Abound in Hope
class=MsoNormal>I speak to you in the name of God Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit – Amen
The vision of the coming Kingdom is broad, wide, deep, and generous
Today is the 2nd Sunday in Advent – our second attempt at declaring what is to come – but is not yet here and so… what we are waiting for
For many, Christmas and by proximity New Years, is THE most significant milestone on the calendar – it is what we most notice for the pasting of time
It is what we plan up to, during, and then plan after
If one were to visualize it, it might be seen as this large island in a fast moving river, which all the water moves around
And for us Christians, it is this… and much, much more
For us Christians, we are not only marking the feast and the festivities of Christmas but we are also annually remembering the coming of our Lord into the world
With that, we draw our attention to the coming of the Kingdom of God – which is broad, wide, deep and generous
Our first vision comes from the prophet Isaiah, and here we have built on last week’s vision an even more utopian vision
Beyond humanity beating their swords into ploughshares – all creation will be transformed
The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (edited Isaiah 11:6-9)
And what will be the sign of the coming new era – this Kingdom of God
It will be the coming of the Messiah
A shoot… out from the stump of Jesse… [where] the spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord…with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth (edited Isaiah 11:1-4a)
And so Advent is a time of hope for the coming of the vision of the Kingdom of God
We have not, in a literal way, seen this transformation of nature and all the creatures of the earth in harmony – it is a vision that can be understood in two ways:
It is a broad and wide vision – a vision that is painted in such grandeur to attempt to capture the incredible transformation that the coming of the Lord in the world represents – the drama of God coming in the flesh to us, His creation
How, because of the cross, we are made part of something miraculous
We are transformed by the rushing-in of the Kingdom of God
We are ‘people of the promises fulfilled’
Yet this is more than dramatic rhetoric – this is a Godly vision
Given to a prophet… recorded for all people… over all time
To mark the future, still to come
Where the Kingdom of God will eclipse all
It serves as for us, especially during this Advent season of waiting, as a reminder that we are a people of the ‘not yet’ as well
That there are still more promises to come and to be fulfilled
On this Second Sunday of Advent, the text from Romans encourages us to move deeper and to do so in a surprisingly generous way
It is also a vision that is expanded beyond the outline of the First Sunday in Advent.
In this passage, near the end of Romans, Paul begins by actually writing about Scripture and its purpose.
Paul doesn't write that it provides us with a moral code or a detailed recipe for a prosperous and good life.
No, Scripture's primary goal is to create hope in us.
For those that have long looked at the Bible and seen it as a book of rules for life
Seen it as something that limits life – something that takes all the fun out life
St Paul says No, that it is so much more – He tells all the naysayers, that haven’t really read it anyways, – that scripture is broad, wide, deep, and generous
Because it speaks about the Kingdom of God and sets our vision on Hope
In this letter to the Romans we are reminded of two of the most precious gifts we receive from God…
Our job is to make room in our hearts to wait expectantly for these gifts
Gifts that only God can give
These two gifts are hope and harmony
For many of us, hope may be something of a court of last resort; it is what we do after all our planning and preparing is done.
[Leaving everything up to us and] God is what is there to take up the slack
For others, hope is buying a lottery ticket or going to the casino.
It is imaging that there is some force in the universe that will come to our rescue and give us what we think we want.
Neither of these meanings fits with Paul intention in this passage.
For Paul, hope is more like “trust”.
The ground for hope is neither the last resort nor random chance.
The ground is God: the God of ‘steadfastness and encouragement,” the “God of hope.”
One can easily understand this notion of hope being based on God’s steadfastness and encouragement – because this is how God has been through out all time
God was there in the Garden – a regular presence, an intimate relationship
When humanity fell by not trusting God’s good provision and seeking the power of knowledge over good and evil
God remained with us and provided for us in a different way
God made a covenant for all humanity
And even when we repeatedly fell short of our side of the deal – God was graceful, merciful and steadfastly upheld his side
Think of this like the GPS unit that shows us the route – provides instructions all through the journey – and when we stray from the course – recalculates and sets in place new instructions – even at times telling us “at the next safe opportunity a u-turn is needed” … all the time keeping the goal of the journey, the destination as the constant vision
And of course, most importantly, God steadfastly fulfilled his promises by sending His one and only Son
To teach us about the Kingdom of God, in word and in deed
To be an atonement for each and every one of us
So Paul’s notion of hope being neither the last resort nor random chance … but being grounded in God and understood as “trust” is based on the reality of:
Who God is…
And how God is with us
Every Advent, we look again to Christ, for the redemption of the world.
We renew our hope that God will come among us to heal and save.
