On the Move, December 1

On the Move

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

Rev. Catherine E. Schuyler

Catskill United Methodist Church; December 1, 2019

 

There was a parade here in town on Friday night. We missed it this year, but if it was anything like last year’s parade, it was filled with fire trucks with festive lights, a few marching bands, a number of floats with reindeer and elves, some excellent classic cars, and a big truck or two playing All I Want for Christmas Is You. I’m sorry to have missed it. I really like parades, even parades accompanied by cold winds. Parades are excellent pageantry, and much fun to be in and to watch. But you and I both know that the people marching and driving in parades aren’t really getting anywhere. When it’s over, everyone says hello to their old friends while they grab a cup of hot cocoa and then they head back home.

 

Today’s text from Isaiah envisions a different sort of parade, a line of people moving together to get somewhere, to accomplish something.

2In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” The people are walking into a new day, a new way of being. The prophet looks forward to this day of newness, when all people will learn God’s ways, when they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. The hope for peace is not a new thing. The people have been tired of war and violence for centuries. War is hell and has always been hell. When Isaiah wants to draw a picture of what the world might be, what God's hope for the future looks like, he knows he will strike a chord with words speaking of the end of war, the end of using violence to solve problems because violence doesn't really solve anything.

 

Today, on this first Sunday of Advent, when the church year begins again, we can feel a bit like the Parade of Lights. We know what happens now for the next month – there are trees to put up and sweaters to wrap, there are lights to hang and cookies to bake. Here at church there are candles and banners and favorite hymns and carols to sing. Like Friday’s parade, it’s wonderful fun and generally predictable. But unlike a parade, or simply a repeat of last year’s festivities, today’s words from Isaiah, and from Jesus, call us to move beyond the known patterns and traditions into something new.

 

This the first day of the new Christian year. In this new year, we will celebrate the Incarnation and the Resurrection of Jesus; we will remember the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst which gives us power to be the body of Christ; we will hear the word of God, spoken to our hearts and lives each week, and we will offer our praise and thanksgiving for God’s grace and presence in the world. The call of the Spirit challenges us to do more, to take steps forward, to embody in a new and deeper way the kingdom of God making its way into the world. It’s up to us to discern that call, to assess the world around us and the needs of our community, and to live out the vision of shalom God paints through the prophet’s words.

How will we serve God in a new way this year? How will we grow as Christians, learn God’s ways with sisters and brothers on this journey together? Will we connect with a local community of kids to share our love with all year long as we share it internationally with Operation Christmas Child? Will we come together to repair a neighbor’s porch or repaint a decrepit basement? Will we look to the Lay Excellence Group led by Carol June for wisdom as to how to involve others in a deeper spiritual connection and accountability to God and to one another in our daily prayer practice?

 

This church has been around for a long time, and there are things we do well and always have. But God doesn’t only call us to stay the same; God calls us to move forward, to deepen our faith, to improve our service, to open our hearts to the ways of God, which means to the needs of the world. “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” Come, let us come to the table of the Lord together, that we might be strengthened and encouraged to walk further along the path of the Lord of love. Amen.

 

 

Isaiah 2:1-5

2The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. 5O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Psalm 122 (UMH 845)

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem — built as a city that is bound firmly together.

To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord,

as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.

For there the thrones for judgment were set up,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.”

For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.”

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.

 

Romans 13:11-14

11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

 

Matthew 24:36-44

36“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But 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. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

 

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