So in case you didn't hear earlier this morning, today is the first Sunday of Advent. And let's be honest with ourselves, it feels like such a chore that we have to spend this long drawn-out four weeks' worth leading up to you know what year after year. Why can't we just admit there's that holiday coming up around the corner, and sing the hymns that have been playing over the radio for who knows how many weeks now? Why does the tradition of the church have to make us deal with this Advent thing over and over again? However, just in case you haven't heard, this season is intended to remind us that our Messiah is going to come back to earth in an appearance eerily similar to what He was the first time around. But, we don't quite know exactly how it's going to happen. The Bible does not oblige us with a consistent picture whatsoever. This morning we hear Isaiah's take: heavens tearing open and crashing down upon us; shock, fear, trembling all in the forefront.
Now in case you didn't hear or see this past week people all across the nation felt the same way when pictures came on the television, through the newspapers, and all over the internet from Ferguson, Missouri; not only trembling and fear and shock, but disgust and outrage thrown in as well.
And in case you didn't realize after it was all said and done: over the last few decades our country has turned into a 60-second sound-byte society. We only have so much time for the news we actually want to watch. We only have so much time to read anything, if at all, anymore. And news directors have caught on: the shorter the segment, the better, and the more frequent the different images you can bring up on a screen, the more incredibly mesmerized the American audience becomes. And so with that shorter visual and audio attention span it becomes a perfect breeding ground for the short-and-sweet stereotype that we're superb professionals at forming, because we are obviously more than smart enough to figure out the entirety of human existence in all times and places from reading the latest headlines of the day.
So in case you haven't heard, the stereotypes out of Ferguson are this: all African Americans are gangsters, they all entice riots, and they all hate America and what it stands for. Then the next one in line are police from all over the country: they're all racist, they're all too quick to pull the trigger, and we can make those quick judgments about our brave law enforcement officers because they obviously come from the same background and the same training along the way. They are just all the same. And depending on which 60-second sound-byte you heard, or one column news article, or five line Facebook post you read, there's blame not only on one of the two individuals that started this whole thing, but there needs to be blame placed on every person who is similar enough to the two: either based on the color of skin or the uniform they wear. In case you haven't heard, we human beings are evidently blessed by God to know what every other person is like in this lifetime and beyond.
But, in case you haven't realized it yet, those are not the only two stereotypes around, and those two have been around a lot longer than just last week; nevertheless, there's also one about us church-going people. Evidently we are all the same: we come to church out of routine, or whenever we feel guilty. We say things in an hour time-span but we don't actually carry them out beyond the walls of the sanctuary. We don't really want anyone else here who isn't just like us. And we will do absolutely everything in our power not to bring the Good News to life, but to ensure that nothing will ever, ever change inside our church. And in case you haven't heard it, we are to blame for the church slowly dissipating into the cultural darkness.
But when it comes to all this blame over race and justice and religion, it's actually much more than blame nowadays, it's downright disgusting hatred. It almost makes you crave for Isaiah's picture to become reality for the heavens to crash down, as we cry out the refrain of Advent that we say year after year: "Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come!" Come quickly!
But in case you didn't hear, the Kingdom of God that Jesus will instill will absolutely annihilate every single stereotype that humanity has ever come up with from the beginning of time. Because in case you haven't noticed, God isn't asking for our opinions on who gets ushered in for eternity. After all, God has far too much mercy, far too much grace, far far too much love for all of humanity, including the ones we hate. That's why God is the One Who saves, not us. That's why God is the One Who died for all, because we most certainly wouldn't give up our life for all people. But that's why God is the One Who unleashed the hope that all walls can be torn down, all stereotypes utterly banished. Because in case you didn't realize it yet, we human beings most certainly cannot do it ourselves.
We so desperately need this God, and we need "thy Kingdom come." We need "thy will be done." We need the Messiah now and for eternity, and He most certainly has come to us as we will hear in a few weeks time. And He continues to live through bread and wine, through Thanksgiving baskets and Angel trees, and village Christmas celebrations and youth Christmas programs. But it's nowhere near finished yet. We still need more, not only for us, but for all God's children. And so we continue to cry yet again, as we do year after year, "Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come," so that the comfort and joy that was brought to Bethlehem may reign completely from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baroda, Michigan, and beyond forevermore. Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Dennis Smith, Interim Pastor
Office: Tue - Fri: 9 a.m. - Noon