When the World Ends

First Sunday of Advent

Jeremiah 33:14-16

I Thessalonians 3:9-13

Luke 21:25-36

storm

One weekend in the fall of 2000, I was in sixth grade and hanging out with a friend. Soon it was about noon and my friend, Dave, asked, “Dan, are you getting hungry? Do you want something for lunch?”

“Sure,” I replied.

“How about macaroni and cheese?” he asked.

“Sounds good,” I said.

We left the living room, but also walked through the kitchen. “This is a little bit odd,” I thought. Then we walked out the back door to the backyard. “This is just plain weird,” I thought. Then, we walked up to a fairly large tin shed in the backyard and opened the door. We entered the shed and there was our lunch. Stacked from floor to ceiling were canned vegetables, dried fruit and meat, and of course many, many boxes of macaroni and cheese.

Dave’s family was well prepared to survive Y2K. As most of you remember, Y2K was a national and international scare that seized many. Virtually all computer systems accounted for the date using two numerals each for month, day, and year. January 1st, 1999 would be 01/01/99. The fear was that when we reached the year 2000 all of the computers would think that it was 1900 and not 2000. For reasons that I don’t really understand, there were also rumors going around that led many people to believe that this could lead to a sort of apocalyptic scenario. National defenses would be compromised and economic institutions would be utterly incapacitated all because the date was wrong on our computers.

Obviously none of this came to pass. Year 2000 came and no nukes were detonated and the financial infrastructure of the world did not crumble. Dave’s family had feared this doomsday Y2K scenario and planned accordingly. When it didn’t come to pass they were left with a lifetime supply of boxed macaroni and cheese and canned green beans.

When the world looks like it is ending, how should we respond? Continue reading

Thanksgiving that the World is Not a Wind-up Toy

Thanksgiving Eve

Joel 2:21-27

I Timothy 2:1-7

Matthew 6:25-33

wind up toy

 

Growing up, Thanksgiving dinner was a small and kind of ordinary affair for me. Most years, seated around the Thanksgiving table were me, my brother, and my mother, or me, my brother, and my father. We had the turkey, the stuffing, and the mashed potatoes, but other than that, our Thanksgiving meal did not look much different from any other meal that we might have shared together. It was still special in that it was held on Thanksgiving day when we are encouraged to give thanks for the people and provisions of our lives, but that was just about the only significant difference between this holiday meal and any other one.

To be honest, I never really minded the small gatherings and I still don’t. I like how the meal wasn’t that different from other meals during the year. It wasn’t a big to-do with people flying in from all over the country, but it was still nice to set aside the day to give thanks. These small holiday gatherings got me thinking though- why do I have to wait until Thanksgiving day to give thanks for the people, events, and things of my life when most other meals look so similar to this one? I could try to remember to be thankful on those days too. It is, however, often a struggle to give thanks to God always on ordinary days. It is especially hard to give thanks to God on tough days- when we aren’t sure that we will have enough to eat, when we aren’t sure that we will have clothing, when we aren’t sure that we will have housing, when we aren’t sure that we will have adequate medical care, or when we aren’t sure that we will have peace. When Jesus says not to worry about our life and its many needs, we might think to ourselves, “Easier said than done.”

There is a strain of religious thought called Deism that used to be very popular and in many ways still is popular. Not as many people identify as Deists today as they did a few hundred years ago, but plenty of people still live out their religious lives with a similar set of beliefs. Deism believes God to be a sort of great watchmaker. Like a timepiece or a wind-up toy, God set the universe in motion placing stars, planets, our world, and humanity into motion and then God stepped back and let it run. In this religious framework, God wound up the universe, set it on autopilot, and now watches it hobble on from afar.

The witness of Scripture and the many saints of God throughout all places and time testify that God is constantly at work. God did not retire from God’s office after Creation, but God is actively nurturing and loving this world. God is at work in the creation of the Cosmos. God is at work in the big to-dos with dozens of people gathered around a Last Supper of disciples or a Passover meal on the eve of the Exodus. God is consistently at work also in the small things. God is providing food for little birds. God is gardening barren lands to become rich, fertile lands. God is bringing rain upon dry fields. God is clothing the flowers of the field in fancier adornments than even Solomon, the wealthiest king of Israel, ever wore. Continue reading

Living Water in a Thirsty World

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Dead Sea

Ezekiel 47:1-12

Hebrews 10:11-18

John 4:5-42

Click here for sermon audio

The Woman at the Well at first sees what is in front of her and she cannot imagine anything beyond that. To her credit though, the Jewish rabbi she is speaking to makes some pretty outlandish claims about things that are not to be seen in that moment.

After first asking for a drink of water from the Woman at the Well, Jesus then promises to give her living water. Jesus uses a word-play here. “Living water” in its colloquial sense just means running or fresh water. It is not a stagnant, mucky pond and it is even more fresh than the water that comes from a well. The Woman at the Well looks around, assesses the situation in front of her and sees that some things don’t quite match up. “Sir, you have no bucket and the well is deep,” she says, “Where do you get that living water?”

We may feel a bit like this woman at the well. Jesus has promised us Living Water in peace, justice, and resurrected life, but we look around the world and can’t help but notice that the well is very, very deep and there is no bucket in sight. Two days ago at least 128 people were killed in Paris by a well-coordinated group of murderers and 19 people were killed in a funeral bombing in Baghdad, and three days ago, at least 41 people were killed in a bombing in Beirut. How do we or how does God plan on healing after that tragedy? How does God plan on quenching their thirst for peace in the midst of grief? How does God plan on quenching our thirst to be free from fear? “The well is deep and you have no bucket.”

How do we or how does God address the deep pain and hatred that can convince so many people to brazenly snuff out so many lives? How can we build reconciliation with neighbors when such violence prevails? “The well is deep and you have no bucket.”

The problems of the world are so great and Jesus doesn’t even seem to have a bucket to get this water to us. How can we as individuals or even as a whole congregation address these incredibly huge problems? Would a few bucks in the offering plate or a donation to Lutheran World Relief or another relief organization make a meaningful difference? Does volunteering at Trenton Area Soup Kitchen for one day really address the monumental challenges of poverty and injustice that our county faces? Does setting the Communion table through altar guild address the deep sorrows and fears that we bring to the Communion table? Can Jesus bring us living water when the well of life looks so deep and we see no bucket with which to draw the water? Continue reading