December 3, 2017
I have always been amazed by the work of a farmer. And I know several people in this congregation who grew up in a farming family or worked as a farmer, earning their livelihood growing crops. I think farmers are gamblers. They risk so much on the vagaries of the weather and the price they will get for their crops. Diseases and creatures feast on their crops reducing their yield. Through all of this uncertainty, farmers live in hope that their efforts will be fruitful. Despite the risk they face, each year they break ground, plowing their fields. The people who work in our Chile garden are somewhat similar. This past year bacteria attacked the Chile plants. It killed many of them. The disease did not affect the chile we harvested. It just impacted the amount of Chile powder we could process and offer for sale. Our farmers learned that we needed to rotate the crops. So, the vestry decided that we would take some of the land behind the parish hall and create a new plot to grow chile, a place where the bacteria has not yet grown. But plowing this new plot was not easy. It was not until Bob Despegliare took matters into his own hands and rented a tractor that we were able to break ground. Since then others have continued to prepare the land for new chile plants. I would like to draw a parallel between the work of the farmers in preparing their soil and our Christian efforts during this Advent season. The word Advent means coming. Jesus is coming soon and we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus. Just as the farmer prepares the soil for planting, we prepare our hearts and minds for this year’s coming of Jesus. That is why I have chosen to use the phrase “tilling the soil” as our theme for this advent season. We break through the dirt and dust, the sins that have covered our souls. We break through our human failings as we prepare. We have hope that Jesus will be here soon. I grew up in the Midwest and late spring was the time that farmers tilled their fields. I often considered it to be the beginning of a new year. But time is marked differently here in the valley. We prepare the soil earlier than in other climates. There are many ways that we mark the beginning of a New Year. The most common is January 1st, the calendar turns over to something new. But the beginning of an academic year and the beginning of a fiscal year can differ from the calendar year. Advent marks the beginning of a new Church or liturgical year. Each of these new starts helps us to consider what we must do to prepare for the coming year. Advent comes one month before our calendar changes to the new year but still it is a time to think of new beginnings, new starts, preparing anew. How will you till the soil and prepare your heart for this new year, this coming of Jesus? For the children that are here with us, each Christmas they have experienced feels like something new, something exciting. But those of us who have been around a bit longer have experienced the birth of Jesus many times. What makes it new this year? Perhaps that is why the theme of tilling the soil works so well. Each year the farmer plants and each year, we need to turn over the feelings of our soul, to start something different, to prepare again for the coming harvest, to get ready for the coming of Christ. The reading from Isaiah puts a slightly different spin on the issue saying “But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.” It is as if God disappeared from the people of Israel. And later, “for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.” The Psalm has a similar tone when it says, “O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angered despite the prayers of your people?” The people felt deserted by God and called upon God to return. Perhaps that is another good way to think about this coming of Christ. Of course, God is always there. We have just lost sight of God. But in our humanity, we act as if God is the one who has left. We say that God has left us because of our sin. And yet it is really the other way around. We have left God because of our sin. That’s why, in this Advent season, we seek to prepare ourselves. We need to plow away the things that keep us from God. We need to break the soil of our resentment and the blame that we place on God. We need to find a way to cleanse ourselves again so that we can allow God back in our lives. The theme for Advent today is hope. As we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus, we look forward to his coming with hope. Hope can be difficult in times of trouble. When Paul left the church community he founded in Corinth, they were grounded in their faith and several leaders had come forth giving Paul confidence that the community would continue to be faithful followers. But that Christian community encountered great challenges after he left. They were divided by class and some even refused to come together at the Lord’s table. Many had returned to the ways of sin. Paul wanted them to remember that hope was one of the gifts that they had in Jesus. Jesus had been with them before and Jesus was with them now and Jesus would come again. Their gifts would give them strength as they await the return of Jesus. It is as if Paul were speaking to us today. Our divisions are different and involve not this church but our broader community. We know that Jesus has given us the strength to live our lives in his name and we know that Jesus came to be with us. But we may have strayed just a little. Today, we remember that we too have been given gifts. Our gifts will carry us through this time of preparation. Our gifts give us hope. As we are reminded today, the Israelites struggled to find God in their lives. Because of their sin, they thought God had left them, was angry with them, and was hidden from them. In Paul’s time, the people had been strong in their faith but had lost their sense of Christian community. Some had also turned to sin. But they knew and we know also, that God has never left us. God is just waiting for us to return. So, we prepare, we once again till the soil scraping away the crust of sin so that we may experience God freshened and renewed. What might we do to prepare for the coming of Jesus once again. Some will choose to follow a daily devotion that is put together specifically for Advent. Others will chose to have an Advent wreath and offer special prayers at mealtime. When our daughter was a child, she loved to hang objects on a felt wall hanging. Each day, she would add a new ornament to the felt Christmas tree hanging and we would discuss the meaning of Christmas. Others may choose to set aside some time in prayer or reflection. Still others may choose to volunteer with an organization that helps the needy. Another way to prepare ourselves is to be fully present as we worship God together. I read a reflection by Karoline Lewis suggesting that Advent was a time to look for God in our church lives. If we stay awake as the gospel suggests, perhaps we will experience the revelation of God. Perhaps God will arrive in our time and place. We may experience the power of God that transforms our lives through Jesus Christ. God will direct us to find in ourselves and in our community all that is good and true. We may come to the full realization that Jesus came before now and will come again. Jesus is also with us now while we await his coming again. Whatever you do, seek to place yourself in God’s presence. All of the things we do to prepare, to till our soil, are just reminders that we wish to live our lives with God now and as we look with hope towards his coming again. Amen.
Last modified on Friday, 08 December 2017 18:38
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