Readings

FIRST LESSON

The first lesson is from God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Jesus stands at the door knocking. In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and the great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us. Do you want to close the door or open it?

   It may strike us as strange to see Christ in such a near face, but he said it, and those who withdraw from the serious reality of the Advent message cannot talk of the coming of Christ in their heart, either . .

   Christ is knocking. It’s still not Christmas, but it’s also still not the great last Advent, the last coming of Christ. Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate funs the longing for the last Advent, when the word will be: “See, I am making all things new.”

          The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.

SECOND LESSON

The second lesson is from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 24, verses 36 through 44

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Child of God, only God. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Child of God. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Child of God. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day the Child of God is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Child of God is coming at an unexpected hour.”



 

This Week's Sermon

Date: November 28, 2010

Title: Tell Me Again Exactly What We're Waiting For?

Message Delivered By: Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray

 

A country pastor had long ago put off the task of painting the exterior of his church. But ultimately, the all-white façade was peeling away, and the church was fast becoming an eyesore.

So one Sunday after services, the pastor scoured the newspaper and found a sale on paint. He was a very frugal pastor, and wanted to find the best bargain. The very next day, he went into town and bought a few gallons of white paint. Then he went back out to the church and began the job.

The pastor spent several hours on finishing the backside of the church. When he finally finished, he got down from the ladder, and walked a few paces away so he could admire his work. Though he was not a terribly proud man, he had to admin that the church looked great.

Upon further scrutiny, however, the pastor noticed he had already used half of the paint on only one-quarter of the area he needed to paint. He did not want to spend more money, and went back to the shed to think about what his options were.

It was then that he saw several gallons of paint thinner. Being the creative person that he was, he thinned the paint, more than doubling the amount that was left. His plan worked wonderfully. He finished the remaining three sides with the last amount of paint.

Late that night, it began to rain, and it rained very hard. The next morning, when the pastor stepped outside of the parsonage to admire his work, he saw that though the back side of the church still looked great, the paint on the other three sides had all but washed away.

The pastor was disappointed and frustrated. He considered all the work he put into the job and the money he’d spent on the paint. Ultimately, he could contain his anguish no longer and fell to his knees. He looked up to the sky and cried out, "Oh God, oh God, now what shall I do?"

Just then, a voice came back from the heavens saying, "My son, you have thinned! Go, repaint, and thin no more!"

_____________________________________________________________

Will all thinners, please pray with me: God, as we begin this season of Advent, let us remember the reason we gather in hope, the reason we remember the names, and the meaning behind the incarnation—the spirit of God given as a gift to all humankind. Let us follow the example of the one born in Bethlehem and become your face of compassion and love in the world. And may my words and all of our thoughts be filled with honor and praise to you. Amen.
_____________________________________________________________

Well, here it is again. The season of Advent is upon us. The season of anticipation—as we await the birth of the Christ child. The season of expectation—as we wait with bated breath for the changes that come upon us during the high holy days of Advent.

The season of hope has arrived—hope that God’s blessings will fall upon us in a special and long-lasting way. The season of peace—as we open our arms and plead with the rest of the world to wave olive branches instead of weapons.

This is the season of stillness—we maintain a posture of openness as we invite God into our midst, and more deeply into our lives. The season of caring—as we reach beyond our means, just this once, to give beyond measure to those who cry out for our help. The season of joy—as we give and receive in the spirit of God.

This is the season of waiting. So, tell me again exactly what we’re waiting for …

Are we waiting for miracles—for an end to all suffering and disease? Are we waiting for the Messiah to swoop down and solve all our problems for us? Are we waiting for the Christ Child to be born again into our hearts in December only to forget about him by January?

Are we waiting for that “day” of the Parousia to come—the end times spoken about in the Book of Revelation—the Apocalypse—the Rapture when all will finally be well, when the good sheep will be separated from the bad, when justice will reign over all?

And as we commemorate World AIDS Sunday, it’s also worth asking if we’re just sitting here waiting for a cure?

I’ve already admitted to you that I’m not very good at waiting. Those of us who hate waiting, are really just individuals who are impatient with the flow of life. This is, after all, the life we’ve been given—and the life we’ve created. We make lots of choices that put us in various life situations. And those life situations, encompassing all the people we know and love, often provide moments that are alive and brimming with wonder and opportunity—but for those of us who are of the impatient class, we see them as moments of torture, wasted moments that interrupt the momentum of our own agenda—moments that could always be better spent if we were in control. If we were in control.

Instead, we waste time—precious time that could be spent reflecting, thinking, praying—time we could use to solve the deep problems of the world, if only we could let go of our agenda and let God’s take its rightful place.

We always lament that we don’t have enough time, and that we don’t want to spend our time waiting. But what if we used this time in a different way. Perhaps it’s what we could do while we were waiting that could transform the world. To look at this another way, perhaps we are supposed to be proactive in our time of waiting. That would mean that what is supposed to happen in life is actually something we’re supposed to bring about ourselves.

