Summary: Sermon for First Sunday in Advent, Year C, based on Lk 21:25-36
Sermon for I Advent Yr C, 30/11/2003
Based on Lk 21:25-36
Grace Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat, Alberta
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
In the history of the Church, far too much time has been wasted on trying to know when Christ is coming again; and the unfolding of events leading up to his coming again. It is not up to us to know when Christ is coming again. But ever since the beginning of the Christian Church, there have been people who misunderstand Christ’s teaching about the end time, and, by doing so; out of their own insecurity and fear, they see their great task in life as being able to know the future. Even if we were to take a survey of this congregation, I venture a guess that some; perhaps many of you fear the future or worry about the future.
Our fears, worries, and insecurities about the future are the result of our sinful nature at work in us. The sinful nature wants to be in control at all times, so that we can be masters of our own destiny. Instead of trusting in God and leaving the future unknown, unpredictable and hopeful; we often trust in ourselves to attempt to manipulate, know, and predict the future. Moreover, our worries and fears about the future have the potential to take such control of us that we end up expecting the worst possible scenario.
I know this has certainly been the case for myself from time-to-time. Many years ago, one such example I can remember was when I had to meet with the colloquy committee at the end of my studies at seminary. It is one of those necessary requirements for all pastoral candidates to meet with the colloquy committee prior to graduation and ordination. In case some of you don’t know what a colloquy committee is; it’s a committee of the larger church, which may include a bishop, a pastor, a layperson, and usually at least one seminary professor. The committee asks the pastoral candidates questions about theology, ministry, and personal life. After one or two hours of oral examination, the committee then decides whether or not the person is a suitable candidate for pastoral ministry. Well, I was feeling rather fearful, worried and intimidated by colloquy, and dreaded the day since I was expecting the worst possible scenario. However, when the day arrived to be colloquized, I was surprised and grateful to find out that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected! In fact, it was a good experience. After it was all over, I realised that all of my fears and worries were really unnecessary.
In January 1960, an astounding event occurred in a tiny peasant village of Tsirkuny in the Ukraine. A smelly, sunken-jawed wretch named Grisha Sikalenko appeared one morning before his shocked neighbours. Everyone thought that Grisha had died a hero’s death while fighting the Germans in World War II. Actually, the night Grisha marched away to war, he had deserted and sneaked home. His mother made a hiding place for him under the manure pile at the back of the goat shed, and for eighteen years Grisha had existed in a living grave. Twice a day his mother sneaked food to him. In winters, he nearly froze; in summers, he nearly suffocated. Year after year, he lived out his miserable existence in the reeking pit, throwing away his life, afraid to face up to the punishment for desertion. Finally, Grisha came out of hiding, expecting to be prosecuted and horribly punished. His fears were groundless. The statute of limitations had long since made him immune from prosecution. 1
Quite often our lives lack health and wholeness because our fears and worries control us. For example, how many of us do acceptable-status-quo things because we fear being labelled a radical? Or how many of us don’t honestly tell people what they are thinking or feeling because we fear and are worried about being treated as social outcasts? Or, how many of us hoard things because we are afraid of hunger or poverty? Or how many of us are fearful of trying something new? Or, how many of us fear, dread, and are worried about the end time and second coming of Christ?
When our fears and worries control us, cripple us and prevent us from being the people our God wants us to be; then we need to remember the faith which God gives us. Faith that calls upon us to trust in Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Faith that is content to let God be God. Even though we might think that the future looks grim, as Christians we live in the shadow of eternity. We don’t need to know the exact details of the future, or when Christ will come. The most important thing is that Christ is coming and that he finds us faithful to him when he does come.