On Tuesday I had the great pleasure of preaching at the Catholic Church Our Lady of Hope, Epping as part of the Ecumenical Covenant Churches which includes Catholic Parish of Epping & Carlingford, Epping Anglicans, Epping Baptist Church, Epping Uniting Church and West Epping Uniting Church. Together we celebrated the beginning of Advent.
Below is the written version of my sermon. If you would prefer to listen to the sermon, and the whole service you will find it on the West Epping Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/weppinguniting or on YouTube: https://youtu.be/IIfkl7CJfbA
Our bible reading began… “But in those days, after that suffering…”
That suffering – what suffering?
Earlier in this chapter, Mark 13, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple: “Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Although our churches have remained standing, for many of us this year and the impact of Covid-19 have made us feel as if our temples or churches had been destroyed as they became closed to the congregations. Our familiar way of doing things had been stripped from us. It left many grieving a significant loss. Its right and natural to grieve things we lose especially when those things are much loved and valued. But I wonder if it has also highlighted something important, something that we need to pay attention to?
Has it shown us that we have mistaken our temples, our churches, for the Kingdom of God?
In the passage we heard read Jesus, as a good Jewish rabbi or teacher, is quoting or at least referencing scripture. He is referring to the book of Daniel, from what we call the Old Testament, but for the Jewish Jesus would have just been the scriptures. In particular he is referencing Daniel 7:13-14:
I continued watching in the night visions,
and suddenly one like a son of man
was coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approached the Ancient of Days
and was escorted before him.
14 He was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
so that those of every people,
nation, and language
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that will not pass away,
and his kingdom is one
that will not be destroyed.
God’s Kingdom will not be destroyed! Although human Empires, human kingdoms, human leaders and nations rise and fall the Kingdom of God, the dominion of God will not pass away. It will not be destroyed.
We pray: Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, Thy Kingdom come on earth! This is our prayer. Thy Kingdom come. The coming of the Kingdom of God is what Jesus proclaimed, is what Jesus stood for, what he taught, what he demonstrated in the way he lived, died and was resurrected.
We pray Thy Kingdom come! Not my kingdom come. Not our individual kingdoms of the way we like things or want things to be. Not even the church’s kingdom come but Thy Kingdom come!
The Kingdom of God, is the reign of God. The Kingdom of heaven as the Gospel according to Matthew calls it. It is not about another place called heaven that we get to go to when we die but the coming reign of God here on earth. That here on earth God reigns and things here should be according to the will of God.
We pray this prayer but do we mean it?
Do we expect it?
Are we awake to the in breaking reign of God?
Do we see the new shoots that are being put out by our creator God who continues to bring life and reconciliation?
Mark verse 33 says: “Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come”. We do not know when the time will come, the moment, the year, the month, the day, hour, minute, or second.
This notion of time is very Western. Has anyone visited one of the Pacific Islands and encountered Island time? Are you familiar with Island time? It is not just that they are slow or laid back and always late as we may perceive it. Rather things happen at particular times. Things happen at the right time, when the right people or enough people have arrived and are ready.
We need to read this passage with an understanding of God’s time. The original Greek the Gospel was written in has two different words that are translated as “time” in our English bibles.
One is the word ‘Chronos’. This is where we get ‘chronology’ or ‘chronological’.
Our Western understanding of time comes from this sort of time and usually what we think of when we think of time. What time is it? What time does the bus arrive? What time do you want to meet for coffee? It is a moment in chronological time.
The other term is ‘Kairos’. This word is more about the right, or opportune time. It is the critical moment. More like it happen just in time.
When we see the second coming of God, or the 2nd coming of Jesus in ‘chronos’ time or calendar time we limit God to coming at a particular moment in chronological time. What is more this is not the term used in the gospel.
Mark uses the term ‘kairos’. When we understand God coming in ‘kairos’ time, at the right time and in God’s time we may see it less as a moment in time. See it less as a 2nd coming but as second comings or subsequent comings. Comings that we need to be awake to. Alert to.
Jesus continues to come. Jesus continues to be present in our moments of crisis. In our moments of feeling like the world is ending. But we can only recognise this if we are looking for God, for the Christ and expecting to see Christ. If we are wake to the presence of Christ in the mess and the pain.
Jesus has shown us that he does not shy away from mess pain and death. Jesus has shown us that he is to be found on the margins with the poor, with the outcasts and the sinners. Jesus showed us that he comes in humility and dwells with the vulnerable. Jesus has shown us that God comes to us in unexpected forms in a man from the backwater town of Nazareth where nothing good comes from. Do we still let God surprise us as he continues to come in ways we do not expect?
How do we recognise the coming of Jesus it if it is in unexpected ways?
We need to let the word of God confront and challenge us not just comfort us. We need to let the scripture transform us. We need to turn away from our kingdoms, our agendas, we need to let go of our wants, our opinions and power and then with hands open and empty we can embrace the kingdom of God.
We can use prayer to centre ourselves on the Kingdom of God.
We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and just welcome others, welcome the stranger. As we welcome others we might find that we welcome Christ himself.
As we enter this season of Advent, the new church year, may we keep awake. May we continue to pray: Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth and may we let go of our own little kingdoms, empty ourselves and make room for the Spirit so we can see and participate in the ongoing breaking in of the Kingdom of God.
Come Lord Jesus! Come! Amen.
Rev Tammy Hollands