Recent Sermons

Sermon 3 Dec 2017 Advent 1 

Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 13:24-37; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37


The Incredible Promise


Happy Advent to all of you this morning.  Today is the beginning of a new year in the church.  Since it is the beginning of the church year and Jesus is talking about the end of times, I would like to outline for you the physics of the end of time.  Our universe is about 14 billion years old give or take a few million years and our planet is about five billion years old.  Our sun has burned about half of its helium fuel so that in another five billion years, the helium will be gone and the sun will no longer burn its fuel.  The gravitational tug of war against the outward pressure of nuclear reactions will give way and our sun will become a red giant star which, is the most common type of star in the universe.  Now here’s the problem.

The immense pressure from the heat will exceed the gravitational pull so the radius of the sun’s surface will explode outward.   in a week or two the sun’s surface will engulf the inner planets: first mercury, venus, the earth and finally mars.  Our planet will be engulfed and vaporized by a still very hot sun that glows a dull red from what is called blackbody radiation.   But here’s another possibility.

The universe is expanding.  Distant stars recede from us at speeds a fraction of the speed of light.  Space itself is being stretched like a rubber sheet.  Yes, the fabric of space is expanding faster than most people can comprehend.  In about a trillion years give or take, every particle in the universe will have cooled to absolute zero.  There will be no gravitational attraction between anything because everything is too far apart.  There will be no heavenly bodies.  Only lonely subatomic particles wandering randomly.  It will be a cold, lonely, dark universe.  Maybe Jesus was right.

“In those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

He makes this prediction just before he begins his final journey to Jerusalem and the cross.  At a time when everyone is talking about parties and shopping and hearing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” at the shopping mall and at church, we come to our Episcopal Church and hear this unhappy prediction.  What chance does this text have against the pretty lights and manufactured cheer at all the big stores?

Advent is the season when those people attending an Episcopal Church who did not come from an Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian or Roman Catholic background simply cannot comprehend what we are doing or why.  One time I had a Methodist join our church in the spring.  He became very excited and active.  After Christmas, he returned to his Methodist church.  When I asked him why, he said that he wanted to hear happy Christmas music in church during Advent.  Instead, he heard gospels like this and “O Come Emmanuel.”

Here is why we do it.  Advent is the season of TWO comings:  The birth of the baby Jesus AND the coming of Christ at the end of time to judge us.  Will the end of time be when the red-giant sun turns our planet into a crispy critter?  Or will it be the real end of time much later when everything cools down to a frozen (absolute zero) lonely, dark vacuum?  It really doesn’t matter.  All human souls will have passed gently into that dark night where a million years is like one step on a hiking trip.

We are told to keep awake now.  We have no idea when the end is coming.  Is it the hour of our own passing?  Or is it one of the cosmic endpoints I mentioned earlier?  We don’t know, but we DO know that judgement day is coming.  God will hold up that mirror to us and we can see in it exactly how God sees us.  In one mirror we see who we are in this life and in the other mirror, we can see who God created us to be.  It is the difference of those two images that can break our heart – the mistakes, the things we are not proud of, the missed opportunities, the pain we gave others – all there for us to see.

And then, in the midst of our tears as we are confronted with the reality of our life, we hear the incredible promise Jesus made so long ago.  It rings in our ears as if he were standing right there.  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Remember that God created this beautiful universe by speaking, “let there be light” and the universe exploded from nothingness into today.  And the Gospel of John begins with “In the beginning of all time, in fact, before time began, was the Word, and the Word was good, and the Word was God.”  God’s Word creates and more importantly, it forgives.


  1. S. Elliot said that “In our end is our beginning.” In that final judgment, we will see God face to face, as a friend and not a stranger. And God will tell us that all that pain we caused, and all those mistakes are wiped away.  This is why our burial service concludes with “Enter the blessed rest and company of the saints in light.”  We are finally home and we are forgiven – no matter what.


That is the incredible promise Jesus gives us