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Luke 21_25-36

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SERMON: "Looking Forward In Hope"                       Luke 21:25-36    O Lord,  we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds   and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the   meditations of our hearts.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen.    Amen.                                                                           In an old Calvin and Hobbes comic strip - this conversation takes place. Inthe first frame Calvin speaks to Hobbes and says:          "Live for the moment is my motto.  You never know how long you got". In the second frame he explains     "You could step into the road tomorrow and WHAM, you get hit by a   cement truck!  Then you'd be sorry you put off your pleasures.    That's what I say - live for the moment." And then he asks Hobbes:    "What's your motto?" Hobbes replies:             "My motto is - Look down the road." Today's scripture readings are about what is coming down the road towards us, they are about the promise God has made to us, the promise made when he said,    "The days are coming, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the   house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that I   will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David, and he will   execute righteousness in the Land." Stop for a minute with me and think about it. What does it mean to us now, this promise of God?  What does it mean toowhen Jesus says to us that there is a day coming when the Son of Man willcome to us in a cloud with power and great glory? What do these promises mean now in the midst of a busy life, a hectic life, a crazy life; A life where our kids expect to be driven here and there and ask for things that we just can't afford; a life where our employers expect us to work overtime, and our lodge, our church, and our ball or hockey team ask for hours we don't have? What do these promises about the future mean when we are caught up intrying to do all we can do right here and now in the present - what do theymean when we are struggling to live one day at a time  - when we are tryingto be all things to all to many people? What do they mean when we watch the news or read the paper and discoverthat senseless horrors continue throughout the world; that crime andstarvation and terrorism and war and earthquakes and floods abound andindeed seen to be increasing? To me they mean that I should rejoice and that I should stand up and watch and pray; - to pray that I may be able to escape the time of tribulation - and to pray that I may be able to stand before The Son of Man when he comes. The promise of God - the promise of Christ - is that the future is not going to be like the present.  It is that those things that I see that are wrong in this world, those things that I hear of that are evil – will perish away, and that a new heaven and a new earth will come upon us – a heaven and earth of everlasting peace and justice, joy and love. I think that is important. And so does Jesus.  That is why he talks about the future - that is why hementions the signs of this coming, how the stars and the moon and the sunitself will appear to go off course and terror will be felt among the nations, and fear among the peoples. And that is why he says:    "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with   dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that   day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.  For it will come upon all   who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be alert at all times,   praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things   that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." I read a story about a man that had a horrendous week last week.  He wasexpecting his wife to have a baby.  He had a million and one obligations totake care.  He felt rushed off and his feet and distracted and unable toappreciate what was happening around him. He writes this about today's gospel reading - and especially about thepassage I just quoted - the passage where Jesus says, "be on guard".    I'm caught.  The passage spoke straight to me.  It told me - Don't   get so caught up in the worries of this life that you are unprepared   for the return of the Master.  It told me, be alert to the bigger   picture.  It told me - Understand your place in the greater scheme   of things.  Be on guard.     And I was convicted.  I had been so caught up in waiting for this   baby, that I have no idea what else I missed.  I was feeling sorry   for myself, and for Debbie.  I was grumbling and hard to get along   with.  All because of one aspect of my life.    I had missed the excitement of my kids when their uncle, my brother,   came to visit Thursday from Michigan.  I didn't thank God for the   smiles and support other people were giving us as we wait.  I didn't   watch for what else God was doing around here this past week.  There   is so much more to life than waiting for this baby.  The baby is   important, but it is not exclusive.  It took this passage for me to   realize what I had done.    And then David asked - Now how about you?  I'm curious, what one thing or couple of things do you tend to be so focused on that you kind of lose your context?    I would have to answer - my work.  I can get so involved in it, so caught up in it, spending hours before the computer, and then rushing around doingvisits and getting ready for meetings and then going to them -  that Iforget what it is that I am proclaiming - that I can miss my family's joysand what it is God is actually doing all around me, What about you?  Do you feel lost in today? - lost in the moment that is at hand and the concerns that this moment brings? Has your life been taken over by one thing or another so that you can't appreciate what else is going on?     What else is happening? Jesus tells us in today's gospel reading not to be distracted by the bigissues: warfare, floods, famine, creation seeming to fall apart.  Butrather to see them as signs of what is to take place. But he is also telling us about the personal things that can be moredistracting than any civil war halfway around the planet.   It's those personal events that are so dangerous, because they are subtleand sneaky.  We don't realize what is happening until it is too late.  Allof a sudden we're trapped, feeling sorry for ourselves, working so hard,being so focused on one thing, that we miss the bigger picture.   That's why Jesus tells us to be alert.  To watch.  To not get so caught upin the everyday things or the big tragedies that we lose sight of thelarger scheme, that we fail to look down the road, that we fail to see thepresence of the Kingdom looming towards us with all its hope - all itspromise. The kingdom is coming.  A righteous Branch has sprouted from David's line; and he will do what is just and right in the land.  He has come - and he is returning.  We are called to be ready for him when he does, to be prayingand loving and doing the things he has commanded us to do.     "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with   dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that   day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.  For it will come upon all   who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be alert at all times,   praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things   that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." And that is the attitude of Advent.  Of being alert to what is going onaround us.  Of understanding what the signs around us are trying to tell usand readying ourselves for the fulfillment of God's word in our midst.  Ofreadying ourselves by prayer.  Of readying ourselves by having in us theholy hope that God wants us to have. Jesus does not tell us about the signs of the end and the coming time ofjudgment to frighten us, but rather to assure us - to have us understandthat God is keeping his promise - and that the time of his rule is at hand. He tells us about the signs of the coming of the kingdom so that we mightready ourselves for it. Look around.  Look down the road.  And, with your head held up high, walkthe road towards the approaching Kingdom in prayer and in hope, inrighteousness and in love, knowing that as so many of the promises of God were fulfilled at the birth of Christ, so too the rest will be fulfilled - tohis praise and his glory.     Benediction Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ - and may God richly bless you in this time of waiting - may the love of Christ fill your hearts with hope, - and the Spirit sustain you and guide you day by day,both now and forevermore.  Amen  

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