Monday, November 28, 2011

The Sky Is Falling!

So this week I experienced one of the signs of the end of the world.
It was at a Target in Portland Maine at 12:00 am for what is commonly called black Friday.
It was the first (and hopefully the last) time I will be out shopping on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving.
I am glad I went.
I got to experience for myself this rite of passage for many holiday shoppers.
What was astonishing to me was that the line to get into Target went totally around the store.
And everyone who came to get in line had the same reaction, “This is crazy!”
And yet they all got in line and waited.
All the people in line with me on black Friday were there in order to be ready for the big day.
They all had to wait.
Some came hours early to be the first in line.
Others like me came right when the doors opened and had to wait to be let into the store.
As I stood in line waiting to get in I thought about how it is like advent.
In advent we are getting ready, we are waiting, and it is all a little crazy.

Jesus this morning gives us a vision of what the last days will be.
Jesus lays out what will be when God comes again.
The vision can sometimes seem scary; Stars falling, the moon turning black, the sun not shining.
Jesus is expressing what it will feel like to be in that end time when the world will change from what it is now to what it will be.
Heaven itself collapses down on us.
But I bet that if we think about it our lives often feel this way.
We often feel that the world is crumbling around us.
So what changes is that when we are ready we know that in the midst of our lives falling apart God is present.
It is not just that the world is coming to an end, but that God is intervening in the midst of our lives.

To be ready is not a moral imperative, but an imperative of faith.
Are we ready to experience God?
Are we ready for God to rip open our lives and enter in?
The thing about God is that he does not always show up when everything is well and good, but shows up in the middle our struggles.

Last week at our adult Forum we were discussing atheisms.
One of our youth was attending this discussion and shared with us his struggles with faith.
He shared with us that at time when his father was dying he questioned God’s existence.
He questioned if God really cared about him.
And he flirted with the thought of becoming an atheist.
He told us that being involved in the youth group here at Concordia pulled him back into faith.
And that looking back now he could see that it was God who got him through.
Our Youth group is inspiring our young people to have faith, and to remember that even when the heavens are falling God is at work.
As one person wrote on their leaf, “Our teenagers have an anything is possible attitude that reminds me daily that with Christ anything is possible.”

It is true for us too.
That amidst the hard things of life and the struggles God is bringing new things to life for us.
The problem is that bringing new things to life often hurts.
It is painful to bring in the kingdom of God because we so naturally resist it.
Maybe this is the best news of all that despite our failings.
Despite our sin and our natural aversion to what is best for us God is determined to enter into our lives anyway.

As Dietrich Bonnhofer once preached, “God wants to always be with us, wherever we may be - in our sin, in our suffering and death. We are no longer alone; God is with us.”
Advent is the time of getting ready.
Not for Christmas per se.
Not a time for us to get nervous that we didn’t buy presents.
Not a time for us to be overwhelmed at all the things that have to get done.
But advent is a time of hope.
Advent is a time for us to be ready for God to enter into our lives that feels like the heavens are falling.

It is a time to see God working in our lives through all of the loss and pain.
You know the bad thing about holidays is that not everyone experiences them as a joyful time.

I was in line getting coffee the day after Thanksgiving.
This woman behind me was telling her friend how awful Thanksgiving was with her family.
How her parents thought of her as a disappointment.
How her siblings did not like to be around her.
Not everyone is in a jolly mood at this time of year.
Consider that in Arizona, Los Angeles, and North Carolina there were acts of violence as people trampled, sprayed maze, and shot one another trying to get to the perfect gift.
When I heard that I thought the sky was falling and it was a certain sign that things have gotten out of hand.
How can God want to be part of this very human life with all of our foibles?
Somehow Jesus birthday is about us hurting each other as we try to get the “best” gift.
In such a world it is going to be painful to let God enter into our lives.
It is going to be painful to see that we don’t have the power but that God does.

Mark’s Gospel is all about God ripping open the heavens and entering in.
At Jesus’ Baptism the heaven’s rip open as Jesus enters the world, at Jesus’ death the curtain rips in two as God ends the separation between the heavens and earth.
Mark’s Gospel is about how Jesus comes into our lives.
Are we ready?

You have to be a little crazy because you have to hope against all the evidence before you.
To be ready means to have faith that even in all of life’s troubles God is somehow at work bringing life from death, righteousness from sin.
To be ready means believing that God is faithful even in the times when we are tested.
It is not easy to be ready because so many things pull at us and distract us.
But if we can be ready for black Friday then we can be ready for Christ coming.
If we put in as much time working on our relationship with God as we did plotting how to get the perfect present then I know we will be ready.

Jesus is coming into your life today.
Advent is about the past, present, and future.
It is about how Jesus came into the world to be our savior so many years ago.
It is also about our lives today and being ready for God to come into them in love.
It is about our ability to see God working in our lives right now.
Lately it seems that more and more people I love have been struggling.
We had a very good friend of ours diagnosed with a rare form of Breast cancer, another friend lost her mother to cancer last week, Vicki’s grandmother is in the hospital, my aunt is recovering from a crippling illness, not to mention the four or five other things that are happening to those we love.
I was not ready for those things to happen.
I am thankful for this time of advent so I can be ready for God to come into my life with all of its craziness.

And it is about the future the time not yet come when God will put all things right.
It is about the day when there will be no more dying, or tears, no more killing, or fighting, no more pain and suffering.
In all these things we need our faith.
It is about the hope realized in Jesus Christ, which carries us through today, and makes us look with joy towards tomorrow.
So be ready when the sky is falling we know that Jesus Christ is here.

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