And now for something completely different…

Hello, friends, and welcome back. I’m the Rev. Sare Liz Anuszkiewicz and this is the Sunday Sermon. If you’re looking for the bits of the bible I’ve referenced in this sermon, you can find the link right here. For the nerds in the know, this is Advent 1 Year C, and here’s the sermon I preached on Sunday, November 27, 2022. 

Get the audio only version of the sermon here. The full text is below.

Good morning! Welcome to the countdown to Christmas, also known as the season of Advent. And in the season of Advent the Church is always, always preparing for, yes, Christmas – as the remembrance of the first coming of the Christ – his birth in Bethlehem which depending on your version either from Luke or Matthew, involves angels, shepherds, and ‘no room in the inn’, or a house, the three wise men, and a subsequent refugee stint in Egypt. The two versions are, all things considered, remarkably different. But the Church is also always preparing at this time of year for the second coming of Christ. We remember the first coming, we prepare for the second.

And what will the second coming of Christ be like? Can’t say. No one can, definitely. Yes, we could try to use the Revelation to John as a crystal ball, but that’s not recommended for reasons I’ll go into another day, or perhaps at coffee hour, for anyone who is interested. And in fact, when Jesus’ own students asked him this or a similar question in the same vein, he would either side-step the question, or say a lot of words that amounted to, ‘you don’t get to know’.

So. There. We have it from Jesus: We don’t get to know what the second coming of Christ will be like. Are we still going to speculate? Sure.

And for my speculation, I’m going to go back a few thousand years, and into the time period of our spiritual ancestors that our bible study is digging into right now. So one of the major qualms in studying the book of Judges in the Old Testament, which chronicles (roughly, very roughly) stories from about three thousand years ago is the shocking brutality. It’s the blood, the gore, the slavery, the genocide, the betrayal, the oppression of women, the demonization of other cultures and the fact that God seems totally peachy keen about all of it. In fact, God is ordering fully half the genocides.

And if you take the bible literally, this produces some serious problems to anyone with an ounce of compassion for their fellow human beings. And so part of what I counsel is that in general, God is going to help us take the next step we’re capable of taking, and this is something we do see in seminal moments throughout the bible – That time when God called a halt to child sacrifice. That time when God called a halt to revenging one death or dishonor with the deaths of an entire village and instituted instead the principle of an eye for an eye.

Because let’s be honest. There was a time in this world’s history when the concept of an eye for an eye was a huge, a massive, an almost unthinkably large moral step forward. I mean, sure, now our world culture is almost entirely ready to take the next step: an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. And you can see it in the stories of our super-villians; they are the ones who follow the ‘old’ morality of near-genocidal retributions for a single death. (For references, see Aquaman and his arch-nemesis MantaRay, or Black Panther and his nemesis KillMonger)

But where I’m going is that even in brutal times… both ancient and modern, we’ve got warlords saying ‘God told me to kill all these people and take their land’, and we’ve got dreamers saying ‘God told me one day we’ll be feeding people instead of killing them’.

And given what we know about God, we get to decide for ourselves: who do we think was listening accurately to God? 

Because our bible study is up to their eyeballs in brutality and genocide from three thousand years ago – just three thousand years! – and here we have this gorgeous passage from Isaiah that is only five hundred years after that time, and in the midst of a national and religious tragedy (the Babylonian exile and subsequent tearing down of the Temple) we have Isaiah sharing this beautiful vision that there will come a day that everyone will look to the temple mount in Jerusalem and pilgrimage there just to expand their own wisdom, their capacity for compassion, their sense of wonder and joy and beauty, and that one day – oh! – one day we’ll beat our swords into plowshares, our tanks into tractors and grain harvesters. Our bombers will become cropdusters. And that’s not a modern dream – that’s not from the 1960s. That was from the year 587 Before Christ.

Isaiah was dreaming of a time where we had all figured out how to love each other, and that God was in the center of it all.

And so that’s the vision of a second coming of Christ that I offer you today: It’ll happen when we’ve all figured out how to love each other, and realize that God is in the center of it all. 

Given the world we live in… it may be some time. So don’t worry about what to do in the End Times. This isn’t them, and we’ve already got our instructions laid out very clearly before us:

Practice loving one another, without fail.


Leave a Reply