First Sunday in Advent, 2015 Psalm 25 & Luke 21:28
Ps. 25:1, Lord my God, to you I lift my heart. Luke 21:28, Stand upright and lift your heads, because your time to be set free is drawing near.
Nations stand helpless, not knowing which to turn. People in terror at the thought of all that is coming on the world. Those words might describe our reaction after tuning into the news or opening the newspaper, and maybe they do. Moreover, the latest and loudest political rhetoric is not aimed at our better instincts, but to our frustrations, mistrust, fears, prejudices, and our self – centeredness. In other words, it’s aimed at that old sinful self that needs to be drowned daily in our baptism, so that a new person emerges to live before God in uprightness and purity forever.
However, descriptions of helpless nations in perplexity, of people in terror of what the world is coming to, come to us right out of the Gospel of Luke, spoken by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Next, Jesus says something unexpected, “Then we will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great might.” Just when we want to duck and run Jesus says, “Stand up straight and lift your heads, because your time to be set free is drawing near.”
This is the first Sunday in Advent, which directs us to Jesus coming at the end of time, as king of the universe, no longer the babe in a manger, no longer the man on the cross, but as the Son of Man, the risen Lord whom death and the grave could not contain, who ascended to the right hand of God, the Father from whence he will come to living and the dead. This first Sunday of advent when we begin a new church year we think of the coming of our Lord at the end of time to lead us to the fullness of eternity.
On this first Sunday in Advent its, Hearts Up! Heads Up! All the Day Long.
- The author of Psalm 25 tells us what he did, “To you, Lord my God, I lift up my heart.”
Lewis Smede who wrote a book entitled, “Standing on the Promises” says that hoping for others is hard, but not the hardest. Praying for others is hard but not the hardest. The hardest part for people who believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ is in “living the sort of life that makes people say ‘Ah, so that’s how people are going to live.’” An article in our synods paper the “Reporter” describes the work of our partner church in Germany among the flood of refugees. When asked how American Christians should approach Muslims with the Gospel, one refugee said, “Let them see (how you live) and (let them) ask questions.”
So how do we live our daily faith life? Martin Luther has some practical help for us. Before turning on the news or reading the newspaper or booting up our computer or pecking on our I phone, Luther tells us to begin our day in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then continue with a prayer of thanksgiving for having kept us through the night. Praying further that our heavenly Father would also keep us from sin, and every evil during the day so that all our doings may please our heavenly Father. He concludes with a request for the protecting presence of His holy angel so that the evil foe have no power. Then go joyfully to your work singing a hymn.
Makes sense to put our trust in the Lord, in whom is the hope for our eternal salvation, to help us get through the day. In other words asking help from that realm which as Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “Is not of this world.” Put our trust in Jesus Christ who rules in that out of this world kingdom which is our destiny held in the hope of our faith. Regardless how overwhelming the reality of the world confronting us as we go out into our day, there is an even greater reality, the reality of the word of the Lord of which Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” We serve a higher throne where sits the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end the One is, was and ever shall be. The one who came into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and will come at the end of time in power and great glory.
- It would be wonderful if our days were as Van Morrison sang,
When you don’t need to worry there’ll be days like this
When no one’s in a hurry there’ll be days like this
When you don’t get betrayed by that old Judas kiss
Oh, my mama told me, “There’ll be days like this”
When all the parts of the puzzle start to look like they fit
Then I must remember there’ll be days like this.
But the song allows that not all days will be free of worry, free of the Judas kiss, free of puzzlement. Having begun our day lifting our hearts to the Lord we keep them lifted up as the day progresses, lest having made a good start to our day we lose our way.
Sometimes our days can be more than we can understand, sometimes we are overwhelmed. Sometimes we can feel trapped. Betty, a now 80 something year old woman, said one time during a Sunday morning Bible Class that she had been trapped in a job, with low pay and a tyrannical boss. But in order to feed her family she could not quit.
The psalmist asks the Lord to teach him, “Teach me your ways. Lead me by your faithfulness…for you are God my Savior.” Because all the paths of the Lord are loving and sure. Eugene Peterson paraphrases the psalmist, “If I keep my eyes on God, I won’t trip over my own feet.” The psalmists noonday prayer continues, “turn to me and show me your favor…Relieve the troubles of my heart…let honesty and uprightness protect me; in you Lord is my hope.”
I remember a district convention in the 80’s being held in Appleton, Wis. A noisy thunderstorm passed through the area and knocked out the electricity for a time. We were all sitting calmly in the dark in the convention hall, when a young man from the hotel, sounding rather desperate, came in and loudly called out, that everything was okay and we shouldn’t worry and no great damage had been done in case we were worried about our families. Henry Simon our district president then said, “The Lord of the church is the Lord of the weather. We will continue.”
So it is when we live out our day keeping our hearts and heads up, not only waiting for Christ’s return, but looking for how he is present in our world and daily lives.
- When we come to the evening, our day ends as it began.
Luther says, make the sign of the holy cross in the name of the Triune God. Thank our heavenly Father through Jesus Christ for keeping us during the day and asking for forgiveness of all sins where “I have done wrong.” The words of the psalm make a fitting prayer, “Remember, Lord, your tender care and love unfailing, for that is your character from eternity to eternity. Do not remember the sins I committed this day, nor the offences of my youth which can still haunt me. Rather remember me in your unfailing love in accordance with your goodness. Relieve the troubles of my heart and lead me out of my distress.” After commending ourselves, all we are and all we have, into the Lord’s hand for safe keeping; let go and let God handle things.
So we wait in hope from morning to evening for our King to come that we might share in His peace in heaven and glory in the highest with him now and forever.