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Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA       19014

610-459-2013
OFFICE




mail@calvaryepiscopalrockdale.org
SERMON
Advent 1
November 30, 2008
The Rev. Kristine Hill
667 Mount Road, Aston, PA   19014                                                 610-459-2013
Small Parish - Big Heart
The little church you've been looking for!
All are welcome!
Our Mission:

To worship
the Lord

To serve the
community

To grow the
church
Isaiah 64:1-9
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37
The Rev. Kristine Hill, Interim Rector
There’s  this  song  that,  at  least  when  sung  by  Cynthia  Clawson,  is  absolutely  
haunting.   It  expresses  our  unspoken  sorrows,  our  bone-weariness,  and  our  
deepest  hopes.  Cynthia  Clawson  is  an  ordained  minister  and  a  professional  choral  
and  gospel  singer.    She  has  an  incredible  voice.   Hearing  her  sing:  “I  Wanna’  Go  
Home”  with  the  choral  group  “Conspirare”  pierces  your  heart.   As  you  listen,  
images  are  brought  to  mind  of  dear  ones  whose  journey  to  death  was  slow,  a  bit  
wearing  on  their  dignity,  and  tiring  for  them.   Her  melancholy  voice  rising-and-
falling  she  sings:  “I’m  tired  of  living  in  some  far-off  foreign  city…   I  wanna’  go  
home.    And  I’m  tired  of  receiving  looks  of  dull  pity…   I  wanna’  go  home.  I’m  tired  
of  the  stares  of  vacant  eyes,  and  I’m  tired  of  the  color  of  alien  skies,  and  I’m  
tired  of  the  same  old  empty  lies…    I  wanna’  go  home.”    

Hearing  her  sing  you  suddenly  see  the  arthritic  wrists,  the  useless-legs  of  your  
grandfather,  your  mother;  you  recall  that  dear-departed-someone  whose  hands  
shook-so  near-the-end   that  he  could  no  longer  feed  himself,  and  you  wonder  if  
he  didn’t,  in  those  days,  long  to  go  home.    Ms.  Clawson  sings-on…  “I  wanna’  go  
home   to  a  place  where  I  belong…  to  a  place  where  all  my  wrongs  are  righted,   
where  joy  abounds,  and  the  simple  mention  of  love  is  a  prayer.”    All  those  
people  we’ve  known  who  waited  --  in  bed,  in  pain,  in  a  mental  fog  --  for  weeks,  
for  months,  for  years…  hoping  soon  to  go  home  to  their  Lord.

Advent  is  a  season  of  waiting.  We  wait  for  Jesus  to  come  to  earth.  We  lift-up  our  
heads  and  look  for  him,  expecting  him  to  arrive  any  time  now.   We  know  he  is  
coming,  we  just  don’t  know  when.   We  have  been  waiting  a  long  time  --  since   
Jesus  ascended  to  the  Father’s  right  hand;  maybe  it  won’t  be  much  longer.   Our  
loved-ones  whose  bodies  were  giving  out  on  them  and  who  awaited  death  were  
hoping  for  an  end  to  their  suffering;  we  who  await  Jesus’  return  are  looking  for  
an  end  to  the  suffering  of  the  world.   Those  who  face  death  trust  that,  for  Jesus’  
sake,  God  will  welcome  them  into  the  kingdom  of  heaven.    We  wait,  knowing  that  
when  Jesus  returns  he  will  bring  judgment;  and  while  we  have  good-hope  that  we  
will  be  redeemed,  we  also  know  things  could  get  kinda’  hot  for  a  while.    Our  
loved  ones  were  headed  to  their  rest;  what’s  coming  here  will  not  be  restful,  but  
in  the  end  it  will  be  good.  

The  song  of  our  Advent  waiting-and-longing  is  sung,  this  morning,  by  the  prophet  
Isaiah.   His  words,  too,  move  our  hearts,  express  our  deep  desires,  our  unspoken  
weariness  and  our  sadness.   Isaiah  calls  to  God,  speaking  for  us,  saying  “O  that  
you  would  rip  open  the  heavens  and  come  down,  so  that  the  mountains  would  
quake  at  your  presence…  so  that  the  nations  might  tremble  at  your  presence!”     
If  only  God  would  come  in  his  might  and  fix  things  --  settle  the  wars  and  set-up  
fair-and-just  governments  in  every  nation;  stop  corruption  in  politics  and  business  
so  that  people  in  everywhere  could  get  jobs  where  they  could  make  an  honest,  
decent  living.  If  only  God  would  come,  show  us  how  to  distribute  food  so  that  no  
one  would  starve;   give  us  the  cure  to  cancer  and  AIDS;  teach  us  all  how  to  get  
along.     This  is  what  we  are  waiting  for.   This  is  what  will  happen  when  Jesus  
returns.   And  that  is  why  we  cry-out:  “O  that  you  would  tear  open  the  heavens  
and  come  down!”

