Year B Advent 1 WEDNESDAY, 2 December 2020
Video Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“You Got This”
Collect: Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God's word, which is also at work in you believers. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God's wrath has overtaken them at last. As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you-- in person, not in heart-- we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you-- certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again-- but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy!
I remember one time when someone asked why I had left the ministry. I responded, “I would have remained a pastor, but I had ethics.” Now, all joking aside, I had not left the ministry, but had left my denomination of my birth because I had been invited, I believe by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, to see God is bigger, grander, and more loving than I had ever heard before.
We are in a struggle. We are in a struggle with the powers that be. Now do not hear me getting into making an argument for spiritual entities, or things similar, for there is enough evil in the world in the hearts and minds of people before we begin speaking of demons and Satan. If we dealt with the evil in our own hearts, that would take a great many years in and of itself. And when that is multiplied in the systemic issues that bind the poor, the weak, the helpless it seems almost insurmountable.
I normally preach on the Gospel reading, but this morning the New Testament reading caught my attention, drawing in particular on this line:
As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you-- in person, not in heart-- we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face.
It sounds so much like our situation currently. We are apart, and we need to remain so, outside our facilities and apart from one another. No one wants this. No one would pick this. But, like it should be in all we do, we do it out of love. This hardship is what it is. We hear there is now a possible end in sight. Thanks be to God! But the same voices that are telling us this are saying that it will get significantly worse before it gets better. The virus is out of control because we did not heed the warnings when we could flatten the curve.
The death rate is one American per minute now. Which means that it will get worse and worse and worse. We may soon not be able to meet outside because of the potential threats. We will see how things go. We have had almost 275,000 Americans die, and almost 1.5 million worldwide.
Like with this season of Advent we find ourselves in, we look back to what has been, and we look forward to what we believe will be. This both/and time, this liminal period, a threshold between. We are not there yet, and we can see what can happen.
Four years ago I flew to Liverpool with my work with the Triangle of Hope. I flew to New York then Dublin. Then I had a quick jump across the Irish Sea to Liverpool, a short 35 minute flight. Now after a long night on the transatlantic flight, I had a good seat on the bulkhead that I was able to fit in. But when it came to this short hop, I was in the last right on the window. I was not even able to sit up straight because my head would hit. I am a big guy, and claustrophobia is something that gets me. I need my space. So cramming in, I said to myself, I can do this for half an hour. I got this, I got this. But once I saw that we had made it across the Irish Sea I noticed that our plane started circling. We circled for over 2 hours waiting for the fog to lift. I was beside myself. I kept making bargains, I can do it for 10 more minutes, I can do it for 15 more minutes, one increment increase at a time. And then it hit that there was no real clear end. I would just have to put up until it was over. And I did.
It was hard. It was scary. But I did it. We are in a similar situation now. It was like what Paul dealt with when he wrote the Church in Thessaloniki. He closed with hope, after expressing his sadness over the trials that they were in at the time.
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy!
May this be our hope as well. May we be each others’ joy. May we remind ourselves, we are going through NOW so we can all be together TOMORROW. We can do it, we got this, one day at a time, one hour if you need it, one second. Breathe. Have hope. Breathe. Have hope. We have this, together. Amen.