Step Beyond the Unthinkable

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 2, Year C, and here’s the sermon I preached on Sunday, December 4, 2022. 

The audio-only version can be found here. The full text version is below.

Reflection for December 4, 2022

Good morning! Welcome to the second Sunday of Advent, where we are reminded by Paul of Tarsus, who wrote the letter to the Romans, that if the Hebrew Scriptures teach us anything, anything at all, it is to have hope.

Hope of what? Hope for what?

Well, there are a lot of ways to paint the picture of what we hope for. We could just use a single word like salvation, or atonement, or enlightenment, or heaven, but even though those are all perfectly good short-cut words for much larger, deeper concepts, sometimes we need to go deeper and simply use more words. So let me back up and do that.

You may remember me mentioning before that one way to look at the entire Hebrew Scriptures, the red thread that runs through so many of the most prominent stories, is that God entices-encourages-goads-dares us to take the next largest step we’re capable of taking. 

Let’s think about that for a moment. In an intensely personal way, we humans, we learn one step at a time. We learn to read one word at a time. We learn a new task one step at a time. We learn how to be responsible one moment at a time.

Even the way we speak of it – one step at a time. That’s a metaphor about traveling by foot. We go for a walk, but we can only go one step at a time, whether we’re sprinting or sauntering, it’s still one step at a time.

And when things get bad, when our life takes a sharp left, when there’s a crisis, when we suddenly need to be doing six things at once and they’re all so very important… we can still only do what we do one step at a time.

And this is true on the individual and intensely personal level of a single human being, and it’s true when we gather into groups as small as a small church, and as large as the ancient people of Israel. Wherever we are collectively, we can all only take the next step we’re capable of taking together.

God already knows this. God has been working with us since we’ve existed to take the next step we’re ready to take. And God is still encouraging us, you and me, individually and collectively to get ready and take the next step, whatever that step happens to be.

But what is the road that we’re traveling on? What is this path we’re taking steps on, with God leading the way? What is the hope that Paul was talking about?

The hope is the end of that path. The light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a hope that as broken as this world is, we’re doing the right thing, we’re going in the right direction, we’re making a difference, a positive impact, and that however the spiritual machinery behind the curtain works, we have hope that God is the light at the end of the tunnel. We have hope that God is our guide, and our destination. We have hope that even though the world will continue to be broken even after we’re gone, the steps we have taken, the love we have offered and received made the world permanently brighter for our being in it. We have hope that we are becoming light, as Jesus was light.

And you know, in this short bit from Romans today, we see Paul focus a lot on God going to the Gentles – he quotes over and over on the topic. Why? Because to Paul, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Israelites talking to non-Jews was a huge step, and the biggest some people could imagine at the time. 

Two thousand years later, there are two more gigantic world religions that also worship that God – Christianity, and Islam. So… that huge step that Paul was trying to prepare people for two thousand years ago… we’ve already taken that step.  We no longer have any problem imagining that God can talk to whomever God wishes to talk to. But there was a time when that was unthinkable. And God prepared the culture to step beyond the unthinkable. Which is kind of what God’s always been doing for humanity, and is still doing, today.


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