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Jer. 33:14-16 Ps. 25:1-10 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 Luke 21:25-36

Welcome Advent. Welcome a New Church Year in our worship calendar that invites us to be a little out of step with the world’s calendar. Welcome the Gospel of Luke for this year, and its vision of Jesus for all humanity, and a particular concern for those who are oppressed and suffering. Welcome the reading from Luke’s apocalypse/revealed writing, and what seems like it was written for our time, for this year, and signs, if not so much in the sun and the moon and the stars, certainly on the earth, and distress among nations, especially our own on both coasts, by the roaring of the waters and the waves of atmospheric rivers. And people struggling and maybe feeling faint from fear and foreboding at what is coming upon the world.

               Our hearts go out to all those who have been significantly and severely affected by the flooding and landslides happening in BC, and also on Canada’s east coast. The heavy rains here yesterday and continuing through the night are a great concern. Loss of homes, livestock, lands, livelihoods, and lives is catastrophic and unprecedented, especially for the communities of Merritt, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, along with the pressure on and collapse of the infrastructure for waterways, bridges, and highways. The personal impacts on people and animals are devastating. And the devastation is amplified on reserves and in poorer communities and regions.

               We also recognize and give thanks for people’s resilience and working together to help and support one another and others. We are aware of some impacted in our congregation, but if you are, we hope you will reach out if there is any help and support that you need. And there are further ways we can help including a special appeal through Canadian Lutheran World Relief, and through the Red Cross, including now matching provincial and federal funds. We continue to hold people and communities and all God’s creatures in our prayers and the hope that the rains would slow and give the land time to absorb the water as much as it can, and for beginning the long path of recovery and rebuilding.

               God be with all those impacted by the rains and flooding and those working to help and limit and repair the destruction and damage and that we would be with them also in whatever ways are possible.

               And we know as a continuous part of the conversation now, that more frequent extreme weather events like atmospheric rivers are part of the impacts of climate change due to a warming planet at our human hands. Adapting to and mitigating the impacts of these changes will be our challenge as humanity, and the necessary structural changes required for climate and social justice and equity for all people, because you cannot have one without the other.          

               Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California will be the John Albert Hall lecturer at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society this Thursday at UVic and online, and will lead a workshop on Saturday for the Anglican Diocese and an invitation to the Lutheran community and anyone else who is interested, on Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Economic-Ecological Vocation – the title of her latest book. In the book, Dr. Moe-Lobeda says, “The increasingly pressing situation of Planet Earth poses urgent ethical questions. The earth crisis cannot be understood apart from the larger human crisis - economic equity, racial justice, social values, and human purpose are bound up with the planet’s survival. With climate change, humankind hovers on a precipice. A “great work” is before us: To forge ways of living together that allow Earth’s life-systems to flourish and that diminish the soul-shattering gap between those who have too much and those who have too little. For this – the testing point of human history— all forms of human knowledge have a role to play.”          

               Welcome Advent, 2021 in fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world and the powers of the heavens shaken. But also, these words of Jesus, “Then (we) will see the ‘Son of Humanity coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Dr. Moe-Lobeda’s words sound like Jesus’ words: “…humankind hovers on a precipice. A “great work” is before us:” Jesus said, like a fig tree or any tree about to sprout leaves, “…when you see these things taking place, you know that the dominion of God is near.” “To forge ways of living together that allow Earth’s life-systems to flourish and that diminish the soul-shattering gap between those who have too much and those who have too little. For this – the testing point of human history— all forms of human knowledge have a role to play.” Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Jesus’ apocalyptic/end-time vision is not a literal depiction of how the world will cease to be, but a dream of God’s redemption coming near, already here, in Jesus coming again and again in power and glory to grace this world and earth with hope so that we stand up and lift our heads and join in a collective response of earth justice and human equity always.  

               These words that will never pass away, affirm what we know – that we have all the grace and faith, all the theology of the cross and resurrection, all the witnesses to God’s promises in the words of the prophets like Jeremiah today - God’s promise of a righteous branch that will spring up from David to execute justice and righteousness; all the prayers like Paul’s today – that, like the community at Thessalonica, God make us increase and abound in love for one another and for all; not denying the reality of distress among the nations, or the fainting from fear and foreboding that we feel for any number of reasons, personal and collective in the pains and sufferings and grief we bear and hear and think about most everyday - but by God’s grace, all we need in Jesus’ words and witness and visions of hope, to stand up, and raise our heads, because the dominion of God, the redemption of God, is near! Is here!  God has graced us with a faith for just this Advent!

               And so also reminders in Advent bags thanks to the Greening Committee, with today, twigs to make a star and an invitation to stand in the dark and raise our heads to the stars and see the vast cosmos of God’s making and God’s eternal care. Or in the words of the “stir-up” prayers of Advent, today “Stir up your power, Christ Jesus, and come, by your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins, and  redeem us for your life of justice.” And advent songs and prayers and a meal of equity and justice with Jesus and God as close as food and drink for our bodies and souls.

               Listen to the rains… a story I may have shared before, I have a distinct memory from when I was eleven or twelve of my dad lying on the bed next to me or my brother in our shared room on the second floor of our house in Calgary at bedtime and hearing the rain on the roof. “That’s a good sound,” he said to us. And he related a story from his childhood when he was about our age, in the 1930’s, the “dirty thirties,” and the land was so dry, and crops and livestock were devastated. And he said, “One day we started to hear this sound on the house roof.” And his brother and he watched as his parents stood up and lifted their heads, listening. And when they were sure it was rain they were hearing, they walked together outside and my dad and his brother watched as their very reserved Scottish Presbyterian/Methodist parents, danced together in the dust of the farm yard in the rain.          

               These days, I am listening to the rains on the roof of our home and worrying for all those impacted by too much rain and flooding, those without a roof for the rain to fall on, struggling to survive, those whose houses and farms and reserves and whole communities are overwhelmed and devastated. And praying for their help and support and strength and resilience and for our greater care for them and all others and this planet together. And praying that I and we can find the posture of Advent again, the posture of Jesus, that Jesus makes possible, that our hearts not be weighed down… that even in fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the earth, that we might stand up, stand together, with and for others, especially the most vulnerable, stand up together and raise our heads, for our and this world’s, the whole earth’s and all creation’s, God’s dominion and redemption is drawing near, is here, always and to join in that being so, today! In all our relations. Amen.