Sermon: Changes Are A-Coming

December 2, 2018
First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Luke 21:25-36

Pity Jeremiah. All he wanted to do was worship in the temple one day, and he found himself appointed a “prophet to the nations.” He thought he was too young, but God didn’t.

He probably anticipated that he’d spend his career echoing the reforming drive of King Josiah, who made a vigorous attempt to lead a nation more faithful to its covenant with God than many before him. But Josiah died in a pointless battle, and his successors not only abandoned his reforms, they also engaged in domestic policies that enriched the wealthy and impoverished the desperate, as well as foreign policy that enraged the great empires.

When Jeremiah wrote these words, decades after his call, his relentless criticism of King Zedekiah meant that he was imprisoned. Worse, Zedekiah himself had been placed on the throne by the invading army of the Babylonian Empire – an army that had now returned, because Zedekiah had attempted to rebel against King Nebuchadnezzar.

It was only a matter of time before the city fell again and this time, everyone knew, its existence as a nation would end.

And Jeremiah, who had warned over and over again of God’s anger, who had warned over and over again that there were consequences to the nation’s infidelity and foolishness, who had warned over and over again that the nation would fall to Babylon, wrote this:

“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’”

Words of change. Words of growth. Words of fulfillment. Words of promise. Words of hope.

Changes are a-coming.

Some six centuries later, Jesus looked at the temple in Jerusalem – not the one Jeremiah received his call in, but a replacement built on the same site – Jesus looked at the temple in Jerusalem and sounded like Jeremiah. “Not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

By the time Luke recorded Jesus’ words in his gospel, it had already happened. Thirty-seven years after Jesus spoke these words, a Roman army stormed Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Luke may have known people who saw it happen.

Words of change. Words of loss. Words of destruction. Words of warning. And if you take the warning, then they become words of hope.

Changes are a-coming.

It’s proverbial that people don’t like change. It’s also proverbial that people want change all the time. It depends on the condition of the now, doesn’t it?

When my now is comfortable, change comes as a threat.

When my now is uncomfortable, changes comes as hope.

It’s proverbial as well that change comes whether now is comfortable or uncomfortable. Change comes whether you or I like it or not.

Advent is the Christian season that looks change straight in the face, so that we can reflect on its comfort and its discomfort, its losses and its gains, its price and its promise, its harshness and its hope.

The simple truth is that God does not order all change for our benefit. We experience sickness and sorrow, grief and loss, deprivation and even disaster. In 2018, we have seen it over and over again.

Change also, however, brings relief from these ills. We recover from sickness. Grief does not disappear, but it loses its harsh grip. We overcome deprivation. We endure through disaster. In 2018, we have seen it over and over again.

We know both sides of the truth that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said: “Only in darkness can you see the stars.”

Both in the hopeful words of Jeremiah, and in the bleak predictions of Jesus, we hear the overarching grace of God. In change that leads to good, and in change that leads to evil, God will be present and God will be loving. “You know that the kingdom of God is near,” said Jesus. As Dorothee Sölle wrote, “God dreams for us today. Today, at this moment, God has an image and hope for what we are becoming. We should not let God dream alone.” (Theology for Skeptics: Reflections on God, 1995)

“Advent,” writes Karoline Lewis, “counteracts impermanence with promise. Advent does not let the transience of life take over our hearts but fills our souls with holy transcendence. Into the ephemerality that is so much of what life seems to be, Advent brings the hope of eternity.”

Changes are a-coming. Some will be joyful, and some will be sorrowful. That’s just life.

What does not change is the loving presence of God. In the depths of disaster, and at the heights of happiness, God is there. Let that be our hope, and our strength.


We regret that there is no recording of this sermon due to a technical problem.

Photo of Mauna Kea at dawn by Eric Anderson.

Categories Sermons | Tags: , | Posted on December 2, 2018

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