85-years-old  and  in  a  Houston  nursing  home,  Dorothy  had  such  trouble feeding  
herself  it  was  hard  to  watch.   Maybe  she  would  get  a  few  green  beans  on  her  
spoon,  but  they  would  likely  have  fallen  off  by  the  time  she  got  her  spoon  to  her  
mouth – if  it  got  there  at  all.  Thomas  sat  strapped  into  his  wheelchair  in  the  hall  
all  day  calling  for  his  wife,  who’d  been  dead  10  years.   He  had  no  idea  where  he  
was.    Lydia  kept  a  rag  doll  with  her  and  that  was  a  great  comfort.   She  thought  it  
was  her  grandbaby  and  talked  to  it  constantly.    Eloise  was  in  her  right  mind  until  
the  day  she  died,  always  neatly  dressed  and  with  her  hair  fixed  so  nice.    But  no  
matter  how  often  they  turned  her,  the  bedsores  ate  her  alive.    Each  was  slowly  
dying,  awaiting  her  deliverance  from  mortality  and  pain.

We,  too,  are  await  deliverance…   deliverance  from  the  countless  ailments  of  the  
world,  deliverance  for  the  world  from  its  suffering,  from  its  sin,  the  effects  of  
sin.   We  long  for  an  end  to  conflict,  an  end  to  racism,  for  a  time  when  age-old  
enemies  can  let  go  of  their  hurt  and  their  hatred.   We  pray  for  deliverance  from  
diseases  --  that  kill,  that  debilitate,  that  drain  life  away.   We  look  for  deliverance  
from  economies  that  cater  to  the  rich  and  step  on  the  poor,  from  societies  ignore  
the  public  good  in  favor  of  being  fashionable,  from  business  tactics  that  promise  
easy  money  only  to  fail  and  plunge  the  nation  into  crisis.    We  pray  for  help  to  
make  better  choices  so  we  do  not  compound  problems  like  global  warming,  and  
growing  landfills.   We  need  deliverance  and  so  we  say  to  God:   “O  that  you  would  
rend  the  heavens  and  come  down.”    Come  down  and  save  us.

There  is  good  news;  Jesus  is  coming.    We  don’t  know  when,  but  he  will  return,  
bringing  God’s  kingdom  to  earth.   And  when  God’s  kingdom  is  here,  on  earth,  
when  God  rules  all-in-all,  there  will  be  no  war,  no  group  will  dominate  over  
another.   In  the  kingdom  injustice  is  wiped  out,  so  there  is  not  space  for  things  
like  corruption  to  exist,  there  can  be  no  preference  for  the  rich  and  shoving
aside  the  poor;  there  will  be  no  rich  and  poor,  for  we  will  all  be  rich  in  God  and  
nothing  else  will  matter.     In  God’s  kingdom  creation  is  restored  to  the  purpose  
God  has  for  it   --  the  soil,  the  air,  the  water,  trees  and  birds  and  wildlife  and  all  
living  things  --  will  be  healthy  and  fully  alive.    And  we  have  heard  how  human  
life  will  be  where  God  reigns  --  no  more  illness,  no  more  dying;  no  more  ‘us’  
against  ‘them,’  no  more  long-held-grudges,  no  more  hatred,  no  more  sorrow  and  
wounds  that  will  not  heal  –  we  will  be  one  people,  united  in  God’s  love.       Oh,  if  
only  that  day  would  arrive.    We  want  to  see  it  with  our  own  eyes.    Thank  
goodness  it  is  Advent,  the  time  of  our  expectant  waiting,  the  time  when  we  
console  ourselves  with  the  news  that  Jesus  is  on  his  way  --  he  is  coming.     

When  Jesus  returns  to  earth  he  will  come,  not  only  in  triumph,  but  also  as  our  
judge.   His  arrival  will  be  a  time  of  searing  honesty.   We  will  be  confronted  with  
the  truth,  with  aspects  of  reality  we  might  not  want  to  face.   Our  Lord’s  purpose  
as  judge  is  not  to  find  us  guilty  so  that  we  might  be  condemned,   but  to  identify  
what  is  wrong  in-and-among  us,  so  that  it  may  be  put  right,  and  the  whole  world  
may  be  restored.    When  we  ask  God  to  clean  up  the  problems  of  the  world,  
perhaps  we  are  thinking  God  will  come  with  mighty  power  and  suddenly  make  
everything  perfect,  like  magic,  or  snap  his  godly  fingers  or  let  loose  some  
heavenly  thunder-and-lightening  and  instantly  get  rid  of  everything  that  wounds  
and  enslaves  people,  wipe  out  all  the  bad  stuff,  destroy  evil  in  the  blink  of  an  
eye.   

