within their hearts emotionally…and to guard against worries and distractions. 

Jesus tells his friends to put their heads up and stand in the face of anything. He invites them to be courageous and confident. Just prior to today’s reading, Jesus reminds his friends that they can trust that the Holy Spirit will give them the words they need…so they don’t need to worry. 

In life today in 2018, there is chaos. There is uncertainty. These are real components of life, and we’ve all experienced them. 

As the people of Trinity Fellowship and First Presbyterian, you understand the reality of uncertainty…of not knowing exactly what to expect…of taking a bold stand in the face of fear. 

Jesus’ words made sense 2000 years ago and they make sense today. 

In the face of uncertainty and chaos, we have options. We can cower in fear…we can wilt in worry…or we can stand up and raise our heads. We can pay attention to what’s happening in our hearts. We can pray for strength and guidance. We can watch for signs that Jesus is right with us every step of the way.

Worry and fear are toxic emotional states. Jesus knew it then and now. We know it and live it every day. 

It isn’t just at the Second Coming of Jesus that we are called to stand up and raise our heads…to pay attention…and to trust that the Holy Spirit will guide us. 

It’s every day. Every day we are called to stand up and raise our heads with courageous confidence. It’s a daily invitation. 

How might the Spirit of God be calling you to stand up boldly as an individual? As a congregation? 

Today, we have the opportunity to tune into what’s happening in our hearts…just as Jesus advised in the Gospel. What’s going on there? How might you pay more attention and be more alert to heart matters - to worries and distractions? And we do this individually - and we do this collectively, as a family of faith.  

As we begin our Advent journey, Jesus invites us to get ready - to prepare - and to pay attention. 

May God’s Spirit guide you throughout this special season - and may you sense Jesus at your side every step of the way. 

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