Beginning again

6 Dec

It is months since I posted. I’ve been deluged with work, pressures and a feeling that I am just not able to write for this blog.
That’s been my reality, frankly.
But now it is Advent, and I really do feel that I can begin again.

It’s true, the advent of a new government in Australia is a momentous gift to us.
After years of despair, I feel that we can breath again. As we approached the election, I said to one colleague: This election is a real test for us as a nation. Do we actually care only for the hip pocket nerve, as past elections and the rhetoric and policies of the old government seem to suggest, or do we in fact have a heart, a conscience?
There is at least some hope of a shift towards social justice. Even the mention of those words, by our new Prime Minister, are a sign of change.
But there is more, much for, suggesting a basis for hope.

Advent is a wonderful season.
I remember when I moved from being a local church pastor to a college professor, one thing I missed so deeply was the opportunity to lead a group of people through the seasons of the church year. At our local church we have a pastor who has helped people to see that these seasons are the rhythm of life.
This is our life: reaching out in hope, to the coming of our God.

I preached last week (Advent Sunday) for the induction of a new pastor, one of our students. The lectionary gospel for the day was Matthew 24. 36f, about the coming of the Son of Man.
This is one of those passages which has been so badly mis-used, to create fearful ideas about ‘the rapture’, when in fact Jesus used apocalytic ideas to announce the coming of God’s reign of hope, justice and peace.
And of course he took that idea of ‘the Son of Man’ and used it as his self-designation. Others may have called him Lord or (subsequently) Son of God, but he preferred this humble title, Son of Man.
What do we expect him to do for us? is the key question.
Here is part of what I said, in my sermon, which links  the coming of the Son of Man with a new government and a new pastor:

Last week, our nation elected a new Prime Minister. I hope that we will pray for him and his government. And one of my prayers for him is that he will not imagine that he is the Messiah.
I think our country is always looking for a political Messiah, who will come and fix it all for us, and make everything sweet. And we have plenty of pretenders, and some of them get elected, but they always disappoint us, and so we choose someone else, our next Messiah.

It’s a bit like that, too, in the church. Sometimes we think that in fact our new minister will be like the coming of the Messiah. They will come and fix it all: fill the church with people, because of their brilliant preaching, and heal all the hurts we have so carefully nursed over the decades, and reach out to the neighbours, you know all those people we don’t quite like or don’t really want to relate to: the new pastor is going to come and do all that for us. It won’t hurt at all: the pastor will do it all for us. Maybe even the deacons meetings will go smoothly, and be shorter.

So what about this pastor: Is this is? Is this the coming of the Son of Man?
My friends, yes it is. And no, it is not.
In the coming of your new pastor, on this Advent day: you are receiving a great gift from God. There is a gift in him, for you, and it is like the coming of the Son of Man.
And for you, Graeme, there is a gift in these people, your people: and they too are like the coming of the Son of Man, for you.
The gift is this: Just as Jesus announced the coming of God’s way, as good news, salvation for all who would receive, that gift remains true and real here and now.
The Son of Man still comes, and is offering his new creation to working people,  as they cook and clean, as they work and think and study and make money and serve coffee and as they play cricket and swim in the ocean and as they pray and worship: in every part of life, for all the ordinary people, God’s salvation is so real, so close, so here:
The Son of Man has come and is coming: and the gifts he brings, the hope and healing and grace he gives, are here, a new community is opening up right before you.

There is hope: not just in a new government, or a new pastor: these things do fail. But in Advent we rejoice in the affirmation that through all of that, through years of struggle and yearning, we yet see the life, the presence, the healing and the coming of our God.

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