We discover anew that “the hopes and fears of all the years” are met in the stable in Bethlehem, the place where God became flesh among us, and the whole world had new reason to hope.
Encouraged by the marvellous things God has already done, we abide in hope for what is not yet but will surely come to be.
Harmony, for many of us, is something that is a wonderful ideal, but it is something that is limited only to a wonderful philosophy – that time has never sustainedly recorded
Paul reminds us that regardless of our natural inclinations to look down upon ‘the other’,
God has a different idea in mind for the human race.
At one time, the Gentiles were perceived to be outsiders, but now both Gentiles and Jews are included in the covenant made with ‘the patriarchs’.
Paul expands their understanding by making citations from scripture that the ancient reader and the scholar, would have seen in this part of the letter
Each citation, which includes the word ‘Gentile,’ are drawn from the three parts of the OT: Law, Prophets, and the Writings.
Paul apparently intends to show that the whole of Hebrew scriptures bears witness to God’s original plan to include both Gentiles and Jews in one elect people. 
Paul calls Christians to another way of living, another way of relating
Welcoming one another… There is no longer insider and outsider.
Now… all are hosts… and all are guests… because all have been welcomed by the infinite expense of divine love.
Paul is speaking to a deeply profound area of our identity
Our sense of belonging
And Paul is declaring that God’s Kingdom is broad, wide, deep and generous
And using all scripture to prove his point
This would have been shocking to many in his time and is still shocking to us this day
It is so easy to be entrenched in an identity that has borders and boundaries
Rules to who is an insider and who is an outsider
It is, in fact, part of humanity to define our selves – in contrast to others
To this St. Paul declares a vision of harmony that throws open the doors
A friend is someone who knows everything about you and still accepts you,
That is the dream we all share: that one day I may meet the person with whom I can really talk, who understands me and the words I say
Who can listen and even hear what is left unsaid, and then really accepts me.
God is the ultimate fulfillment of this dream.
It is the notion of fulfillment of the vision which locates this message of hope and harmony in Advent
Because we are people of promises fulfilled and the promises still to come
The best story that I have come across that captures the message of Advent – of Hope and Harmony – of promises fulfilled… and promises still to come… is this:
On the twelfth of October, thirty-three trapped Chilean miners ascended to the surface of the earth.
As spectacular as that event was, their exodus might never have happened were it not for the miners’ faith in action.
Theirs is a story worth telling. [again, and again]
It will deepen our appreciation of what should be a gentle season, namely Advent.
As we know the ending is successful one, there is great joy in that
But mining stories happen all the time
While we were still in the midst of this story, before we knew the happy ending,
Why did this one capture our attention so much?
The miners were the kind of people John the Baptist loved because they were so down to earth.
If you will excuse the bad joke, they were so down to earth that they 2000 feet below it
There they repented of their ordinary behaviours in life and started moving in a spiritual direction.
So this is a story of a victory in faith that does not need embellishment. It already is a parable, a “story lesson” of what we are called to be as a church.
They exemplified what it means to be Christians in a perpetual state as Advent people
What really matters is what they did to successfully endure their entombment.
These thirty-three inspired men made a deliberate choice about how to live, turning their nightmare into a challenge by forming a mini-society and dividing labour based on each person’s skills.
One, for instance, was a natural leader with years of experience.
Another had some expertise in first aid and hygiene.
A third was chosen to be their spiritual leader or chaplain.
Saint Paul would recognize this as their appreciation of one another’s diverse gifts, necessary for the miners to become a functioning body.
In 1st Corinthians 3 we hear: 4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. (1 Cor 3:4-6)
By becoming such, these miners offered the mutual support they needed to renounce their individual panic and despair, identify tasks, and become a community of faith.
Each man was also bound by his commitment to a higher authority than himself.
There was no choice. The possibility of survival depended on it.
By doing this, the miners taught the world that God trusts the faithful to live in commitment to their neighbours’ well being.
These miners gave us all a vision of harmony
Their plight was so filled with hope
And their testimony as Christians revealed a glimpse into the promises realized and the promises still to come…
We were captivated by this story, because it is a story of the human condition
They were in an earthly situation but looking at the world through vision of the Kingdom of God
That vision is broad, and wide, and deep and generous
Thanks be to God
Let us pray…
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit - Amen
 Feasting on the Word – Year A, volume 1 pg 38
 Feasting on the Word – Year A, volume 1 pg 41
 Feasting on the Word – Year A, volume 1 pg 43
 Feasting on the Word – Year A, volume 1 pg 38
 Sermons that work - December 5, 2010 – 2nd Sunday of Advent - Year C - The Rev. David Somerville