Love- sermon on the 1st Sunday of Advent, 2016

LOVE

A sermon at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church by George R. Pasley

Romans 13:8-14

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

 

Matthew 24:36-44

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.

Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

 

 

How well I can remember, visiting my grandmother when she was in a nursing home.

She wasn’t there long, and I lived thousands of miles away, so it was only a couple of times, over the course of a few days.

But in those days she had let loose of the fears she had kept locked up for more than forty years. You see, my mother had three older brothers, and they all served in the military in World War Two.

I read, in a family album, that my grandfather had suggested that my youngest uncle could get an exemption, since he was the only male left to work on the farm, but Uncle Dough ignored that suggestion.

So all three sons were in places of danger- In Europe, in the Philippines, and on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. And all that time, Grandma never breathed a word about her fears that one- or all of them- could be taken.

None of them were taken. They all came home. But in 1985, Grandma’s tears came rolling out.

I have to say, almost anywhere we look in the world today, there is anxiety about our future-

Cuba? Yes. Fidel is dead, Raúl has promised to step down, nobody knows what will happen next.

South Korea? Yes. A once homogenous society is becoming more and more ethnically diverse, and an affluent economy is changing the fabric of their culture. And NOW, a scandal threatens the stability of the government.

Libya? Susan? Egypt?

Yes.

Sub-Saharan Africa?

Yes.

Not to mention Syria, or Afghanistan, or Iraq or Iran.

Not to mention the United States of America, where every one of us is wondering, “What will we be like in four years?”

The nature of human beings is to be anxious, or even afraid. As one scientist has said, one of us have ancestors who didn’t jump, when they heard a sound in the woods.

So as we prepare for Christmas, we begin with this story- a promise- by Jesus.

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.

That is not pleasant thought for most modern American Christians.

And the way it is put here in Matthew, it sounds ominous- like a thief coming in the night, one we should guard against it.

But Paul calls it SALVATION.

It’s near.

It’s an opportunity that’s coming our way, something we could never MAKE happen.

It’s the Lord’s doing, and it’s grand.

And how should we respond to the possibility that he might come at any second?

The general plan when dramatic change is on the horizon can be summed up in lots of phrases.

Batten down your hatches.

Tie up your loose ends.

Put your affairs in order.

Hold your cards close.

Save for a rainy day.

Know who your friends are.

Take care of yourself.

Be cautious, be ready, gather all of your resources in.

But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just any dramatic change. So it calls for an extraordinary response.

Love.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Tend to the wounded man beside the road, even if you have to stick your neck out to do it.

You see, the general thinking is, when the times are threatening, we need to conserve our resources- or there won’t be enough.

So while my uncles were fighting war, my grandmother and mother were saving their ration coupons.

But the Gospel is not threatening- it’s promising.

Salvation is coming, and it won’t be rationed. But if you HOARD it, it’ll pass you by-

And the one beside you will be taken.

But what is it that won’t be rationed?

The love of God, who gave his only son for you.

Nothing was held back.

He came seeking the lost

And those who didn’t even KNOW they were lost.

And anybody else who was anywhere near his path,

Or thousands of miles away.

So how can you HOARD that sort of love?

You can’t.

If it’s not shared, it shrivels away.

So love,

Even if you have to stick your neck out.

Love your fellow Republican

And that Democrat you find so annoying.

Love your Muslim neighbor,

And your Jewish colleague,

And that family that never, ever goes to church.

Love the people who came, and left.

Love the one who moved in, and made your life awkward.

Love them wisely, if you should

Or foolishly, if God opens up your heart,

But love them all.

And if you can’t,

Pretend

And practice while you do

Until you can.

Love them all

Until Salvation comes

And we are loved forever.

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

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