25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Exhortation to Watch
34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
What catches our imagination when we see things clearly? Or maybe not clearly?! There is a lot of “looking”, watching, seeing, in this morning’s gospel passage.
I was looking for lyrics to songs about seeing as I was writing this sermon. Then it hit me as I did a search for “seeing”. The problem is not seeing something, not seeing that so much is changing in the world, the issue is what do we see, or who do we see?
These are some of the most longing and beautiful words about seeing from the musical artist, Peter Gabriel, from a few years ago:
In your eyes
The light, the heat (in your eyes)
I am complete (in your eyes)
I see the doorway (in your eyes)
To a thousand churches (in your eyes)
The resolution (in your eyes)
Of all the fruitless searches (in your eyes)
Oh, I see the light and the heat (in your eyes)
Oh, I wanna be that complete
I wanna touch the light, the heat I see in your eyes
Love, I don’t like to see so much pain
So much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive
And all my instincts they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside
The issue for us, is do we see out of love, deep love…not just love for another human, a project, or even a church or a family, but the deep universal love that keeps us grounded, helps us to come alive. The love that God gives us of God’s Self.
Richard Rohr this week in my daily devotional said this:
Those who truly live in The Story have embraced and integrated their personality, shadow, woundedness, family issues, culture, and contextualizing life experiences under The One. . . . This is a truly integral spirituality, a truly catholic worldview, and the unrecognized goal of all monotheistic religions. These, like Jesus, desire “nowhere to rest their head” except in the One and Universal Love.
We come to this morning’s gospel lesson and its word on seeing, on watching. The setting is right before Jesus and the disciples have their last supper. Jesus is teaching in the temple and telling folks that they should recognize the signs all around them. That there is distress in the nations, a foreboding of what is to come and to be on the look-out for the Son of Man, the Messiah.
It’s interesting that not much has changed since Jesus gave those words. In Jesus’ time there were protests, Roman oppression and rule, unjust systems and folks rising up to challenge them, and wars, always wars.
Today, if you only watch the news for 5 minutes, you see about the same things. Different actors, but still the same.
Not only are their signs of the times that tell us that something isn’t right in the world, but we see so much in our own lives: conflicts with others, a deep sense of distrust, a desire to win rather than work together towards good goals, a deep sense of anxiety and fear within culture and within ourselves. We not only see signs of distress in culture, but in our lives. I talk with folks all of the time that are dealing with panic attacks, anxiety disorders, and situational as well as chronic depression…as well as grief and loss…which is OK, it’s part of it…I know it so well in this season of my own life.
We all see things that can lead one towards despair and even confusion. What’s going on here? We may wonder. But, Jesus has other words for us, that when we sense some of the things I just mentioned, there is a deeper promise that God has made to us. We are not alone and that God has come, is here, and will come for us.
The writer of Luke is telling us that God’s promise of entering humanity is upon us. That in the midst of the anxiety, distress, and confusing times, that there is good news. When we read this passage of Luke, we can respond in several ways: one is fear, the other is faith that God will keep God’s promises and we can life expectantly and with joy, hope, peace, and love.
Rather than looking at the events around us with fear and anxiety, we can live with confidence and courage. A Greek word that is used often to describe God’s Presence is Parousia. It means literally presence, arrival, or visit. God’s Kingdom is upon us, God’s Presence. The question for us is do we see the signs of God’s Presence in our lives?
Do we sense that something new is emerging within our lives and do we live in expectation of this newness being made known? Do we get wrapped up in the anxiety and emotion of external issues that arise around us or are we able to take a deep breath and sense that something good may arise out of whatever situation that we are facing eventually? Or, better yet, we may not see anything good come out of some situations, but do we have a sense that we can sit with whatever is happening and know that we are not alone and that we can share whatever is happening with others and with God?
I believe that cultivating this sense of Presence is key for our lives. If we work from love, from faith, we can see so much in our lives and in the world that strengthen our faith in God and in others…if we can live our lives acknowledging the Presence of God around us. As we listen to ourselves, others, and attempt to look at even familiar things with a sense of God’s presence in everything, we can catch those glimpses of God that can move us towards growth.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent literally means that we are preparing for the coming of Jesus. It is about arrival, coming into place, viewing something in a new way. Today, we have a sign of a candle being lit representing hope.
Hope is defined in the dictionary in several ways:
a person or thing that may help or save someone.grounds for believing that something good may happen…a feeling of trust.
Faith is similar and somethings this Sunday can be called the faith Sunday. Faith is defined in the dictionary as trust or confidence in someone or something especially when things are not black and white, it is also a strong belief in God based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. Faith can give us hope, which is deeper than optimism…
Luke is calling us out to have faith and hope that we may never understand, but we can live into or apprehend, we can’t prove it. But, it is a faith that keeps us alert, keeps us living expectantly. We are called to be open to God’s breaking into our lives in the most unexpected ways. God is showing us things all of the time. We can be stubborn or attempt to control what signs God may be giving us, we can be resistant to God’s Presence out of fear and a desire to cling to what we know. Or, we can see, that, just like the seasons give us clues that change is upon us, that God’s Presence in our lives has arrived, is arriving, and will arrive. We can see that as we stay alert and practice listening or noticing the signs of God’s activity, that we can have lives filled with meaning, purpose, and even gratitude in the midst of all of the craziness that we experience within us and around us.