SERMON AND REFLECTIONS ADVENT 1, 2021 - FR. LANCE A SCHMITZ, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of each of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O God our strength our redeemer and our one and only peace. AMEN
Have you seen it yet? Have you heard/seen that thing/commercial/jingle on the radio that lets you know Christmas is right around the corner? For me its two things, one the dose of encapsulated nostalgia known as the BC Clark Jingle(which for we okies is basically a sacramental)
and those readings that come every advent season that remind us things aren’t all bright and shiny that call us to preparation/repentance/renewal. I love the disconnect between cultural expectations of Christmas and the church’s way of getting ready.
One is about consumption, the other is about repentance.
One is about acquisition, the other is about slowing down life and reflection.
One tries to tell us that everything is about self and gratification, the other is about service of others and reliance upon something bigger than oneself. It is into our lives that the prophet Jeremiah, intrudes today. The long suffering prophet Jeremiah, also known as the weeping prophet, had deep emotional love for his people and was one who was called to serve as God’s mouthpiece to stubbornly uncooperative Judah/Israel.
This was a role he held for nearly forty years, forty years.
Can You imagine holding the job of being a moral voice in the midst of exile/estrangement from God for that long? There’s Jeremiah again telling us we have strayed from the path. Run here comes Jeremiah reminding us we have broken God’s covenant. Quick hide Jeremiah is coming!!!! Nobody likes to be reminded of their own brokenness especially when they probably already know that they’ve got some brokenness. God commissioned/called Jeremiah to invite his people away from the cliff of their own demise.
God’s people decided that, contrary to everything they were taught and known, they would chase after these novel/new/different gods, and refuse to live into the calling that God had placed upon them. These choices placed them outside the bounds and they found themselves exiled, living as strangers in a strange land. Even though they were recalcitrant/obstinate Jeremiah kept speaking God’s truth and reminding them of God’s love even if it was hard to hear. I mean Jeremiah could have tickled the ears of the people with pleasant words they wanted to hear, and honestly who doesn’t like to hear nice things that reinforce our own biases and beliefs? That’s the temptation, to speak nice soothing words rather than truth in love.
The leaders got increasingly frustrated with Jeremiah because of his stalwart opposition to the way things were and invitation to live into the way things ought to be. He wasn’t trying to win friends and influence but speak God’s truth even when it was hard to hear, but he wasn’t devoid of hope. He hoped God’s hope for the people, that they would turn from their broken ways and return to God’s way. Jeremiah speaks hope to the people in exile and offers them a choice. He tells them of a future where things will be different, he casts a beautiful vision of a time where peace reigns. Jeremiah comes to them in their pain and defiance to remind them that there is a day when all things will be made new.
Into our pain and joy, into the midst of our hopes and sorrows; God still comes to us and reminds us that things will be transformed. God is still at work in the world, even if we can’t always see it. It’s hard to see blessings in real time. We usually don’t see the blessings of God in the moment. Jeremiah reminds his people of the past and the works of God that God has wrought on their behalf before he tells them of the hope for the future. When we look back over the course of our lives, when we make room to remember the past only then can we see that we are here today by grace, that we have made it and we are called to be grace and blessing and hope for others.
The more we remember the blessings of the past we can trust God to lean/live into a way of life that is contrary to the way of the world around us. The season of advent is about expectation, repentance, and hope. This isn’t meant to be an isolated personal effort, you aren’t meant to do it alone, frankly we can’t. It’s an invitation to slow down and look for hope and speak it to others. We need to speak hope, we must embody peace, and we must pronounce in word/deed that God loves us as we are and not as we should be. God’s love for us isn’t contingent upon how we behave, but that is not license to do life any way we want. We are called to something bigger than we can imagine. Here is the beauty of the common life of Christian disciples.
Disciples of Jesus Christ(that’s me and you) aren't called to be superheroes.
We are called to be people trusting in faith and pregnant with expectation that God is going to do something. The more we learn to listen and love and be okay with not being okay, the more we can learn to embrace God’s hope for God’s people and live in alignment with the way of Jesus Christ. I can not lie to you, it is hard to live in expectation that God's gonna show up, and to lean into the future of God's hope because life ,oftentimes, runs counter to how we’ve been told how the world is supposed to work. Life can be so very hard, people are difficult, families are messy, work is difficult and those things make it hard to hope sometimes.
Hope isn’t something we can easily muster up on our own.
Thank God we don't have to hope alone. Thank God, because hoping alone is exhausting. We need each other to hope and to help. Life together is a blessing, when we together endeavor to live out lives of practice, welcome, invitation, service, we begin to help ourselves hear the voice of Jesus a bit clearer. Together with each other we can drown out the other voices that seek to drive us from living as Disciples of Jesus Christ. Hope is made easier in community, it is strengthened in worship, it is made resolute in communal worship/prayer. As we do this we start a revolutionary revival of renewal wherein we learn to share God's love as perfectly revealed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Together in the gathered community we are endeavoring to live into God’s call for us to practice simple things and trust in God's hope for creation. God through Jeremiah was calling God’s people back to defy their appetite for novelty and come back to the way of God that they had known. Advent is God’s invitation for all of us to defy chasing after those things that are contrary to the way of God and together embody hope and love, it isn’t flashy, it isn’t going to make anybody a ton of money.
This is a season of simple things, and slowing down. If you take the journey together, the world will be changed. Simple things done with great love move the world. God calls us all of us to live into a way of life shaped by love and nothing else, I hope we will listen; I hope.
~Fr. Lance Schmitz, Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.