Sunday, December 9, 2018
Scripture: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
Rev. Troy Hauser Brydon
Our theme this Advent is “Coming Home.” In the spirit of this season, I think many of us have warm feelings about the glow of Christmas lights in the homes of those we love. There is a sense of peace and place in those idealized versions of home. Advent is also a time where Jesus “moves into the neighborhood” – God making home with us. But Advent is also about another homecoming entirely. Advent isn’t just about Jesus coming to earth – there and then. No, it’s about our expectation that Jesus will be coming home once again, making right all the rough spots. Jill preached last week about how Jesus meets us in the mess, and I know I resonated well with what she shared with us. Jesus doesn’t wait until we’ve figured it out or gotten our lives in order. No. He meets us right where we are, right as we are.
Now, maybe your experience is different from mine, but I can tell you that my life did not become perfect when I decided to follow Jesus. In many ways, it became way more complicated. I still get sick from time to time. I still grumble about paying taxes. Things break in my house at inconvenient times. I have broken relationships. While I recognize that this is all normal life – we all have struggles – I know that there is this place within my heart yearning for it all to be made right. There is this place where I expect this isn’t all there is, and that maybe there is a coming home that will finally take away the pain and brokenness and hatred and death.
Do you all remember Ron Popeil? Do you remember his infomercials? Popeil made massive sums of money on selling slicers, dicers, dehydrators, rotisserie grills, and more to millions of us through his commercials. I read a story about him this week that he once sold over $1,000,000 of his Ronco Showtime Rotisserie in one hour on QVC. The man was a marketing genius. He popularized phrases like, “It slices. It dices,” and “Set it and forget it.” You might think this costs $400. No. Not $300. Not $250. Not even $200. This Ronco Showtime Rotisserie could be yours for four easy monthly payments of $39.95. Call right now and we’ll throw in…
But Popeil popularized one other phrase that has been ringing through my ears this Advent – “But wait! There’s more!”
Advent is that same reminder. But wait! There’s more! Sick of the wars? Tired of the politics? Do you ever wonder if this is really it? Advent calls out to us – But wait! There’s more!
That space in your heart that cries out “But wait! There’s more!” is what Blaise Pascal called “The God-shaped hole” in all our hearts.” St. Augustine once proclaimed, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” There is a yearning inside us that only finds fulfillment when we let Christ come home in our hearts and lives. I can just picture Jesus sitting on the edge of our lives this Advent looking in at our mess, smiling, and whispering in our ear, “But wait! There’s more!”
That hunger within each of us can only be satisfied by God. The risk of this season is that we flock to the Christmas lights like moths to the flame, only to be satisfied with the good things like family meals, presents under the tree, the happy return of your family from out of town, or a cup of cocoa after some time spent out in the snow. I love all of these things, but they are merely pointers to the great thing God is doing among us. It is one thing to have arrived safely at home for some nurture and warmth, and it is wholly another to use that nurture to push forward into the deeper mysteries and dreams of what God truly has for each of us and for the entire cosmos.
Before I go any further in today’s sermon, I want to share a little story with you. When Jess and I were engaged and planning our wedding, we knew we wanted to do something significant spiritually to help us prepare for life together. So we pulled out our calendar and counted 150 days before our wedding day. When we were 150 days away, we started reading a psalm a day with each other – in person or over the phone. How romantic is that? Or at least, are you shocked that we both are ordained pastors now? Anyway, I can distinctly remember the night we read Psalm 85 together. I remember it because it was the first time I was knocked upside the head by the end of the psalm. I can remember thinking, “How can righteousness and peace kiss, but wouldn’t that be an amazing world we lived in if that were the reality?” And now, here I am almost two decades later, still enamored with Jess and still struck by this Psalm. God is good, friends.
Psalm 85 gives us that picture of something more, the image of what we feel in our bones that we’ve been missing but can’t quite put our finger on. It begins where Jill’s sermon was last week – in the mess. God shows up in the mess and does some straightening. “Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin” (Psalm 85:1-2). That would have been enough. But wait! There’s more! It’s not just that God did a little fixing here and there. No. God brings salvation, but salvation is way bigger than sprucing up some individual sins here and there and promising heaven to some people some day. No, salvation is so much more. It’s a future hope, but it’s a present reality. The images in the final verses of the Psalm come raining down on God’s people. They are immersive and overwhelming. Steadfast love comes rushing in from stage left. Faithfulness flies in from stage right to collide with steadfast love. Righteousness – that desire for justice, for the crooked to become healed – finds its life partner in peace – God’s shalom, God’s wholeness offered. They are so enraptured with each other that they exchange a climactic kiss on center stage. Geysers of faithfulness erupt from the ground. Justice rains down from the sky. This is the reality that we yearn for. This is life in full color, when we dwell in a black and white world. This, this is what God is up to even now in this Advent.
This psalm and Advent are both about the intersection of heaven and earth.
I’ve had intersections more on my mind lately because I am the proud father of a Level 1 driver. Nothing can really prepare you for handing the keys to your child, can it? Now, thankfully, our daughter has made things pretty easy on us. She is conscientious and careful. But I have a whole new appreciation for four-way stops now that I’m in the passenger seat with her. I swear my blood pressure goes way up every time we get to the intersection at Robbins and Sheldon, not because she doesn’t know what to do. No, she’s doing the right thing. But – holy cow! – it seems like most of the drivers around here use that intersection as a game of chicken. It’s as though they’re saying, “I dare you to stop me from going right now even though it’s really your turn!” These intersections aren’t giving me much peace, and I imagine they’ll feel even worse when it’s the boys’ turn to learn how to drive.
Sometimes intersections can be much more delightful and surprising. When I was a junior in college, I studied in London, England, with 17 other peers. We spent a ton of time with each other for those six months, but when we graduated a year later, we really didn’t see much of each other. Several years later Jess and I happened to be in New York City riding the subway, when onto the very car we were riding in steps one of my classmates from that London semester. I hadn’t seen her in years. (She’d become an actress in New York City.) I haven’t seen her since, but our lives so randomly intersected for those brief moments, leading to a glad reunion and a reminder that life really can be quite surprising and delightful.
Of course, there are times when we plan intersections, like returning to our families for the holidays. Sure, on one level we do this with some sense of obligation, but I think there are deeper reasons for why we make plans for our lives to intersect in this way at this time of year. I think we do this because these times remind us that life has a deeper meaning than our day-to-day schedules allow for. I think we do this because we have a yearning inside of us for deeper connections to others. And I think we do this because the connection to the holidays gives us a glimpse of that something greater that stirs within our souls and that we want to experience and share with others.
These intersections are calling out to us: But wait! There’s more!
We stand today in the place were heaven and earth intersect. We can see this clearly in the birth and promised coming again of Jesus. We experience it in communion, where Jesus feeds us at his table. We sometimes may feel it in the beauty of music, where, in the words of David Crowder, “heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss.” Do you feel that reverence humming within you? Can you sense that something more?
This Advent, I pray that God will wash over all of us with the glories of the beauty and mystery of this season. I hope each of can experience the salvific grace of the coming Christ, as though we are standing in the place where steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace wash over us from all directions, as we realize that there is an answer available for that something more we’ve been missing, and that answer is found in giving ourselves over to the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
The word is clear today. It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but Jesus stands here today and says, “But wait! There’s more!” May we all live expecting more this season, and may we be part of the way God fills the world with peace and steadfast love this Advent.