December 1, 2019–Basis of Hope

Posted on November 26, 2019 by faithlens

Dennis Sepper, Rosemont, MN

Warm-up Question

Do you ever think about the Second Coming of Jesus?  What it will be like?   

Basis of Hope

Colorado Springs, Colorado – Michael Martin was serving as a Mennonite youth pastor when news of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School came as a “breaking news” story on his car radio.  The news touched and troubled Pastor Martin deeply.  As he went about his ministry he couldn’t shake the story and a feeling that he had to do something.  A short time later Martin knew what he had to do.  Pastor Martin left his ministry and, with his father, learned to blacksmith.   They launched a non-profit faith based organization called Raw Tools.  They collect guns—shotguns, rifles and handguns—and transform them, shaping them into gardening tools which are then donated to community gardens all over the United States.  

Not only did Michael Martin take the words of Isaiah 2:4 literally, but Raw Tools paid attention to the rest of Isaiah’s words and part of their new ministry includes teaching and training people  around issues such as restorative justice, conflict mediation, and active-bystander training.  Martin really wants to give people hope, just like Isaiah did, that the current violence in our world is not the last word…that God will have the last word and it will be a Word of peace and justice.

Raw Tools website:  www.rawtools.org

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think about Michael Martin’s ministry?  Does it make sense to you?  In what way?
  • Notice that there is an educational piece to Martin’s work.  How does that line up with Isaiah’s words in verse 2:3?  Is it important that our good works, our works of hope, be linked with some sort of instruction?
  • What are some other signs of hope that our personal futures and the future of the world will be a place of peace and justice?

First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 2:1-5

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:36-44

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

December 1st marks the beginning of the church year season of Advent.  Advent is a season of hope, preparation, and anticipation of the coming of God into our world and into our lives.  Advent creates this experience of preparation and anticipation by looking to the past (and remembering the coming of Jesus years ago), the present (how Christ comes to us today in Word and Sacrament and through the Holy Spirit), and the future (the promise that Jesus will come again).  The readings for this season are meant to “wake us from sleep” (Romans 13:11) and help us to be attentive to what God is doing in the world today.

At first glance today’s reading from Matthew is quite troubling.  Does Jesus really mean that his return will be like the flood in the time of Noah?  Will it be like the coming of a thief in the night?  Will suddenly some people be taken and others left behind?  That doesn’t seem like the kind of thing Jesus would teach or preach.  The clues to this reading are found in the first and the last verses.  They emphasize that one, even Jesus doesn’t know the time of his return because God is the one in charge and two, we should be ready for Jesus’ coming in each moment.

I often say to others that I hope that when Jesus returns I will be in the midst of my morning devotions with an open Bible in front of me and not when I am watching football with a bag of Cheetos on my chest!  We just do not know when that time will be.  So, how do we stay awake and ready and prepared?  About a month ago one of the pastors at the church I attend preached a sermon on prayer.  He said that most of us learn as children to bow our heads, fold our hands and shut or eyes when we pray but he suggested a different posture for prayer which he called “praying with one eye open”…open to the concerns of others, to the needs of the communities we live in and to the needs of the world.

That’s a helpful image as we think about the return of Jesus.  While we go about our daily affairs we should keep an eye open to look for ways God is working in our lives and in the world.  We should look for signs of hope, at the least, and at most, join God in creating those signs of hope for others to see.  

The world we live in still has many troubling elements.  While we must do what we can do to address those things that harm and dehumanize people, we  always remember that God is in charge.  We place our trust and hope in God who entered our world in the past, is present in it now, and will come again  to bring God’s loving purposes for all creation to full fruition.  Such are the themes of Advent.  While we might be excited by the coming of the Christmas season, we should also hear God’s call to think about and address the themes of Advent.

Discussion Questions

  • God and Jesus have a habit showing up in unexpected places.  Have you ever experienced God or Jesus’ presence at a time you did not expect it?
  • Sometimes we can worry about the Second Coming of Jesus.  A favorite author of mine once wrote that there is no evidence that the Jesus who returns will be any different than the Jesus we meet in the Gospels.  Does that thought give you some comfort?  Why or why not?  What is the Jesus we meet in the Gospels like?
  • How can we keep and respect the themes of Advent in the midst of the pre-Christmas craziness?

Activity Suggestions

We are very good at sending out Christmas cards to wish those we love a Merry Christmas and blessings for the coming year.  But what about those in our communities who may need a word of hope and assurance during the festive month of December.  This week’s activity seeks to give those folks a word of hope and encouragement. 

Speak to your pastor and get a few names of people who are homebound or in the hospital, or perhaps you have a friend or acquaintance who you know needs some support.  Take the time to create an Advent card.  Think about the themes of Advent (hope, light and the fulfillment of God’s promise) to create a unique card you can send to those who need it.  You may want to include a verse from Scripture such as Isaiah 9:2, John 8:12, 1 Timothy 4:10, Romans 15:13-15 or Matthew 28:20.  Assure those brothers and sisters that God loves them, God is with them, God is for them and they can put their trust in God. 

Part of our Advent preparation is “keeping one eye open” to what God is doing in our world and then telling others about it.  That way we plant the seeds that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will cause to grow into a garden of hope, peace and justice.  

Closing Prayer

Faithful God, we look at the world around us and at times we cannot see you at work in the world.  Send your Holy Spirit upon us and fill us with holy hope and the vision to see you at work in our lives, in our communities and in the world.  Empower us to speak a word of peace and hope to those who need to hear it and help us to prepare for the coming of our Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.  

 

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