Take a Moment - Sermon on Luke 3:1-6

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The world speeds by at a phenomenal rate. We are living in a time that will never come again. God's time is God's time and while we await God's return, there's no point in rushing it. Be in the now. 

Please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The text is included for your convenience, but it is not entirely like the delivered version, which includes nuances that can't be read.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

December 6, 2015  -  2nd Sunday in Advent

"Take a Moment".  Text is from Luke 3:1-6

Good morning to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of God.  

Our reading from Luke begins with an interesting take on the setting of where we are in the history of Israel. Pontius Pilate was governor and Herod and Philop and Lysanaus were rules over parts of the divided provinces of Israel. Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas were the high priests over the Judeans, a role they switched from time to time.  No, this reading is not set in the birth year of Jesus, we'll get to that in the coming weeks. No, this is the precursor to his ministry, where John the Baptist foretells the coming of one whose shoes he is not even worthy to tie by way of a reading from Isaiah, whose words, seeking the repentance of the hearers, are intimately familiar to those people of Israel. 

The sound of a voice in the wild... crying in prophecy.... The Lord is coming, and the earth itself will move and mold to ease his passage. God's own self is coming to dwell among mankind, and the promise of God--the salvation of mankind--is going to be seen by all living things. Such sensual language.  Voices crying and flesh seeing. What can it even mean to see salvation? 

And so, with those questions we lay out the beginning of Luke's gospel proper and we conclude the first part of a two-part passage from Luke, involving John the Baptist. And we notice right away, the gospel writer lists off a great litany of individual authorities, that by the time it is complete, it seems like overkill. If he has ensured that we know this takes place to a date we today see as the year 28 or 29 

Judea 1 by David ShankboneJudea 1 by David Shankbone (license:CC-BY-SA 3.0)
in the Common Era, he has more than done his job with the names he provides, rulers and leaders who are more than commonly known by the great wealth of historians we have from the early Roman days.

But the he contrasts them with the simple John, son of Zechariah who receives the word of God not in some great temple but in the wilderness. As if, having been presented with the great leaders of humankind, we are then shown that they are nothing when compared with the reign of God. And it is the word of God that starts us off, when there are no acts of rulers of mankind listed.  Those are simply men, and indeed, men who would try to turn away God's word later on, as one of them kills the prophet we're speaking of now and another is responsible for the very execution of Jesus Christ.  

But by the time Luke's readers hear the words he writes down, all of those rulers are gone, while the word of God continues and persists in the followers of Jesus Christ among them. And we are reminded once again that while we may place ourselves in history, the timelessness of the message of Jesus Christ is eternal. 

And how do we set ourselves in history today. How will history look back on where we are at this moment, late in the year 2015. In the eighth year of the reign of Barack Obama over the United States of America, when Joe Biden was the Vice President, when Jerry Brown was governor over the state of California, and Kate Brown the governor of Oregon, and Brian Sandoval the governor of Nevada, and Doug Ducey the governor of Arizona.  When Francis, the first of his name was Pope over the Roman Catholic Church and Elizabeth Eaton the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.  

It is a time of great fear across the world, as men and women with evil intention carry out attacks of violence against numbers of people throughout the world. It is a time of confusion as politicians who seem more bent on entertainment of the masses rather than actual leading surge in popularity. It is a time of anxiety as the weather creates patterns across the hemispheres that have never been seen before in such degrees, and humanity wonders if it will survive a change of climate that seems to be unstoppable. 

And yet, even as we position ourselves at the 2,015 years in the common era, the voice of that man who heard the word of God out in the wilderness and, having gone about the region of Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  

Can we take the time to listen to that voice? 

What is it saying? 

I know that many of us are obsessed with the holiday season right now, the sending out of cards, the buying of the right Christmas presents, the planning when and which holiday parties we're going to attend. I know that, having moved into our new house up in Richmond, that Michael and I are already thinking about how we can decorate it for Christmas, we're concerned about where we will get a Christmas tree and when we are going to find the time to get it. We're concerned about those things that have to be taken care of before the year is out, in order that we get the right tax benefits for them. And we're concerned about planning for a trip abroad after Christmas, and whether or not our beloved dog Banjo will be well enough for us to leave for a week with a new housemate, and when we have to make the final decision before Banjo begins to suffer so much from his condition that the quality of his life is too poor for us to continue.

I know that we have our worries as to what 2016 brings, whether the economy will continue to improve. Whether or not the people we wish to elect to rule over us will be the ones who will deliver on promises to continue good works or will people be elected that will turn back progress and make decisions that are adverse to the well-being of the people they are elected to serve.  Will we start seeing the awful campaign ads that we've gotten used to in previous elections? Will we continue to hear political rhetoric that goes against the grain of respect, dehumanizing toward marginalized people? 

I know that as we look at the media and national attention, many of us look locally and see the impacts nearby that stress us out as well. Will property values continue to rise, creating impossible to afford rental situations, and will people of modest means who the Bay Area needs in service jobs, continue to be pushed further and further out from the center in order to afford housing?  Will those who remain on our streets in our very own progressive city of Berkeley be treated with respect, or will resolutions continue be brought forward that serve to degrade them. 

if we just simply stop time for a moment, and forget about the world around us, forget about the rulers that the world has placed over us, forget about the dysfunction that the economy and politics and the media brings to our lives. Because now is the only time we ever really have. Close your eyes for a moment and listen. 

Open them and look around and the people here, inside the sanctuary. The people of God. This moment is a gift, and it is in this moment that God's presence can be made known.  That the love that God bestows upon us can be realized.  That the voice crying out in the wilderness can be heard. That underneath all the stress and the anxiety and the scary events in the world, that there is a path being made straight, that rough ways are being made smooth.  God is in the world now, and God's reign is already here. Looking and seeing salvation means that it is already at hand. 

Take a moment and simply stop doing.  Take a moment and start to simply be. This eager anticipation that we live in today, God is indeed coming, but there is nothing we need to do to hurry him. We have moments today in that hustle and bustle to figure out that we are in a unique moment in time. A place here today that will never happen again. Be with those that you love. Just for a moment. Be present for those around you. Think not of yesterday or tomorrow, but where you are right now. 

God is certainly not going anywhere and the events in your life will be there to pick up when this moment is passed. But the Lord is coming and we need not fear.  All we need do is be in the moment and we can just about see salvation at hand. 

Wait for the Lord, whose day is near. Wait for the Lord, rejoice, take heart. The good news is at hand. 


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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on December 6, 2015 2:17 PM.

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