Change Font Size Larger Font Smaller Font

Sermon:  November 29, 2009..........TRUE HOPE

SCRIPTURE READING:

Jeremiah 33:14-16 

14 " 'The days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.

 15 " 'In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line;  he will do what is just and right in the land.

 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.
       This is the name by which it [
a] will be called:  The LORD Our Righteousness.'

 11 Thessalonians 3: 9-13

 9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

 11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Luke 21:25-36 

 25"There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

 29He told them this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

 32"I tell you the truth, this generation[a] will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

 34"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.35For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."

 

Sermon

There is a story which we know… at least in part

Of a small baby which was found floating in a basket in a stream

And which a young woman took in and cared for as her own

The story goes on to tell of how soon another such baby was found

And another and another

Until, all along the stream, people had to create orphanages and hospitals

and schools

to care for the children…

So numerous they were and so in need of so much…

Until one day, some of the people began to shake their heads and wonder

how it could be possible

that there were so many children

without people to care for them

and, evidently, so many people willing to put them in baskets

in the rapid waters of the stream

and so,  one day, a few of these wondering people

began to make their way up the river one day to find out…

That day of course was a turning point

Which led to the discovery of just what terrible tragedy may have

happened

Of course in the time of Moses it was a terrible despot who threatened

The lives of newborns

And in the Middle Ages… it was poverty and plague…

And today even now babies die by the thousands all around the world

And perhaps mostly tragically,  in Africa.

             More than 25 million people have died of AIDS worldwide, and another 33 million are currently living with HIV/AIDS.  While cases have been reported in all regions of the world, almost all those living with HIV (96%) reside in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa…and because of this tragedy, in Kenya alone there are 5 million orphans and vulnerable children.

            Wangari Matthai has shared with us her belief that the cause of much of the poverty and illness in Kenya has to do with colonization and alienation of people from their native spiritual practices, their native gardening and nutrition practices and from the migration of millions of men and women into the cities to find work when their land was taken over for coffee and tea plantations. This migration, like the orphans I described earlier has signaled that something had gone terribly wrong.

            In our scripture today in Luke we hear about the: “Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory”.  In Hebrew we are to understand “son of man to have come from “ben adam” which means “son of Adam”, Adam having been himself made from earth.  James Jones, points out in fact that frequently when the phrase is used it is in conjunction with the earth and is considered a reflection of the phrase in the Lord’s prayer “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven”…that that which went wrong in the Garden of Eden was to be rectified by the coming of Christ, in the form of a new human. Our faith tradition tell us that Jesus came to reconcile us to the earth and to each other, to forgive us for all which has gone before, to give us a new chance.  

            On this first Sunday of Advent we are reminded again of that chance.  

In Jeremiah we hear:

'In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line;  he will do what is just and right in the land.

            In marking WORLD AIDS day we mark the fact that we are now paying attention and doing what is right. We are looking upstream and committing ourselves to making things right at a places suffering begins. 

            By remembering those in our community who suffer because of this disease we acknowledge that everyone is loved by God, everyone deserves a place on earth and that we all need a chance to hope again.  By remembering the children in Miricu we help them remember that God has long and loving arms and a good memory, that no one is forgotten.

            Now six years ago we welcomed Wangari Mathai here as the Johnny Appleseed of hope and possibility in Kenya,  She is one of the wise ones around the world who sees something which has gone terribly wrong and who has reclaimed a memory of sacred trees and of women heaven and earth being one.  She reminds women of what is possible when they reclaim the land and plant small seeds, reminds children of the nourishment the earth can provide if we work with it and reminds the people of Kenya of the importance of communities of people working together. The young men and women whom we help with our offerings have also revitalized their ancient songs and dances, celebrating the animals which surround them and whose footsteps and calls to each other are part of the sounds and rhythms of their lives, and who using those songs to keep their children in hope.

            Today we mark the first day of a new church year and the retelling of a hope-filled story in which the moon and stars mark the way  for wise men as they travel in darkness just as Joseph and Mary look to angels and the sun to light their path  through the earth,rocks and trees  to Jerusalem.

            We hear in Luke;

 25"There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars….

The coming of the birth of Christ invites each of us to set out in hope—whether in darkness or in light—no matter what the terrain or what the distance, no matter how old we are or how young, to step onto a path that will lead us deeper into the heart of Christ and deeper into the love which is there for each of us through fellowship with each other.

            Three years ago, when we as a church started on a path to relationship with a small Kenyan village our gifts could only supply their most basic needs and it  was food they could and did use immediately.  The last pictures you saw were of a meal and prayer they shared together on World AIDs Day now 4 years ago, the next year because of their work and the increased help of their government they could apply our gift to mattresses and school supplies and tuition for the older children. This past year they have taught the children jewelry making to begin their self-sufficiency and now these same children, they say, are ready to write to us on the internet!

            It is an amazing world where so much is possible in 4 short years.

I’d like to read the words Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians and have you imagine them writing us or we to them:

9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

 

Their joy has become ours and ours theirs…and our children may soon become friends.

           

            Advent is a time of great possibility, of preparation and setting out  in faith and hope.  Like the wise ones in the story I began with, who decided once and for all to set out to find out how and where love was lost to so many children, let us thank God for the lessons we can learn from the children of Miricu and take their Joy and allow it to rekindle the fires in our own hearts.

            Sister Joan Chittester once wrote:

The liturgical year proposes, year after year, to immerse us again and again into the sense and substance of the Christian life until eventually we are what we say we are…followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God.

           Returning again and again throughout the year to our commitment to those suffering with AIDS gives us a way to stand before God and each other, to give thanks, and to set our hearts and minds on what is at the heart of God’s call to each of us and to let all the rest be left behind.

            Gods calls us all in the midst of our confusions and toils, our worries and doubts to pause again and make clear to ourselves what our own Hope is for this year and to nourish it and have faith in God and to pray for it…

Let us close with a prayer, adapted from the Dinka tribe in Sudan…

God, at the time when you made the earth, you also made the sun;

At dawn the sun is born, at dusk it dies, and at dawn it is born again.

At the time when you made the sun, you also created the moon

at the start of the month the moon starts to grow,

in the middle it starts to shrink,

and at the end to grow again.

At the time you made the moon,

you also created stars;

at dusk the stars are born,

at dawn they die, and at dusk they are born again.

At the time when you made the stars you also created human beings

and at the time of my conception you created me…

Help me know that through you I can be born again this year

and give me Hope.

Amen

 

 

 
gcc-250

Login