“Potter and Clay”

Isaiah 64:1-9 and Mark 13:24-37

November 29, 2020

First Sunday of Advent

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Isaiah 64:1-9

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

Mark 13:24-37

“But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Prayer.

Welcome to Advent;

A season of watching,

Waiting,

For our Savior’s return.

During this time of intense, expectant waiting,

The nature and character of God is revealed

With clarity unlike few other times of the year.

God is revealed.

Revelation,

More than the final book of the Bible,

More than an end-time promises,

God is revealed as an active dance partner in the human divine relationship.

The prophet Isaiah reports of a spiritual nostalgia in a devastated people.

Remember when?

Remember when the Lord forgave our inequity,

Warmed the heart of Cyrus the Great, and

Returned us to our promised land?

Remember.

God is forgiving.

God is compassionate and kind.

God faithfully keeps promises.

But now, the world has turned into smoldering destruction.

Again.

Built up; beat down.

Built up; beat down.

The people of Israel had seen their land re-conquered,

Their rebuilt Temple destroyed,

Their lives in ruins.

Our ancestors felt as if God was hiding his face.

O God, they cried.

Our God, who ripped open the heavens and

Showed your face to Moses,

Where are you now?

Now, our world feels like it has turned into smoldering destruction.

Remember 39 weeks ago?

Yes, I’ve been counting the weeks.

Our spiritual nostalgia

Forgets imperfections and

Enhances grandeur

That may or may not have been real.

Church life back in early March was great, predictable, sustainable.

Spiritual life was simplified;

Occasional attendance,

Prayer before a meal,

Catching up over coffee or casserole, and

Dropping an Abraham into the basket.

Now, we’ve been shut down.

We feel broken down,

And when we look around

There is a whole lot of darkness.

Where is your face, O Lord?

It’s like we’ve been abandoned,

Just like Israel. 

Remember.

God is forgiving.

God is compassionate and kind.

God faithfully keeps promises.

The nature and character of God is revealed during Advent.

….

Like Israel,

Our hope is grounded in God’s revealed nature and character.

God is our father, Isaiah proclaims,

The father of creation,

Who created us as children,

Each of us created as a nearly perfect copy of God.

God planted within us

Mustard seed sized faith,

Tended and nurtured,

Watered and fed.

God has gifted us

The love of a Savior and

The power of a Spirit filled breath.

Our creative and loving parent

Raises us as children into spiritual maturity,

In a relationship bonded by life, love, goodness, pity, and compassion;

Qualities of every good mother and father.

The Lord is our Father,

The prophet Isaiah proclaims,

As a potter and

We as clay.

We are the clay.

The Father forms us.

Shapes us.

Builds us up.

Breaks us down.

Working us.

Freeing us from every imperfection.

We are the work of his hands.

We become who God shapes us to be.

Remember.

God is our creator.

God nurtures and grows,

Forms and shapes us according to need and will.

The nature and character of God is revealed during Advent.

….

This past Thursday,

We pushed ourselves away from the Thanksgiving table

Full of food

And content with life …

Mostly.

Partially.

Some of us.

Well, all right. Who are we kidding?

There might be some who can be painted into a Norman Rockwell painting,

But many of us

Are worn out,

Fighting depression,

Dealing with dysfunctional families,

Agonizing over broken relationships,

Resisting addictions and abuse,

Wrestling with uncertainty and anxiety,

And are near the end of our rope with

Undeniable, unresolved, unrelenting, overwhelming grief.

We are …

… I am …

FIGHTING to stay afloat,

For fear that if we stop fighting,

We might slip beneath the waves.

A new prescription does not save us.

A promotion or raise doesn’t save us.

Divorce, walking out, or walking away doesn’t save us.

Shopping, overdosing on chocolate, or a day at the spa doesn’t save us.

A new degree, diploma, or award doesn’t save us.

Spending a day this past week in class with clergy colleagues from across New York State

Affirms the fact that

Being ordained doesn’t save us.

Every one of us are treading water.

The garbage still has to be taken out to the curb.

During this period spanning Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year

Emotions fluctuate widely between blessings and curse

And everywhere in-between.

If only we had a God

That was great enough

To rend the heavens

And come down to save us.

If only we had a God

That was powerful enough

To darken the sun, extinguish the moon, shake the stars out of the heavens

And come down to save us.

If only the Son of Man would come in clouds

With power and glory;

Certainly we would be saved!

It’s Advent, people!

God did it before,

And God’s going to do it again!

Just as God saved our ancestors from Egyptian captivity and Babylonian exile,

Just as Jesus was born and died to save us from our sins,

So, too, will Christ come again

To save us from this lousy state of affairs we’ve in.

We’ve fallen

– literally and figuratively –

And we can’t get up!

Not without the help of a Savior.

Not without the power of the only One who can move heaven and earth.

Not without the love of God that knows no end.

The time is nigh, and soon will be.

The time is ripe, and approaching ever more quickly.

Watch for signs of light signifying our Savior’s return.

Stay alert and awake,

Watching for our Lord’s coming again.

….

What then is revealed about God in this season of waiting?

God is forgiving.

God is compassionate and kind.

God faithfully keeps promises.

God is our creator, our heavenly Father.

God nurtures and grows us,

Forms and shapes us according to need and will.

We are promised

Christ is coming again.

It’s a promise the Lord intends to keep.

When he comes

The face of the Lord will be revealed.

Since we can’t save ourselves,

Christ is coming to save us

From drowning,

Into a new creation.

Watch.

Wait.

Amen.

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