First Lesson: Jeremiah 33: 14-16
Responsive Reading: Psalm 25: 1-10
Second Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13
Gospel Lesson: Luke 21: 25-36
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to tell you a Thanksgiving story involving a Northern Minnesota family the Peterson's. The Peterson’s family probably isn’t too different from your own family. You had the uncle who drank too much at Thanksgiving dinner and made all sorts of inappropriate comments. You have the nephew who’s every step around the house threatened to knock something valuable over. The Peterson’s had their arguments about politics and their petty jealousies that they hoped wouldn’t explode. All that people didn’t say about Grandpa Peterson’s will was probably for the best.
There was one member of the Peterson family that created emotions like no one else in Bubba. Bubba was in his early 40’s with blonde hair and scruffy facial hair that stayed in relatively good shape. Bubba had a pretty wife who submitted to his every word and three very blonde daughters. Bubba was a religious man. Bubba attended a Bible college, was a Deacon at his local Evangelical Free Church and quoted the scriptures whenever he got a chance. You very well might have a family member like Bubba.
When the Peterson family got together this year: Bubba had plenty of things that he wanted to talk, I mean to preach about gay marriages, ISIS and a society that got less and less Christian with each passing year. Whenever you got Bubba going, he would always point to some world leader being the newest version of the Anti-Christ. Whenever Bubba spoke, he was convinced that all these things of which he spoke pointed to a reality that the world would soon be coming to an end. A funny thing about all of Bubba’s talking is that very little of it centers around grace, forgiveness, or salvation. Bubba’s talking all implies that if someone is a real Christian that what they better do is shape-up or ship out.
Now most people in the room would try to get Bubba to change the subject waiting for Pumpkin Pie to be served. There were a few members of the Peterson family though that hung on every word of Bubba’s preaching with great fear and trembling. The thing about Bubba, his critiques of the world, were such that people were going to listen to him.
Human nature quickly convinces itself that life is no longer worth living at any number of moments. For some, their life might be over when their spouse vanishes one morning never to return again. For others, life is over when they receive a medical diagnosis letting them know that their life will never be the same again. For others, their life might be over when their employer can no longer issue them a paycheck. For others, life’s end seems to be nearer witnessing a culture whose moral failings seem darker day by day.
People like Bubba realize that the Bible talks about the end even more then it tells about the beginning. Jesus talks about the end quite a bit within his ministry. One of the most famous speeches that Jesus gives about the end is the Parable of the Fig Tree.
“For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”-Luke 21:35-36
Jesus within this parable is seeking to remind his audience of the nature of upheaval within this world.
Let me tell you the story of Raymond and Dawn. Raymond was a terrific engineer who made a very nice living. Raymond was president of his church council and active with the local Lions’ club.
Raymond was able to retire soon after his 58th Birthday. Dawn and Raymond had made all sorts of grandiose plans to travel the world together. The future was bright till something strange started happening to Raymond, his usually sharp memory began forgetting things one after another. Raymond goes to the doctor who diagnoses him with early onset Dementia. Within a year, Raymond can’t find his way home from the store. Within two years, Dawn is unable to take care of Raymond. Within three years, Raymond is unable to recognize Dawn. Within four years, Raymond has passed. Dawn’s hope and dreams are no looking very different than years before. What this story reminds us is that even our greatest of optimisms can be crushed within a moment.
The community of faith that Jesus is addressing in our Gospel lesson for today is not unlike Christians like Bubba and Dawn. They are struggling nearly every day of their existence with the question of when Jesus will come back to make the world right and whole once again. Jesus chooses a unique image to address this problem in a “fig tree”. The significance of Jesus talking about the “fig tree” is the fig tree’s budding is a reminder that summer is around the corner. The fig tree budding is similar to the signs in the sun, moon, and stars that remind us that our God has not forgotten a broken world.
The reality is within the course of our lives that we will encounter some Bubbas. Bubba might be a family member, Bubba might be a next-door-neighbor, or Bubba might be a preacher at a funeral.
What we can say to Bubba is that there is plenty in this world in which we grieve. We see power abused every day by those who cling to it. We see no evidence of any utopia coming on the horizon. What we do cling to in this world is hope. Our hope is found that in as many terrible things as we experience in this life: wars, persecutions, earthquakes, and all sorts of nasty death. These things might seem to be the definition of hopeless events, yet within them we find hope. Our hope is found that Our Lord is present in these very moments of intense personal pain. When Jesus speaks to us today he is not seeking to predict the future, but rather he is attempting to state the truth of life as we know it.
The problem with Bubba is he only sees life in the present in all the ways that we fall short. Bubba assumes that Jesus Christ is not here yet, but will soon be returning. When in reality, Christ Jesus is present pointing us towards God’s future. Christ Jesus is in our present when we are baptized into his death within the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Christ Jesus is present when we receive his supper reminding us that our lives cannot be apart from the presence of death, but that one day this death shall give way to resurrection. Christ Jesus is present at the very moments of our greatest weakness pointing us towards the hope of his Gospel through Word and Sacrament.
One interesting thing that we should note about the Bible is one of the most common phrases within is “Do Not Be Afraid.” Jesus says these words when walking on water; Jesus says these words when encountering his disciples immediately after his resurrection. God says these words to Abram right before delivering unto him his covenant. Our God knows your fears and anxieties. Our God gives us the signs of water, wine, and wheat to remind us that the world will once again be alright.
On this day as Christian people, we begin our Advent season. What we remember is that our religion is not obsessed with everything wrong in the present. We have more important battles to fight than over Thanksgiving turkey. Our religion consists of looking towards the future. We are not a people of life than death, but rather a people of life then death then finally resurrection.
What we remember on this day is “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”- Luke 21:33.
We take confidence that the Lord’s words assure us that our mission goes way beyond trying to save the world from all the ways that it falls as Bubba imagines. Our mission is not to attempt to recreate the world in our own image. Our mission is rather to bring broken, imperfect people the love of Jesus Christ.
As we gather around Thanksgiving tables this weekend, we see that people out there are getting more and more broken every day as they see the ways that they seemingly don’t measure up. The truth is Christmas is coming soon around the corner. People that are close and dear to you are going to have bad things happen to them. What we will have to remind them is although the world has changed, it is certainly not over. Our Lord is present not only in this place but their suffering. What this presence is seeking to remind us is though which may appear to be dead shall soon be resurrected.
“Weeping may endure for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.”-Psalm 30:5
 Inspired by Harrison Goodman post “Sometimes I Wanna Punch Norman Rockwell in the Mouth” . Lutheran Pastor Says Blog. 20.Nov.2014. Web. Nov.25.2015.
 This paragraph was inspired by Chad L. Bird’s “The Church of Chicken Little” . Flying Scroll: Musings and Poetry of Chad L. Bird. Nov.20.2015. Web. 23. Nov.2015.
 Luke 21:35-36
 Lose, David. “Commentary on Luke 21:25-36”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. 29.Nov.2009. Web. Nov.25.2009
 Capon, Robert Farrar. Kingdom, Grace, and Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus. Eerdman’s Publishing. Grand Rapids, MI. 2002. Pages 479-483.
 Lewis, Karoline. “Why Advent”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul. 22.Nov.2015. Web. Nov.23.2015
 Bird, Chad L. “The Church of Chicken Little”.