Luke 21: 25-38
Wednesday night, just gone, I had a particularly bad night’s sleep and at 4am I found myself forming a sermon for this morning. Pretty pleased with myself for completing this task so early in the week I fell back to sleep with a smug grin. It was an ok sermon as well – advent is about waiting, I don’t like waiting, what things shall we do while we’re waiting – that was the kind of gist of it. Pretty solid. Maybe I’ll save it for next year, I certainly cant preach it today because on Thursday morning I woke up to some awful news from back home and it resonates so deeply with this morning’s apocalyptic gospel reading that I knew a complete rewrite had to be in order…
‘There will be … confusion by the roaring of the sea and the waves’, Jesus said
On Wednesday afternoon, this week, at 2pm GMT – just as we were beginning what for me was that sleepless night, 28 people died in the English Channel, while trying to cross from Calais to the UK in a small inflatable boat – the biggest loss of life by drowning in the Channel in many years. The BBC reported 27 deaths: 17 men, 7 women, 3 children, but there was also an unborn child, because one of those women was pregnant and that child’s life counts, and was lost too, so the number is 28. Two of the passengers survived, and only one of those who died has so far been identified: 24-year-old Maryam Nuri Mohammed Amin – a Kurd from Northern Iraq, who was travelling to the UK to surprise her fiancé.
She messaged him as the dinghy began to lose air and sink. She told him the boat was deflating and they were trying to get the water out of it. He said, ‘she was trying to reassure me in her last message and give me hope that the authorities were on their way to rescue them, but the help came too late’.
She was trying to give him hope.
‘There will be distress’ Jesus said
On Thursday, this week, it was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the start of a campaign called 16 Days in WA.
16 days in WA draws inspiration from the global movement for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence to create change in culture, behaviour and attitudes that lead to violence against women and their children. Politicians took to social media with their slogan ‘don’t be silent when you see violence’, to encourage ordinary residents, like us, to speak up when we see violence or disrespect towards women. They want to bring hope to those women and children who are trapped in domestic violence, or controlling relationships. They want to give hope that there is a way out.
Today is the first Sunday of advent and our theme is hope.
Friends, there are some truly horrific things happening in our world today; I don’t need to tell you that. Climate change, global warming, war, racism, oppression, the buying and selling of humans, huge inequality between the rich who just get richer and the poor who die of their poverty. There’s injustice all around, and there is prevalence of fear; total gut wrenching, crippling fear.
People are fleeing for safety and are dying in their attempts. And in the 21st century we are still having to educate people, or commit ourselves, to speak up against violence and disrespect where we see it. It beggars belief.
And yet, I can’t get away from hope! I can’t move without being bombarded by the blessings of the creator. Just like the fig tree in this morning’s gospel, so hope is sprouting her own leaves everywhere I look. She is all over the place and she is a magnet, a real draw, irresistible in her approach and totally beguiling!
People are being drawn to our community and are encountering the source of all Love. We are recognising afresh that we are standing on holy ground here and this is a place where healing and wholeness spring up, even through the cracks in solid concrete, and there is nothing we can do to tame it or to stop it. I am thankful for that which has gone before and al that has led to this point – the good and the bad. I am grateful for the hard slog you lot have put in. And I am hopeful, so hope-filled for our future together because I feel like, what we are waiting for here is a time of rejoicing, a time of jubilee. ‘Our redemption is near’ – that’s what Jesus calls it. I can’t help feeling absolute hope, even in the midst of some real shit.
Hope is a fierce beast.
She texts her frantic fiancé, saying help is on the way.
She refuses to be silent in the face of violence.
She flees abusive partners when her life is in danger.
She turns a convict-built hostile place, designed as an asylum for women, into a glorious vibrant arts centre (I discovered that piece of heaven on earth this week too!).
And she stands, defiant, when the dangers and difficulties and darkness of this world threaten to overwhelm her.
‘When these things begin to take place’, Jesus says, ‘stand up and raise your heads’
My 4am sermon was right – advent is a time of waiting. But it was also so wrong. It’s not a time where we need to fill the space of that waiting with all this activity. It is a space in time where we need to simply stand. Stand up. Raise your heads. Hope is coming. Hope is on its way. And hope will not disappoint us.
And if hope leads us into action, all the better. If hope encourages us to speak out or speak up or make change or resist change then go with it. Let hope take you by the hand and lead you in the paths she walks.
And as we encounter those who are without hope right now, may we offer ourselves to be bringers of it.
Stand up, raise your heads, hope is drawing near. Amen.