Prayer of the Day
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
1The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
5O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!
1I was glad when they | said to me,
“Let us go to the house | of the Lord.”
2Now our | feet are standing
within your gates, | O Jerusalem.
3Jerusalem is built | as a city
that is at unity | with itself;
4to which the tribes go up, the tribes | of the Lord,
the assembly of Israel, to praise the name | of the Lord. R
5For there are the | thrones of judgment,
the thrones of the | house of David.
6Pray for the peace | of Jerusalem:
“May they pros- | per who love you.
7Peace be with- | in your walls
and quietness with- | in your towers.
8For the sake of my kindred | and companions,
I pray for | your prosperity.
9Because of the house of the | Lord our God,
I will seek to | do you good.”
11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
[Jesus said to the disciples,] 36“About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove
In today’s text, Jesus tells his disciples about a waiting period–waiting for the coming of the Son of Man. The comparison with the days of Noah is not the wickedness of that generation. It’s that in the days of Noah life was going on as usual, with no striking or mysterious signs of the approaching judgment. Like those folks, the disciples will not be able to recognize when the end is near. Jesus wants the disciples to know that the end could come at any time. This knowledge should spur engagement in their mission.
Jesus speaks also of one taken and one left behind in a field. Over the last century, these verses have often been read in support of dispensationalism, especially “rapture” theology. This theology attempts to plot where we are in proximity to the end—precisely what Jesus tells his disciples not to do. Jesus’ illustrations in our gospel do not likely depict a moment when the righteous are plucked up from the earth and taken to heaven, while others are “left behind” to await tribulations and final judgment.
First, for first century audiences familiar with the ways of the Roman Empire, being left behind was surely preferable to being taken. Likewise, for the people of Noah’s day, being swept away was not a good thing. Instead, these sayings simply depict sudden, surprising separation, without indicating cause for judgment or reward on the part of those taken or left behind.
Rapture theology, which has little or no scriptural support, may offer comfort for those who seek certainty or presume to have secured the inside track to heaven. However, the focus of this passage is on remaining vigilant amidst the uncertainty of a long wait, amidst discouraging circumstances.
It is the incapacity to attend to the important things in life that brings urgency to Advent. It is so easy to sleep through God’s signals of alarm, to act as if today is like every other day. If we are casual with today, what chance is there that we will be careful with our lives? What hope is there that we can live as Christ wants us to live?
So Jesus attempts to rock his disciples and us out of these complacent ways of living and believing. He presents us with a most dreadful picture–an intruder stepping into our bedroom while we are sound asleep. “If the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into,” Jesus says. We do not know the time of the break in, but the break-in is the cause for a change in thinking, an adjustment in priorities.
Being prepared for the coming of the Lord takes place in daily dying and rising. We are living out our baptism and faith in this world. When I was wandering around denominations in my mid-twenties, wondering if the Lutheran tradition I grew up in would also be the place I would settle as an adult, it was the theology around the sacraments that truly brought me home. First, as someone who loves the natural world, I loved that we put such primacy on the promises bestowed through bread and wine and simple water. And I loved that even though I couldn’t explain how exactly they work; I fully believe that I can receive forgiveness and new life through the sacraments.
But more important, I also love that whenever I am wandering around as an adult, wondering what God is calling me to, I can return to the promises you and I make in baptism. It does not matter what your stage of life is. It does not matter what stage of faith you are in. We can all try to fulfill these promises and thus bring in a little bit of the reign of God into the world.
To continue in the covenant God made with us in baptism, we promise:
To live among God’s faithful people. We need some other people in our lives who will help keep us accountable, who will set examples, who will pray when we are too beaten up and who we can pray on behalf of when they are too weary. We need to be in relationship with other people who take discipleship seriously.
We promise to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper. The story found in scripture is a living word and has something to say to us today. I try to interpret the bible in this space, but you have each promised to encounter scripture in your living rooms, or on a walk, or at the kitchen table. Living into our baptism can be a lot and so you also promise to return to this space to feast on the Lord’s supper. Here you are nourished with the bread of life.
We promise to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed. The good news of God’s abundant love is for all and so you share it wherever you are. This promise is also woven into one of our guiding principles here at Trinity. We try to live out this promise as a collective body.
We promise to serve all people, following the example of Jesus. What was the example of Jesus? Stepping out of the middle of the page over to those in the margins of society. Seeing each person’s dignity. Feeding the hungry. Clothing the naked. Healing the sick.
And we promise to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. Sometimes we, with our little amounts of power, are called not only to serve all people, but to improve structures and systems that harm people. This is the long communal work that very few people can do alone, and which needs the Holy Spirit’s power.
We know what we are supposed to be doing in the meantime–before the coming of the Son of Man. Because we don’t know the day or the hour, we are always to be ready—living into our baptismal covenant.
The message of Christ’s return is not meant to frighten us. Though that is exactly how some have interpreted it. The message of Christ in today’s text is to give us hope. The Christ who is to come is the Christ who once lived among us on earth, and who is known in the gospel story as the friend and healer of those in need. Living in hope, expecting Christ’s return, is integral to the Christian faith. We can insist that there is more to the human story and God’s own story than what has already been experienced.
What’s more, the hope we have is not personal only. It is definitely not private. It is a communal hope. The church is a community of hope and responsibility in the world. Nothing this morning should deflate the Christian faith of worldly care. Christian hope in the future coming and reign of Christ can generate a commitment to the future, a commitment to the public good of humanity in this world. The promises of God urge us to lean forward toward the future in its entirety.
In these dark weeks, when the days are short and we see the sun less and less, we celebrate the dawn of Jesus Christ, the true light of the world. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul says. By baptism and faith we are clothed with a person, the very son of God. He wells in us and we in him. So when people see and hear us, they see and hear the mercy, forgiveness, and compassion of Christ. Might this Advent season be a time of immersing ourselves daily into such a way of living, spreading the good news that God is truly Emmanuel, God with us.
Prayers of Intercession
As we prepare for the fullness of Christ’s presence, let us pray for a world that yearns for new hope.
A brief silence.
God of all, your children everywhere cry out for mercy. Awaken the global church to the urgent needs of our time. Break down barriers of culture and custom and unite people of all faiths in your redemptive and healing work. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of wonder, the earth’s beauty and abundance is your gift. Teach us your ways of sharing resources and caring for life. Guard fragile habitats, preserve the wild places, and protect endangered plants and animals. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of peace, you judge the nations. Beat our weapons into tools for serving the neighbor. Strengthen the resolve of all who work for an end to war. We pray for lasting peace in the land of Jesus’ birth (other places of conflict may be named). God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of lovingkindness, you desire fullness of life for everyone. Fill those who hunger. Comfort the grieving and attend to those near death. Bring help and hope to any who are sick or needing your care (especially). God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of community, you are present when we gather in your name. Guide congregations in transition or conflict (especially). Give wisdom to congregational councils, call committees, and ministry leaders. Keep us alert to unexpected opportunities for mission. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Here other intercessions may be offered.
God of promise, your goodness is everlasting. We give thanks for the lives of the faithful who now rest in you. We trust that you will bring us into the company of all the saints with rejoicing. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of our longing, you know our deepest needs. By your Spirit, gather our prayers and join them with the prayers of all your children. In Jesus’ name we pray.