First Thoughts From The Rev. Canon David Smith: 

Most weeks Fr. David sends out an e-mail with his first thoughts on the upcoming Sunday readings. These reflections are designed to encourage people to consider the readings before they come to worship which we hope will enrich Sunday worship. People are invited to respond to David with their own thoughts and sometimes interesting ideas and conversations occur that end up in the sermon. If you would like to receive these weekly e-mails e-mail David at dsmith@ontario.anglican.ca  . 

The Joy and Pain of Love

Posted by Emily Sanderson on Friday, November 28, 2014
Readings for this Sunday Isaiah 64: 1-9, Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19, 1 Corinthians
1:3-9, Mark 13: 24- 37

Thanks to Feasting on the Word Year B Volume 1 pgs 2-25

In the old days the liturgical colour for Advent was purple to invite us to
enter a time of repentance and preparedness for Christmas much like we still
do in Lent for Easter.  But in recent years the colour has changed to blue
to make it a more joyful season as we wait expectantly for the arrival of
Christmas and the final return of Christ.

The problem is I do not own a blue stole so in Marysburgh  we will be using
both liturgical colours and maybe that is fitting because our readings in
Advent certainly have a serious tone especially this week where in the Psalm
we pray that God would restore us and we ask how long will God be angry. In
a similar spirit Isaiah asks why has God hidden himself from the people?
Clearly our expectation of Christmas invites us to ask some serious
questions. I often wonder what a visitor to our church would think if he or
she hears carols in the mall and not in church . hopefully  they would hear
a deeper reason for the season as we prepare for Christmas.

Our O.T. reading speaks into the heart and soul of the Jews after they have
returned from exile to Jerusalem. The temple has not been rebuilt and they
are in a state of disorientation as William Brown describes ,"it is a cry of
pain seeking understanding" It is a lament praying for God to be present.
Our reading remembers that God saved the Israelites in a powerful way from
the Egyptians and wants to know why God does not do something similar now ?

Isaiah explores how it seems God is hidden and because of that people have
sinned and no longer call upon God's name. Scott Bader - Saye  after some
discussion concludes ,"God hides in order to deconstruct a distorted set of
beliefs and practices , thereby opening Israel to receive again as gift and
event their calling to be God's people. Hiding is a form of judgment that
ultimately  serves divine mercy, a No that clears the ground for a more
profound Yes" Feasting on the Word Year B Volume 1 pg 4 interesting .

But our reading also includes imagery of presence not just hiddenness. And
they are not images of God tearing open the skies but of a parent and
potter. Bader - Saye notes that these images of a God who is no longer
hidden describe actions that are like a father or mother shaping the
character of a child over many years or an artist lovingly molding clay.

This imagery of God being present actually reminds me of the Christ Child
and of how the one born in Bethlehem moved among us. Maybe this lament is
joyful expectation after all.

You know there are times when I feel like the Israelites. Why can't God show
some mighty force and revive his church through some dramatic action?  I had
a brief meeting with the Funeral Home staff today to talk about a service of
remembrance Dec. 7th. Every pastor is invited to read out the names of the
people who have died from their church. It use to be that most people's
names were read by a pastor and only a few were read by the funeral home
staff. These were people who had no church affiliation. But now it is the
reverse and many burials have no Christian or other faith based worship at
all.  It made me say why are you hidden God? But I do see God at work in the
lives of people. I do see God molding people and building for the Kingdom. I
need  more patience and eyes to see more clearly.

Psalm 80 is an even angrier lament , it is the prayer of a people who have
lost much and are in grief( probably originally the Northern nation of
Israel which fell before Judah). But it is a prayer for any of us who feel
abandoned and who feel that God has not only allowed but caused our pain.
And in the honest outpouring of confusion and anger that this prayer can
give voice to, we can come out the other side with hope," let your face
shine, that we may be saved" Feasting on the Word Year B Volume 1 pg 13
Again perhaps at first this passage of Scripture that seems so out of place
in Advent points us to Jesus . It was and is in the Christ Child that God's
face shines upon us.

Our reading from 1 Corinthians has obviously been chosen because of its
eschatological reference to the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. In other words
to Christ's final return the second Advent. But really it is a passage that
displays St. Paul's   tremendous gratitude for the Corinthian Christians (
although he has serious issues with much of their behaviour).  I am very
thankful for all of the people of the Parish of Marysburgh and of course
this reading could be a jumping off place to speak about what a gift it is
to be thankful to God for all that God has done through our parish. American
pastors may do this as it is so close to their Thanksgiving. But even more
central to Paul's message is the absolute centrality of grace. The
Corinthians have been loved through the grace of God in Christ and they have
been gifted through grace with abilities to serve the church and the world.
We have been saved and loved by grace in order to serve and love graciously.

Our Gospel reading is definitely apocalyptic. I should do a teaching sermon
on apocalyptic sayings sometime. But very simplistically I think Jesus is
saying that although things may seem very bleak God will overcome. It is a
word to all the voices in the other readings  for Sunday especially Isaiah
and the Psalm.  It is about watching and waiting for the presence of God
even when God seems very distant or absent. And I think the Gospel reading
points us to be awake to be attuned to what is truly important. Lillian
Daniel in a pastoral perspective on the Gospel says that in Advent when we
are so busy shopping and partying ect. It might be wise for the church and
preachers to say have a nap , relax not stay awake. But she wisely says that
the churches call to be awake," is a call to be awake to God in the world
and to not fall asleep to the spiritual season" Feasting on the Word Year B
Volume 1 pg 24