•Isaiah 2: 1-5 + Romans 13: 11-14 + Matthew 24:36 – 44•
Weekly Scripture Readings:First Sunday in Advent
In early October many years ago, I drove through the Polebridge valley on the west side of Glacier Park. It was magnificent. The tamaracks were in full color. They glistened with gold and the ground cover splotched the hillsides with a carpet of red. In early October this year, that memory prompted me to drive up to Polebridge again. The sky was brilliant blue. The gold and amber of Aspen and Cottonwoods were as I remembered. But when I reached the gravel road along the North Fork of the Flathead River, I was suddenly reminded of the wildfires of 2003. All that remains now of those beautiful Larch forests are the grey, barren snags.
How futile it is to live in the past! Advent recalls the past but also calls us to live in the present and to be mindful of our future. Both the past and the future can transform our present.
That is what motivated the writing of the gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s community was composed of religious Jews who were followers of Jesus. Because of their faith they were feeling great socio-political pressures from the dominant culture in which they lived. Matthew tries to motivate his peers to confront those pressures. He exhorts them to live in the present so it will influence their future. “Be watchful. Be alert. Stay awake!”
Today we begin this year’s continuous reading from that gospel. We begin nearly at the end –chapter 24. In this text Matthew’s Jesus recalls the past referring to “the days of Noah.” Then he immediately addresses the future. “So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
For most of us, family, employment, the economy and leisure pursuits, absorb our time and energy. That is as it should be. However Matthew’s gospel advises us to remember our future, so it can transform our present. He is reminding us to appreciate the present moment and recognize “the Reign of God” – “God’s New Reality” is emerging among us now! We need not speculate about the end time. It will come unexpectedly. Here’s the task. Love life and every aspect of it today, while being “watchful,” “alert,” “awake” that there is more than just today!
Recently the Jewish songwriter/singer Leonard Cohen died. I think he understood Matthew’s challenge. In his song “Anthem,” he wrote these words.
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.”
Hillary Clinton wrote a book using an African proverb as here title. “It takes a village to raise a child.” She added the subtitle, “and other lessons children teach us.” Observe our
children – especially our young adults. Is it possible we are drifting off to sleep while practicing a religion that has flickered out? Observe our young adults. Do they seem determined to embrace the gospel and to imitate Christ?
In many ways our religious consciousness is too fixated on the past. For example we speak of the Bible as the Word of God. Then “we reduce that Holy Book, to a storehouse of propositions from which we make deductions” called doctrine. We inadvertently “conclude that God must act in an obvious fashion according to scriptural precedent.”
In the process we forgot that Scripture texts arose out of and give expression to personal
experiences of that Gracious Mystery we name “God.” Embracing both Bibles as the Word of God does not exclude the possibility that the Gracious Mystery we name God is doing something new among us today! I believe the Living God is doing something new among us today.
Advent calls us to live in the present and to be mindful of our future, so it can transform our present! “… There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.” Think about it! Ponder it! “… There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.”