Sermon Audio from the fourth Sunday during Advent, Year C, 2015
Four years ago Angie walked into worship on a Sunday morning looking for a church home. She came from Montana to Kalamazoo, Michigan to attend the WMU School of Music Therapy. In the four years since she has been instrumental in transforming our worship, she has worked countless hours in our garden, she played weddings and funerals, and brought lots of smiles to our church. Yesterday she brought many tears as we sent her back to Montana. Listen to her story here along with Deacon Cara's prayer that just goes to show once again what a beautifully imperfect and messy experience the grace of God can be at Sunnyside UMC.
an advent prayer in a season of broken hearts
O God’s whose returning we anticipate
with our hearts hardening
while your heart must be surely breaking.
It must break your heart to see the ones you love
Killing one another
How you refrain from wiping us clear off the earth
And starting over
Is beyond us
This must be what grace is,
or at least what it means for
you to be a giver of grace;
to continue loving us
from the millions of shards into which
we have surely broken your heart.
We do not even think for a moment
that there be any good news
from 14 more lives taken senselessly.
We do however cling to the good news that
no force of hell can ever separate us from your love.
As was proclaimed in the birth of Jesus –
a light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.
As we find ourselves in the midst of this season of Holy Waiting
Please – a glimmer
if only a glimmer of this light
to keep our hearts open to the ancient prophecy
that their / our children shall learn war no more.
If we could see just the glimmer
there would be enough light that we could -
as Mary once did -
say ‘Yes’ to the possibility of
a world changing force of light and love
Coming to us.
Coming through us.
Or perhaps, I hate to say it out loud
But perhaps our hearts have not been thoroughly broken.
Although they feel fragile as ever.
Perhaps we need to learn from you
How to live out of our sufficiently broken hearts.
How to live from a different place.
Maybe if we could toss all the shards out on the table
Like broken Christmas ornaments
For all to see
Maybe it would give us the courage to weep
To be prophetic
To show up
To be vulnerable
To believe there is more
Maybe we would begin to invest ourselves
In some new securities.
Not the ones we can control
Not securities governed by legislation
Not securities driven by fear
But by securities held up by your promises
For an alternative future
One which surpasses what we are able to imagine.
And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.
Do not fear.
These are the words and these are the promises.
Blessed are we who believe there will be a fulfillment.
Blessed are we who in this time of Holy Waiting
Can believe that we are in the Advent of a great emergence
Blessed are we whose broken hearts
will be transformed into wholeness
with a great capacity to love and to believe
Speaking peace into the world’s chaos.
As we wait
To bring peace to our violence
and wholeness to our brokenness
The days our surely coming, says the Lord, when I shall fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the House of Judah…
On Monday morning I went for a long run along the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. This is my favorite times of the year to run along this trail that winds along the river, through Kalamazoo Nature Center Forest Preserves, and wide-open farm lands. I find something mystical about the bare trees and the frozen ground. That space during this time heightens my awareness of the Advent season, this season of Holy Wait. It is a stark reminder that even nature itself participates in the waiting for the gift of new life to come.
While I was running I was also running Advent’s first text through my mind, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I shall fulfill the promise I made…” The promise was one to meet and to address a broken people’s deepest longings by returning them home, and securing them. While the prophet was speaking to a particular people during a particular time in history, in a particular place, the truth of the text is that God still has promises in store for us and God still desires to meet and address our deepest longings. The birth of Jesus Christ was in fact, I believe, God’s answer to humanity’s deepest longing to know that we are not alone, and to know we are loved by the God of all creation. The Advent Wait is then a turning of our attention towards this promise.
When on the running trail in the beauty of creation longing for new life, it should be an easy thing to focus one’s mind on the waiting, the longing, the promises of God. Place the emphasis on should. In actuality I found this to be a terribly difficult thing. It wasn’t the usual distractions taking my mind in different directions so much as it was a difficulty in paying attention to what I long for. I know what I want. I know what I need. But looking beyond the want and the need to the longing is a challenging thing; partly because we are trained as human beings to not pay attention to this kind of thing. It is deemed selfish. Partly the struggle comes from simply not being able to look past my wants and needs to my longings. It’s a long journey inside oneself to pull out our deepest longings. And frankly, I don’t know if I will really pull out anything concrete. Maybe so, maybe not. But the simple act of paying attention to this is what drew my attention to the trees. This is what drew my attention to the trees who have all their needs supplied for them year round, and live with the full awareness that while their leaves die in the winter they will spring to new life in the spring. With the full knowledge of what their creator has done for them in their past they raise the branches high in anticipation of what their creator will do for them in the future.
This is the Advent Posture. For me, for us, maybe that looks a lot like keeping our eyes open in anticipation of God’s new life coming to us again as it has in years past. For me, this is probably what I long for, forever newness coming to me, coming to the church, coming to the world. This is a promise of God.
Peace, Pastor Matt
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Sunnyside UMC, Kalamazoo, MI
2800 Gull Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49048
We envision Sunnyside United Methodist Church to be
the front porch to the Kingdom of God.
A place where all are included, received with hospitality,
find hope, experience the abundance of God's love and
are transformed through Jesus Christ.
Love. Relationship. Grace. Forgiveness. Justice. Growth