You may have seen the article in the paper last week about our anniversary, which opened with a quotation that went something like this: “Some days, I want to get down on my knees and ask God why there is such suffering in the world. I want to ask why God allows hunger, starvation, poverty and homelessness. I want to ask why God allows war to take precious life and why there is still no cure for disease. I want to ask God all these things because I know God could stop them. But I don’t ask, because I’m afraid God will ask me the same thing.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a 39 year old German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and martyr. He participated in the German Resistance movement against Nazism and was a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved and implicated in plans by members of an underground group to assassinate Adolf Hitler. This resulted in his arrest in April 1943. He was subsequently executed by hanging in April 1945, twenty-three days before the Nazis' surrender and several weeks before Hitler’s death.

I could stand here and speak about absolutes—that under no circumstances is it appropriate to take another human life—even if that life risked the lives of millions of others. But just as there is not one “truth” so too, there are no such things as “absolutes.”

For example, Bonhoeffer knew that what he was doing was wrong. He advocated Hitler's assassination and knew about various plots against Hitler and did not speak out against them. Before he participated in this underground movement, before he found himself involved in the assassination plot against one of the most heinous butchers in all history, Bonhoeffer wrote: “The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live." He returned to ignore what was happening in the present—and continued to worry about the lives of the future that may not even be able to come into existence.

In the face of Nazi atrocities, Bonhoeffer did not justify his action but accepted his guilt as he wrote "when a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it. Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace." In a 1932 sermon, he said: “The blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness.”

Bonhoeffer wrote, “Jesus stands knocking at the door. In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and the great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us. Do you want to close the door or open it?”

Matthew’s gospel, through Jesus’ words, admonishes us to be ready in our time of waiting. He doesn’t say, “Just stand there.” He says, “Use your time to get ready. Be proactive. Now is not the time to sit still; it’s time to get up and dance.”

I invite you after the service today to spend time with the Quilt. I had the pleasure of sitting here with Derrick Traylor when he delivered these Quilt panels on Friday afternoon. We had some deep conversation that would never have taken place had this inspiring memorial not been here. I can safely say it changed both our lives and we left here different than before he came.

The writing on this wall before us is a memorial. It is a reminder and an honoring of the names of just a few of our loved ones who were, in their own way, unwitting martyrs for a cause: the names here today include Bert, Derrick, Scott, John, Larry, Daniel, Keith and Mark.

But it is not just the memory. It’s not just the names. I told Derrick as we sat here on Sunday, that I could feel the arms of these individuals reaching out from the Quilt—reaching out as if to implore, “Have you really done enough? What are you waiting for? Why are you just sitting there? Don’t grieve over me; don’t spend your time praying for me—but pray for the living and do for them; do what needs to be done; don’t sit and mourn, but take up the mantle of the memory of all of us and do something more to make life worth living for everyone. Don’t just sit and wait. Do something. Demand that a cure be found. Don’t wait to accept the next level of medicines so that pharmaceutical profiteers can continue business as usual on the backs of our dead …”

I don’t know all the answers. I don’t have the solution to bring peace to the world. I don’t have the means to end hunger and poverty and homelessness. I don’t wield the power that can stop hatred and division at every level of culture and society. I don’t have the resources to change our national language to love. And even if I had the strength and the courage and the talents to make such changes, I could not do it all by myself.

Perhaps you’ll help me. Perhaps while we’re all waiting for something to come along to change life for us, we can create together the transformation God calls us to. Perhaps together we can make a difference—a real difference.
And perhaps, then, with God’s help, we’ll know exactly what we’re waiting for.

May we continue to follow where God is leading. Amen.

 

 

