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Isaiah 64:1-9
64O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains
would quake at your presence— 2as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire
causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the
nations might tremble at your presence! 3When you did awesome deeds that we
did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4From
ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides
you, who works for those who wait for him. 5You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed.
6We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like
a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us
away. 7There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our
iniquity. 8Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our
potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD,
and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

Gospel of Mark 13:24-37
24“But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
25and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and
glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds,
from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts
forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these
things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you,
this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven
and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the
Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time
will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his
slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the
watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the
house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or
else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I
say to all: Keep awake.

Usually I don’t enjoy driving to stores and shopping. I’m one of the
millions who do most of their shopping online. I like comparing products and
prices and warranties. I find the internet affords me comparisons much better.
However, there are times when shopping disengaged from my computer is
necessary. Most recently, I traveled to Target, shopping for socks and shoes for
our upcoming GOODY2SHOES. I hope each of you will consider participating in
this mission outreach opportunity – which takes place this coming Tuesday and
Wednesday mornings here at St. Paul’s. It’s one opportunity for us to help people
with diminished resources living in Dayton.
While at Target, my ears perked-up as I heard familiar melodies playing in
the background; then my mouth began singing the soul-stirring, joy-filled
Christmas music as I shopped. I saw other shoppers doing the same thing –
smiling and singing. That made my heart smile.
Of course, this is the Season of Advent; but I find no fault in the enjoyment
of music that reminds us that Christmas is extraordinarily significant.
And, though we embrace a tradition of Christmas starting on Christmas Eve
and lasting 12 days, personally, I’d like Christmas to last all year. But that’s not
the way it is.
So today, we find ourselves in the Season of Advent. It’s a time for
preparing.
The Bible readings for today remind us, as Christians, that preparing for
Christmas includes a sincere acknowledgement: our behaviors matter and have
very real consequences that affect not only our life, but also the lives of others.

Our behaviors either help God or they fight against God.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus predicts that the behaviors of his fellow Jews will
bring devastating consequences. He warns his disciples to “keep awake”- be
prepared.
Jesus’ presence signifies that God’s reign is near. Those who welcome
God’s reign will choose to live in it – caring for those who are marginalized or
counted unworthy by a society driven by wealth and power.
God’s reign brings peace, justice and compassion. It gives relief to those
suffering. It values people more than anything else.
This is good news to all who love and trust God. But, those who ignore the
coming of God’s reign will be left to their own hell.
Ched Myers is an American theologian specializing in biblical studies and
political theology. He and his colleagues write concerning Mark’s Gospel: “…we
rediscover that the human family is connected by more than just currents of matter
and energy; by more than just electronic networks, information systems, markets,
and policies; by more even than our common human instincts and longings. As
children of God we are intrinsically connected to the Divine Being who created us
and who is moved with compassion in the face of our suffering.”
He continues: “But the reign of God will go far beyond a revolution of the
soul. The reign of God will bring about a radical transformation of the social order
itself. All hierarchies of unjust privilege will be overturned: The first shall be last
and the last shall be first… the poor and the hungry will be given abundance. The
oppressed will taste the precious liberty of God. And… (those who are indifferent
to human suffering), and the oppressors of this world will weep and gnash their
teeth.” (Ched Myers and Colleagues, “Say to This Mountain”: Mark’s Story of Discipleship,
Chp. 20.)
Mark’s message is not fear-based, doom and gloom. Rather, it is a message
of hope and love, and a promise of bringing an end to needless suffering.
It is also a reminder of consequences. And, as we know, it is human not to
relish consequences.
Jesus yearned for his fellow Jews to welcome God’s reign and live in God’s
peace, justice and compassion. But they wouldn’t listen. Instead they crucified
him.

Jesus’ prediction came true. In the years 66-70 CE, the Jews in Palestine
were at war with Rome. They experienced horrendous bloodshed. The war
culminated with the destruction of the Jewish Temple, the near ruin of the city of
Jerusalem, and a mass exodus by those Jews surviving the war.
We know that even though the religious and political powerbrokers of
Judaism and Rome crucified Jesus, God would not let that act be the last word.
We also know that God did not stop loving the Jews and the Romans when the
Promised Land, its people, and the sacred Temple were held captive and destroyed.
Yes, our behaviors matter and have consequences. Our behaviors either
welcome or reject God’s reign. Sometimes we help build God’s realm, and
sometimes we wage war against it. And, yet, God is always reaching out to us,
trying to get our attention. God desires to be in relationship with us – because God
created us and loves us.
God is always willing to welcome and forgive. As the ancient prophet
announced: “O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
God has not given up on us. Though some who possess wealth and power
are indifferent to human need – choosing to hoard their privilege at the expense of
people suffering, God does not stop loving them. Though at times we behave
selfishly, foolishly and callously, God loves us.
This Season of Advent reminds us, as followers of Jesus, to prepare. We are
to prepare, not only for Christmas, but for God’s reign.
It was first announced by the prophets, brought to life in the birth of our
Savior, proclaimed by the teachings, life-example, death and resurrection of Christ
Jesus, and is today a present reality.
God’s reign of peace, justice and compassion is near – and vibrantly
dwelling among us. We are invited to live in it.
God is not giving up on us because God loves us and wants peace, justice
and compassion for everyone. God desires all needless suffering to end. This is
good news, especially to those who need good news in a world that cares less and
less for people often thought of as insignificant!
There’s coming a day of reckoning. All people and all earthly powers will
face the consequences of behaviors and governmental policies. Our behaviors

matter because they either bring about God’s reign or fight against it. And, we all
know God will win.
Our behaviors bestow love, peace, justice and compassion to the people of
this world or contribute to needless suffering. Oh, yes, there are consequences to
our behaviors.
But it’s not too late to ask God to mold our lives into instruments of God’s
peace, justice and compassion. It’s not too late to let God’s love pour out through
you and me.
While on my shopping excursion at Target, I watched a little boy, no more
than 3 years old, standing in the checkout line with his Daddy and their shopping
cart. The small boy turned his head from side to side, looking at people and
displays, while constantly returning his gaze upward to his Dad – who welcomed
his boy’s gaze each time with a loving smile.
Oh, that we and all the people of the world would live like that little child –
constantly gazing upon our loving and forgiving, heavenly Father!

 
St. Paul's is located at 33 W. Dixon Ave, Dayton, OH 45419; phone: 937-293-1154; fax: 937-293-3723 Office hours are Monday - Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.