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  • St Mark's Dalby

Waiting to Live

Sermon published by Pastor Joel Pukallus

If we want to know what the purpose is of a certain reading, what we want it to do for us, then we need to look at the context and see what is was supposed to do in the lives of those to whom it was written.

This is right at the start of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and it is supposed to be encouraging! Encouraging as the people waited. Some of them thought Jesus would come back in their lifetime, and they got a bit frustrated when it didn’t happen.

Our gospel lesson for today has the same thrust: No-one knows the day or the hour. Stop stressing about when it will happen. Have faith in God.

Waiting is hard. Putting off and trying to forget about what you want from the future is almost impossible. This is especially true when it is something that you are excited about. How much more then when it is the end of all things, the end of suffering, the salvation of the faithful, and a life everlasting in heaven! You can see why the early Christians were fretting.

And we get it. This year more than ever we get it. We are all waiting, for this year to be over, as next year surely has to be better. We are waiting for borders to open, and vaccines to be released, and the pandemic to end, and tourism, and international travel, and “normality” as we have always known it. This whole year has been about putting our lives on hold in the hope of a better time to come. It’s like we are just putting up with existing, until the time comes when we can really live, and live free from fear.

So do you understand the significance of Advent now? Just like we don’t know when the time of freedom and normality is coming, the people of God in the new Testament didn’t know when the time of ultimate, cosmic freedom, and the life of heaven was coming.

The people of the Old Testament through thousands of years, were waiting, under oppression and exile and slavery, and just eking out an existence, wondering when in the plan of God the time would come and the Messiah would arrive and they could start really living.

The one for whom we are waiting in the Advent season is different. Not a messiah who would ride in and immediately release us from our existence, slavery, oppression, but one who would come down and be born into it and exist with us, remember, that’s what the title “Immanuel” means: God with us. And then he would move us from this pained existence to really living. Remember what he said in John 10:10, I have come that they may have LIFE. And wasn’t that life so much better than we could have wanted or imagined?

How much of a part do we play in this plan, and this salvation? Do you realise that in the word of this lesson, we really do VERY little?

Listen to the verbs: Grace given you, you have been enriched (by God), he will keep you, he who has called you, he is faithful.

And there, in that last one, is so much richness.

Why do we look forward with hope in the midst of pandemic death, and global uncertainty? Why do our hearts tell us that there is life in all its fullness to come, when existence seems tenuous at best, because he who has promised is faithful.

Let me say that again: HE WHO HAS PROMISED IS FAITHFUL.

And as much as we play very little part in this plan of salvation for ourselves, it does not end with ourselves. We DO play a part in the plan of salvation for OTHERS.

We who have been dragged out of the waters in which we were drowning, we do not then pull up a deck chair and start sunbaking while others are still in the water. We who know what it is to be saved, and the horror of nearly going under surely will want to be out there throwing a life preserver to those we know and love, so that they might have life too, with us, always.

I am wanting to be careful about saying goodbye to 2020 and celebrating at New Year’s the fact that 2021 will be here.

There will be nothing measurably better about January 1 2021 than there was about Dec 31st 2020.

The Covid-19 Sars virus will not miraculously die out around the world on that day. Infections will not automatically stop, and deaths stop, and we all go back to hugging and shaking hands and life as it was before 2020.

But it will be for us a time of hope. And hope is so important. Hope can keep you alive.

The bible has a lot to say about hope.

St Paul in his letter to the Romans, says: 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

The hope he is talking about, 2000 years ago, is the same hope we have now! It is the same waiting we have now, the looking forward to the return of Jesus, and the question: “How long, Lord?”

And we watch with the eyes of our faith, not with our human eyes that tell us everything looks awful and hopeless. The eyes of faith tell us: Jesus is coming, lift up your heads. Get ready for life: Life in all it’s fullness.

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