Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent 1 - Waiting on God

Text: Luke 21:25-35

I am out there. Way out there. No, really, I am way out there in rural Kekaha, Kauai, Hawaii. I am the pastor of the westernmost United Methodist Church in the United States. This church is teaching me how to “do” or “be” this call to pastoral ministry. I have much to learn.

Then again many of us on this blog are “out there.” You know, in the world that Wesley called his parish--committed to movement(s) of justice wherever we may be. We are just your typical rabble rousers speaking truth to systems of power. We respond to the realities of global climate change. We refuse to accept institutionalized forms of racism, sexism, homophobia, and the ignorance that haunts our classrooms, places of business, and sadly, even our homes. We raise our voices in opposition of belligerent, derailed/ing political-economic systems that maintain structures of inequality. Wherever we find ourselves we must know our context.

Indeed, we walk dusty roads in worn “slippers,” our sneakers smell because we have walked the streets time and again, and our hearts are sometimes full and other times not.

The Advent 1 lectionary text portrays Jesus as a prophetic rabbi who preached in the temple of the coming reign of God. He was out there. Jesus spoke of the signs of nature, the distress of nations, the fainting masses, and the shaking heavens. It sounds mildly reminiscent of the “Left Behind” book series. Then, only, will we see the Son of Man return in triumphant victory.

What did Jesus mean? Did he mean that the temple would be destroyed or was he directing our consciousness toward the end times? Is this an apocalyptic judgment or an eschatological promise? In an article, Walter Wink wrote that “apocalyptic [thought] has a foreshortened sense of time. It anticipates a final war between the powers of Good and Evil...Eschatology, by contrast, regards the future as open, undetermined and capable of being changed if people alter their behavior in time.” [1]

In other words, Jesus offered a word of hope--we still have time. Do not despair but stand up and raise your heads. We continue to build, create, and hope in the transformative work of the kin-dom of God. Advent reminds us that we do not do this work alone. We need each other.

Most importantly, we wait on God. For a city boy appointed to the beautiful beaches of rural Kauai this season of Advent challenges me to pause, to be present where God is already at work. We wait on God who became human to dwell with humans in our messy, chaotic world.

The answer lies in a fig tree.

The fig tree, an ancient symbol of blessing and hope, often requires three to five years of tending, fertilizing, and cultivating to bear fruit. The ancients knew this when they sat under the tree for shade and learning. Jesus taught his disciples that the work of kin-dom necessitates patience. We have much work to do. Do it. But the good news is that God is already present, God is the one who moves within and amidst us, as we await the coming of the Messiah.

Holy God, give us grace to cast away the darkness of despair, that we might embrace the light of justice, now in this present life in which Christ came to live and die; and on that day, when Christ shall come again may we share in the life to come through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (adapted from The Book of Common Prayer)

Check out this video and reclaim the Advent season.

Joshua Clough is the pastor at West Kauai United Methodist Church on the Island of Kauai, Hawaii and a candidate for elders orders in the California-Pacific Annual Conference. A native of the Seattle, Washington area he enjoys running, politics, reading, writing, and walking on the beach at sunset with his dog “Cassie.”

[1] The Christian Century, October 17, 2001, pp. 16-19.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the expansiveness of the view of life with God in this writing. The abundant life is this expansiveness that nearly makes the world seem too small! Thanks for writing!