Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Living in Eager Anticipation

Pastor McCarty's Sunday Sermon
Christ Lutheran Church, Staunton, VA
March 1, 2015
Tags:  Mark 8; Eager Anticipation

Living in Eager Anticipation

Jesus instructs his followers this morning to “Take up their cross and follow me.” That statement stands as a statement of deep faith. Perhaps deeper than many Christians find themselves ready to engage in. To tone the statement down a bit, consider this catchphrase, “drop everything and go.” Both statements suggest that what you are currently doing might not be as important as what you could be doing. Actually, you may have heard “drop anything and go” in advertising and marketing. “Drop everything and go to Crazy Harry's discount emporium,” which of course is not what we are talking about. So to our statement of faith, “drop everything and go” we will add another statement of faith:

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.”

Those who were here for Ash Wednesday worship will remember as we gathered around the communion rail to celebrate the Lord's Supper, we proclaimed the mystery of faith. “Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.”

The Christian Church has taught belief around this proclamation. You believe Christ died. You believe Christ rose. And I hope you believe that Christ will come again.

Again the Christian Church has anchored our proclamation on this truth. This confession within the confession. Where, perhaps, the church has missed the boat is the extent of our hope. You believe these words, but do you eagerly anticipate this. Eagerly anticipate it to the point of “drop everything and go.” One might think that eager anticipation might guide our expectation of Christ's return, but probably not.

How might these words sound different if you surround them with eager anticipation:

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

Are you looking for Christ now? What does it mean to pick up your cross and follow Christ now. I will answer that question for you. It means Christ is here, now.

Sometimes the news provides lousy examples. You may have seen two this week about what has gotten people ready to “drop everything and go.” This week in the news you may have heard about or read about teenagers from Canada and three teenage girls from the United Kingdom flying to Syria by way of Turkey. The fear is that they are going to become a part of ISIS.  Some people will drop everything and go.  Though it might frighten us as to where they are going.  Pray for these girls, also a couple of boys from Canada, pray for them and their families.

Here is a less troubling example: a pool of a hundred people have been gathered from thousands of applications for a one way trip to settle Mars. A one way ticket, where the first settlers of Mars will likely have a life expectancy of about a hundred days. And the hundred in the pool eagerly anticipate the chance to be pioneers, to be remember as the first to settle Mars. Eager anticipation such that you leave everything and go.

But take these examples and wonder about this, what would make you in your teenage years, young adult years, what could the church have done to get you excited, and if not run away, move away in eager anticipation that Christ is here now or that Christ is coming soon. Actually it happens in the Lutheran Church, the ELCA has a program called Young Adults in Global Mission, where a young adult, aged 19 through 29, applies to live internationally for a year and do ministry in God's name.

YAGM Luke Hanson lives and works in rural eastern Rwanda, he teaches children at an elementary school organized by the Lutheran Church. He recently wrote: "One of the important themes that has colored my life in the last few months is that of “waiting well.” ....I’m learning from Rwanda that waiting well is about trusting— about
relinquishing the fear of uncertainty and pain and 
brokenness that breeds urgency and impatience—
waiting poorly. As it happens, my Rwandan village 
neighbors have been excellent teachers.... Things which initially caused me such great impatience and frustration are no longer such a huge deal ..."

I like the paradox of not being urgent or anxious from Luke's blog cast against our eager anticipation of God's return. We wait patiently for Christ to return and yet we eagerly anticipate his return as well. We eagerly anticipate Christ's return so much that we look for it here on earth.

Perhaps this just might be the conundrum of the church. The church lifts up the resurrection as eager anticipation because of death. The closer one gets to death, the more one latches on to the hope of the resurrection. But for youth who have little reason to think about death, and middle aged adults as well frankly who do not want to think about their own mortality, the church needs another message.

To help them, young and old alike, we all can open our eyes and hearts to eager anticipation of Christ's return, not because death is a painful reality, not because you think the world is so messed up. Open your eyes and heart to the coming of Christ with eager anticipation because heaven is such glorious place, a wonderful place. And that heaven is so good and wonderful and glorious that it is overflowing onto earth now. Christ is here now.  The goodness and the glory of heaven overflow to you today, to us today and to the world today. And Christ tells you where to look to find him and the goodness of heaven, “pick up your cross and follow me.”