The Second Sunday
D. G. Phillips
Vogler’s Cove, Crousetown, West LaHave –
December 7, AD 2008
Romans 15:4-13 Luke 21:25-33
The God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace in believing,
that ye may abound in hope through the
power of the Holy Ghost.
We have entered the
season of Advent – it is a time of preparation, a time of
For us, in Canada, this
season happens at a time when the days are shorter – it is getting
darker, it is getting colder, and we have the expectation of months
of cold weather ahead of us. It is not unusual for us to be feeling
a bit down. Nature has lost its luster – the brilliance of the fall
leaves is replaced by the stark grey branches. Death is all around
us. Tragic news hits us even harder – the loss of Peter Bell, and
some of you may have other hard news to bear in your own families.
Maybe it is also that we are a little anxious about the preparations
There’s a young woman I
know at a store in Bridgewater who knows I’m a priest, and she told
me a while ago that she had decided to read through the Bible,
starting from the beginning, she had never done that before. I saw
her recently and she was looking gloomy, which is unusual for her –
I wasn’t quite sure what was up – I asked her how she was doing and
she admitted feeling down. I asked her where she had got to in the
Bible (she normally has some questions) – and she said she had given
up reading it – had got bogged down in all the names and places in
some of the stories.
I had been reflecting
for this Sunday on the nature of our hope and it was so clear to me
that she needed a dose of hope.
What is it that takes
away our hope?
We set up for
ourselves, even if we are not aware of it, certain ideas of how
things should be, of what we can expect from life. And these ideas
are formed by the society we keep – the conversations we have with
our spouse, our friends, our family and co-workers, and by the TV we
watch or the radio we listen to and the books we read. But it is
important to remember that in the society in which we live, because
religion can be contentious, it is often not spoken of, and then
this can be confused with the idea that it is not important, [or
simply non existent.]
We set up for ourselves
certain expectations – we may not even be consciously aware of what
those hopes are. When we feel down, it is important for us to not
simply to quickly cover over our discomfort, with distractions, with
some quick fix, but to reflect on why we may be feeling sad – it is
a time to reflect on the hopes that we have.
And we come to see that
there are certain ideas that can in fact be binding us, making us
forget or deny the promises of Christ.
we have placed our hopes in the pleasures of the body, and they
don’t seem to be as satisfying to us anymore; maybe we have
unrealistic expectations about our health – and it is
deteriorating; maybe we are overly focussed on our material well
being, our finances, and they are not as we had expected; maybe a
job is not working out as we had hoped; maybe a relationship we are
in is not as we had hoped, something seems to have gone amiss, a
distance has arisen between ourselves and a loved one; maybe we are
just wondering what is the point of it all?
Advent is a time of
quiet, a time to do this reflection and to wait, and to wait, in
quiet expectation upon God – something that is extremely hard for us
It is a season for the
renewal, the rekindling, in our sadness, of true hope, the discovery
of light in the darkness.
In the Gospel today
Jesus speaks of a kind of apocalypse,
There shall be signs in the sun, and in the
moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with
perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them
for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the
earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall
they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great
glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up,
and lift up your heads: for your redemption draweth nigh.
It is a description of
disturbing end times, but it is also a description of what happens
in each one of our lives – Jesus says at the end of this passage,
this generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
The powers of heaven
shall be shaken.
We’ve looked before at
these principalities and powers in Trinity season. St. Paul
teaches us that they are spiritual forces, ideas, some for good,
some for ill, that set themselves up “in the air” (so to speak) and
can bind us. The powers that bind us for ill, are when we begin to
think that the world is a certain way that it actually is not, but
there are voices continually reinforcing these false ways, false
ideas. We become locked into certain ways of thinking, ways that
are contrary to the promises of Jesus.
Here’s a simple example
– when I go to visit someone who has little connection with the
church for years, and I suggest before I leave, that we pray,
sometimes I get a kind of bemused smile, like, sure why not, and
they are really just being polite to let me go ahead. And so we
pray the Lord’s Prayer and, not always, but more often than not, I
can see that something has changed. They have been recalled in a
small way to the eternal Word that is in them, hidden, buried but
not lost – the light shines in the darkness and the darkness
overcometh it not. But it is not easy, it is a kind of clash of
worlds, a battle if you like – not only in their souls but in my own
soul in the face of their unbelief, to remain faithful, to remain as
a person of hope. This is what Jesus is speaking about when he says
that in the midst of distress, powers are being shaken, and we look
up, and we will see Jesus drawing near. I’m always glad later that
I have done this, prayed with people, despite the embarrassment and
uncertainty of the moment. It is a recalling of them to their
hope. And I hope that each of you will be less afraid to consider
such a prayer, a simple prayer like the Lord’s Prayer, with a friend
you are visiting who is in distress.
St. Paul in the Epistle
today reminds us of one of the most important ways God gives us to
rekindled hope in our souls.
WHATSOEVER things were written aforetime, were
written for our learning; that we, through patience, and comfort of
the Scriptures, might have hope.
Reading the Bible is a way to rekindle our hope.
Now I say, that Jesus Christ was a minister of
the circumcision [to the Jews]
for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto
the fathers; and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his
St. Paul gives examples in the Epistle reading
from the three parts of the Old Testament—the Law, the Writings and
the Prophets—which remind us that the promises made there by God are
not just to the Jews of old, but the message throughout the Bible is
that God has made these promises to every one of us—and this
rekindles our true hope.
When St. Paul was writing this he was speaking
about the Old Testament, because that is all that was written at the
time. But I think it is a little hard for us to read only from the
Old Testament, without seeing it from the perspective of the New
Testament. To the woman in the store in Bridgewater I suggested she
might want to read a chapter a day from one of the Gospels, so that
she doesn’t get bogged down in obscure names and places. In fact
this is the pattern for daily Bible reading that has been suggested
for us in the Prayer Book—a chapter or two from the Old and New
Testament each day (found in the table on the back of our weekly
When we read the Bible
regularly, our false hopes are exposed for what they are—they come
under judgement, or a kind of purifying—and we are better able to
withstand the powers at work in our world, in our society,
which attempt to set up false hopes.
As we read Scripture,
hopes founded upon the Eternal Word in our souls are restored and
hope of the recovery and fulfillment and perfecting of love, the
hope of glory, the hope of eternal life. And it is when we ground
our lives upon these true and lasting hopes that we become more and
more real and that we come to know lasting joy.
Now the God of hope fill you with all
joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope,
through the power of the Holy Ghost.