My parents were here for Thanksgiving.
They traveled all the way out here for a full 3 days, and got to experience most of what Kansas City has to offer. We went to many restaurants (including Joe’s KC for BBQ). We went to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and the WWI museum. I gave them a driving tour of the Plaza, all lit up. And they tried in vain to figure out where Kansas was.
(“It’s across that street.” “It can’t be! That’s a neighborhood!” “Yes. That’s Kansas.” “In a neighborhood?! With different license plates and everything?!” “Yes. Because it’s Kansas.” “But where’s the river?” etc.)
They also got to hear me preach, which doesn’t happen all that often.
Preaching (or doing anything, really) in front of one’s own family is rough. Jesus wasn’t lying with that crack about prophets not having honor in their own hometown. The trouble with your own hometown is that this is the town that conflates grownup, professional you with the you who once was madly in love with Beanie Babies.
Here’s what I said.
Rev. Megan L. Castellan
November 28,-29, 2015
Advent 1, Year B
The good news which I have for you this day, is that whatever odd little subgroup of humanity you may belong to, TLC has a reality show spotlighting you! Yea and verily, TLC has shows about people in over-large families, people who compete in child beauty pageants, people who have multiple wives at the same time, little people, little people who then get married, people who obsess over strange things, people who have psychic experiences while living in Long Island, and people who experience regrettable tattoos, and people who are mall cops.
It’s a veritable cornucopia of the strangeness of humanity.
And, then, there is a whole OTHER subgenre of people who are concerned that the end of the world is upon us–the preppers.
These are a group of people who are collecting supplies to prepare for the end of society as we know it–usually canned goods, potable water, generators, ammunition, things like that. And not surprisingly, they are not generally a cheerful bunch–mostly, they grimly await the chaos they expect. In fact, as I was researching this, the star of the biggest prepper show was arrested and put in jail on weapons charges.
To these folks, the end is something you have to prepare for grimly, by cutting yourself off from everyone else, and hunkering down. Since the worst is coming, best to minimize the damage to yourself, so that you can survive. Everyone else can just fend for themselves.
That’s one way to go, certainly.
Probably not the Christian way, however.
In the gospel. we’re again in an apocalyptic section, where Jesus is again talking to the disciples about what’s going to happen to them. Or, to be more precise–he’s talking to the community that Luke’s gospel is written to about what is currently happening to them–lots of scary things involving Roman persecutions and the fall of the Jerusalem Temple. And again, it sounds scary to us.
But, I would like to point out that at no point in any of his apocalyptic diatribes does Jesus recommend building a bunker. Or stockpiling food. Or retreating to the desert. (That was John the Baptist, and he didn’t last long.)
Jesus, on the other hand, says that when you see all this horrible stuff happening, look up! Lift up your head! Get ready! Because your salvation is coming.
Be on guard, and don’t be weighted down with worries of this life. Because that day is coming unexpectedly.
Don’t move out to a cave, and give up on the world. The kingdom of God is still near you. Right now.
They must have thought he was nuts.
Where’s the kingdom of God when our temple is being destroyed? Where’s the kingdom of God when Caesar is hauling us off to the lions? Where is my nice cave when I need it?
The kingdom of God, though, doesn’t emerge in a cave. Or in a bunker. Or in a top-secret, super-safe facility in an undisclosed location. The kingdom of God emerges in community. Where two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ, and when we share together the love of God. That’s what the kingdom looks like, and that, we cannot do if we choose to hide in a corner, away from the world.
The kingdom of God does not come apart from the world, with all its chaos, and its turmoil–the kingdom comes in the very middle of of all of that mess. Unlikely as it feels.
So, our response as Christians to when the world seems about to turn upside down cannot be to beat a hasty retreat to the nearest cave. Or to batten down the hatches in fear and ride out the storm. We cannot let fear run our lives, and cut ourselves off from each other and from the world God made and loves.
Our response when everyone around us cries that The End is Near! must be to dig in our heels, and take the gospel even more seriously. We must give even more generously, do even more good, seek even more after mercy and justice. We must remember even more deeply to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. We have to care for each other even more. And maybe it is foolish, and maybe it is risky, and maybe it is even a bit dangerous–but it is in the times when the world seems the most dangerous when it most needs the kindness that Christ teaches.
It’s the beginning of Advent today, though we’re disguising the color a bit, due to another mass shooting. But honestly, I think our red/blue mix is appropriate. Because, contrary to what Hallmark tells us each year, Christ didn’t come into a peaceful world. It wasn’t a settled world, with everything perfect, Mary, Joseph just hanging out lazily with some picturesque hipster shepherds.
That world was a mess, too. It was violent–there were wars, rebellions, prejudice, and disease. Jesus would become a refugee before his second birthday. It’s not so different from our world. And, in fact, believe it or not, there were quite a few sects of Jews who were all about hiding in caves and waiting for the end of the world back then. That’s how bad it was.
But it was right in the middle of that mess that Christ came. In the mud, in the straw, in the dirt and heartbreak.
And that is where he sends us too.
So, be strong. Lift up your heads. The kingdom of God is near!