IT'S ABOUT TIME - ADVENT SERMON ON ISAIAH 64:1-9 AND MARK 13:24-37 - FR. JOSEPH C. ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Excerpts of a Sermon Delivered on the First Sunday of Advent
November 29, 2020
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
Isaiah 64:1-9 & Mark 13:24-37
“It’s About Time”
There’s no time like the present, the saying goes. But on the First Sunday of Advent: there’s no time like the end of the world. We begin a new church year, not with champagne toasts, party hats, and a countdown. But with apocalyptic imagery about the darkened sun and stars falling from heaven.
It’s about time. The end of the world fascinates us. Sometimes terrifies us.
When life becomes too much to bear, it feels like the end of the world as we know it.
Unending violence, people dying from a virus that renders people helpless. Sadness and cries for justice. The longing for reforms in the criminal justice system.
When hope dims. It’s about time. When our dreams falter. It’s about time. When God seems far away. It’s about time. We join the Israelites in their lament. “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.”
We feel hopeless before the problems of the world. Oh, if only a Facebook post. Or a financial donation. Or a protest. Could save us. Could save our earth. And yet, act we must Speak out, we must. Yearn and pray, we must. It’s about time. Come and save us, O God.
The rapper and activist Prince Ea expresses his fears and hopes in a piece called, “Why I Think This World Should End.”
The world is coming to an end
The air is polluted, the oceans contaminated
The animals are going extinct, the economy’s collapsed
Education is shot, police are corrupt
Intelligence is shunned and ignorance rewarded
The people are depressed and angry
We can’t live with each other and we can’t live with ourselves
So everyone’s medicated
We pass each other on the streets
And if we do speak it’s meaningless communication. . . .
Race is still an issue and so is religion
Your God doesn’t exist, my God does and he is All-Loving
If you disagree with me I’ll kill you or even worse argue you to death
Pride is at an all time high, humility, an all time low.
Those who first heard the gospel of Mark read aloud had lived through the end of the world as they knew it- the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet they waited for Jesus’ promised return. The apocalyptic imagery instilled in them hope for a brighter tomorrow. One biblical scholar calls the New Testament a “survival manual for those living at the end of the world.”
Violence. Destruction. Despair. Maybe it’s always the end of the world. Maybe it’s always about time.
Yet our Lord comes even today in places of suffering, vulnerability and need. Watch therefore the unexpected sign. The unexpected gift. The unexpected hope.
We are invited into the unexpected season of sacred waiting of holy expectation.
In this time, we long for Christ to break into our lives. We are preparing our hearts, homes and hearths for the presence of God’s ever-present Spirit.
Oh, we’ve all been in a time of waiting. We have been waiting for over nine months for this pandemic to be over. Now, we are called into a place of stopping and listening to that “still small voice.”
We are called to slow down, to take stock of our lives and see the One in whom our salvation is found. Even in the midst of the trials and tribulations we all face, even when things seem to be at their worst, God has a way of breaking through.
It’s about time for another chance. That’s the message of warning and hope this day.
It’s about time for a new beginning. In our end is our beginning, words of T.S. Eliot.
Or as Prince Ea ends his piece:
Each of us can work to change a small portion of events
And in the total of all those acts
Will be written in the history of generation
So yes, the world is coming to an end
And the path towards a new beginning starts within you.
Yes, it’s about time as we look in joyful expectation to the God who offers us love, hope, peace and joy.
There is no time like the present so, keep awake!
~ Fr. Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church