Selected Past Sermons

Date Sermon Title Message delivered by
November 28, 2010 Tell Me Again Exactly What We're Waiting For? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
November 21, 2010 What Kind of Christ? What Kind of Church? Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson
November 14, 2010 Cornerstone Sheri Lohr
November 7, 2010 Who Should We Be to One Another? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
October 31, 2010 Here is the Answer, Now What is the Question? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
October 24, 2010 Run Forrest, Run Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
October 17, 2010 Justice or Just Us Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
October 10, 2010 It's Here It's Now Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
October 3, 2010 Only Say the Word and I Shall Be Healed Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
September 26, 2010 Prophet and Loss Jim Stentzel
September 19, 2010 Forgive Them Their Debts Cathy Stentzel
September 12, 2010 Repentance is Cause For Celebration Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
September 5, 2010 What Kind of Christian? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
August 29, 2010 What Will Our Sacred Texts Say About Us? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
August 22, 2010 Are You Talking to Me? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
August 15, 2010 The Spirit Zone Joan Higgs
August 8, 2010 Are You Ready ? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
August 1, 2010 How Much Is Too Much Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
July 25, 2010 What Should We Ask For Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
July 18. 2010 Be True To Yourself Rev. Dr Joe McMurray
July,11 2010 Christianity Made Easy Rev. Dr Joe McMurray
July, 4 2010 No Matter What Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
June 20, 2010 Do The Right Thing Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
June 13, 2010 It Takes All Kinds Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
June 6, 2010 Equal Time Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
May 30, 2010 Filled with the Holy Spirit Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
May 23, 2010 Are You Drowning Yet? Joan Higgs
May 16, 2010 Feel the Power Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
May 9, 2010 Making Home Sheri Lohr
May 2, 2010 See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
April 25, 2010 The Green, Green Grass of Home Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
April 18, 2010 Justice in a Social Context Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
April 11, 2010 Even When Common Sense Tells You Not To Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
April 4, 2010 Resurrection, Again Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
April 4, 2010--Easter Sunrise The Promise Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
March 28, 2010 What God Wants: Rejoicing Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
March 21, 2010 What God Wants: Generosity Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
March 14, 2010 What God Wants: Forgiveness Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
March 7, 2010 What God Wants: Repentance Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
February 28, 2010 What God Wants: Work Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
February 21, 2010 What God Wants: Affirmation Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
February 14, 2010 Transforming Ourselves Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
February 7, 2010 Making Sense of It All Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
January 31, 2010 The Be Attitudes Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
January 24, 2010 Getting Down to the Business of Justice Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
January 17, 2010 God Does Windows Jim Stentzel
January 10, 2010 The Voice That Tells Us Who We Are Cathy Stentzel
January 3, 2010 Who Are You Now? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
December 27, 2009 Big Shoes for a Small Child Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
December 24, 2009--Christmas Eve Waiting for the Light: The Light Has Come Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
December 20, 2009 Waiting for the Light: Making an Appearance Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
December 13, 2009 Waiting for the Light: Shaking Things Up Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
December 6, 2009 Waiting for the Light: What Shall We Do While We Wait? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
November 29, 2009 Waiting for the Light: We Must Never Forget Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
November 22, 2009 The Basics Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
November 15, 2009 Remember the Future Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
November 8, 2009 Remember the Present Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
November 1, 2009 Remember the Past Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
October 25, 2009 Let Me See Again Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
October 18, 2009 There Are No Small Parts: Only Small Actors Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
October 4, 2009 The Power of "You Lie" Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
September 13, 2009 It Took the Wisdom of a Woman Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
September 6, 2009 The Hurting and the Healing Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
August 30, 2009 Purity of Intent, Clarity of Purpose, Softness of Heart Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
August 23, 2009 Bread of Life, Water of Life Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
August 16, 2009 The Real Thing Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
August 9, 2009 We Are Family Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
August 2, 2009 Just Dancing Around (the Issues) Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
July 26, 2009 Savior or King Jim Stentzel
July 19, 2009 Forty Days in the Wilderness Sheri L Lohr
July 12, 2009 What Does it Take to Make a Loaf of Bread? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
July 5, 2009 To Understand Suffering Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
June 28, 2009 Who Touched Me? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
June 21, 2009 Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
June 14, 2009--Pride Sunday How Beautiful Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
June 7, 2009 Born from Above Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
May 31, 2009 Fanning the Flames of a Controlled Burn Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
May 24, 2009 Comings & Goings Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
May 10, 2009--Mothers' Day A Mother's Love Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
May 3, 2009 The Good Shepherd Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
April 26, 2009 Take Care of Me Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
April 12, 2009--Easter Let Me Go Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
April 12, 2009 Easter Sunrise Service For I Am About to Do a New Thing Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
April 5, 2009--Palm Sunday You're Either With Me or Against Me Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
March 29, 2009 It's Only a Grain of Wheat Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
March 22, 2009 A Little Can Mean A Lot Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
March 8, 2009 Redemption Begins in the Heart Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
February 22, 2009 Who Am I Now? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
February 15, 2009 Always Another River Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
February 8, 2009 Freedom Cannot be Contained Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
February 1, 2009 Deception Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
January 25, 2009 Let Go of the Net Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
January 18, 2009 Who Called You? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
January 11, 2009 A Baptism and a Broken Heart Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
January 4, 2009 Best Laid Plans Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
December 24, 2008 Beyond Our Wildenst Dreams Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
December 21, 2008 What Kind of Fool Am I? Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
November 16, 2008 It's Almost Like Flying Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
November 9, 2008 Making Ready Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
September 14, 2008 Mary Magdalene: Apostle to the Apostles Sheri Lohr
August 17, 2008 The Greatest Rev. Dr. Joe McMurray
April 6, 2008 The Road to Emmaus, or, Who Was That Masked Man? Sheri Lohr
November 11, 2007 The Red Tent Sheri Lohr
October 8, 2006 Faith: Between Science and Séance Sheri Lohr
October 1, 2006 Listening Heart, Discerning Mind Rev. Charles Tigard
August 27, 2006 Thankless Tasks Sheri Lohr
August 13, 2006 Sweating the Small Stuff Michael Kilgore