But  if  we  read  our  lessons  this  morning  carefully,  that  is  not  what  we  find  in  
them.   Speaking  for  us  again  Isaiah  says:  “We  have  all  become  like  one  who  is  
unclean,  and  all  our  righteous  deeds  are  like  a  filthy  cloth.”   What  is  “wrong”  with  
the  world  does  not  only  exist  “out  there”  but  “in  here”  as  well,  within  each  of  us  
and  among  us.  If  the  problems  of  the  world  are  to  be  fixed,  we  must  be  fixed  
along  with  them.   According  to  Isaiah,  not  only  the  sneaky  things  we  do,  the  ones  
we  hope  no  one  will find  out  about,  are  rotten,  but  even  our  good  deeds  are  like  
a  dirty  rag.    So  when  God  opens  the  heavens  and  comes  down,  first  we  will  go  
through  judgment  --  separating  what  is  good  from  what  is  bad  --  and  then  we  will  
come  to  deliverance.    

Because  if   the  poor  are  to  receive  enough,  then  those  of  us  who  have  plenty  
will  have  to  give-some-up.  If  everyone  the-world-over  is  to  get  a  fair  chance  in  
life,  you-and-I  may  have  to  let  go  of  some  privileges.    Wars  will  end,  but  not  
necessarily  to  suit  our  agenda,  or  ‘this’  or  ‘that’  nation’s  purpose,  but  only  God’s  
purpose.   The  earth  will  be  renewed,  but  we’re  gonna’  have  to  give-up  stuff  that  
would  destroy  it  again.    And  our  relationships  will  be  made  new-and-right  --  
relationships  with  our  spouses,  with  our  children,  with  our  parents,    with  our  
neighbors,   our  co-workers,   our  enemies…   but  in  the  process  we  will  each  be  
stripped  of  false  pride,  of  malice,  of  greed,  of  the  desire  for  one-ups-manship,  of    
grievances  we  swore  we  would  never  forgive.   We’ll  have  to  let  ‘em  go.   Jesus  
will  return  and  the  whole  world  will  be  made  new,  but  nothing  and  no  one  will  be  
left  unchanged.  

Which  brings  us  back  to  that  lovely  song  and,  maybe,  its  most  captivating  lyric.    
“I  wanna’  go  home,”  Cynthia  Clawson  sings,  “to  a  place  where  I  belong.”      Don’t  
we  all.     “I  wanna’  go  home  to  a  place  where  all  my  wrongs  are  righted…”       
‘where  all  my  wrongs  are  righted…’        ya’  know…  We  all  have  to  live  with  it  --  
the  fact  that  we  are  not  ever  truly  “right”  here.   Loved?  yes.   Forgiven?  yes.   
Accepted  as  we  are  anyway -  sure.    Held  in  the  endless  bounty  of  God’s  grace?  
You  bet.     But  not  “right”  --  we  are  all-of-us  sinners,  and  forever  in  need  of  God’
s  mercy.   So  the  knowledge  that  we  will  some  day  go  to  a  home  where  all  of  our  
flaws,  our  faults,  our  wrongs  will  be  put  right  once-and-for-all,  is  a  pretty  great  
thought.     It  comes  as  a  gracious  relief.

“Lord  God,  tear  open  the  heavens  and  come  down,”  we  pray.     Jesus  has  come,  
saving  us  from  sin  and  death.   Jesus  will  come  again  to  deliver  the  whole  world  
from  suffering  and  decay,  to  restore  it  to  wholeness  and  place  it  under  the  
everlasting  rule  of  God  almighty.   Until  that  day  arrives,  we  wait  for  it  with  hope,  
with  an  active  hope  --  remembering  that  the  Church  (our  communal  life  together)  
is  a  foreshowing  to  the  world  of  what  God  has  in  mind.   As  we  await  the  day  
when  the  heavens  open  and  our  Lord  comes  to  put  all  things  right,  may  we  be  a  
sign  of  the  kingdom  to  come  --  a  reminder  that  sorrows  will  end,  that   the  poor  
will  be  blessed  with  plenty,  that  wars  will  cease  and  the  earth  be  restored,  that  
all  people  will  be  friends,   and  life  will  prevail  over  death.   May  the  love  of  God  
overflow  upon  us  and  from  us,  into  the  world  around  us.

amen