The Corridor: December 2007

The Corridor

We are a church community committed to having an incarnational presence in the Washington/Baltimore Corridor.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Expect the Unexpected

The first Sunday of Advent’s reading for Sunday December 2nd includes Matthew 24:36-44. In this passage Jesus tells his disciples the following:
"But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Advent is not just about looking back at the coming of Christmas, it is about looking forward. In fact even when we look back at the coming of the incarnation through the birth of Christ we are reflecting on how the ancient world looked forward in expectation to the arrival of the messiah, the coming of the Kingdom, and the good news that God would truly be with them. We are reminded in this passage that as followers of Jesus, Immanuel, God incarnate who is with us, that we should still be earnestly anticipating the coming of the Kingdom of God.

I am especially struck by this passage because the words in the narrative come from Jesus himself. Jesus is the embodiment of the Kingdom of God, and he had come to the world. Jesus was literally “God with” the disciples and yet he taught them to pray that the Kingdom would come and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is truly a unique prayer request coming from Jesus especially when you consider that Jesus was the embodiment of God’s will on earth and he was standing among them.

There is this great and wonderful tension between the already and not yet in this passage. When asked by the disciples when the day will come where the Kingdom of God will have the final word, Jesus answers in a way that best keeps that wonderful tension and by this keeps them in the right frame of mind to actually lean into the Kingdom of God in the their current day. The incarnate God tells them to expect the Kingdom of God to come again in an incarnational context. You have to watch for it, because God will show up on the scene in the unexpected places of every day life; working in the field with a coworker, or perhaps while preparing a meal in the kitchen with friend. You have to watch for it because you could easily miss it. Jesus’ story tells us that two could be sharing the same experience and yet one could be ruptured up in it as the Kingdom of God and the other one could miss it all together.

Speaking of being ruptured into the Kingdom; typically this passage is used to teach about “the rapture” and used as a warning not to be “left behind”, but oddly enough I think many of those who are obsessed with “end times” are already left behind because they may be tragically missing the point. When and where will we see the Kingdom of God come? If we are careful to watch, we will see it come in the every day places and everyday things of each day; yet we are instructed to still keep watching for more. We will begin to see it when we become enraptured with the idea of the Kingdom of God coming to us in the here in now.

Jesus said ironically that the days will be as wicked as the days of Noah when the Kingdom comes as people do their own thing without the awareness to recognize that is God there. Yet God is there, and because they were not looking, they were taken by surprised, and missed it. Yes, the days of Noah were bad days, and Jesus talks about suffering and hardship to come as well, and yet it is also in these things in our lives that if we watch we will see the kingdom of God coming in. How unexpected. How more unexpected is it that God would come and be present among a world full of sin and injustice, and ye he did so in Christ. As his followers we should be looking for him to continue to come in this way as we lean into him together as the body of Christ bearing the sins and injustices of the world; and in the midst of this unexpected place look for the Kingdom of God to break in.

I think the point of this passage is to watch, and embrace our every day lives in a way that carries on the incarnation of God through us as the continued work of the body of Christ in the everyday world. I think the point is to watch and see what God will do as we keep praying and looking for the Kingdom of God to break through. I think there is a big difference between looking for the coming of the Kingdom and looking for the “end times”. Many religious people today look for the “end times” as a way to write off and escape the world, but looking for the Kingdom of God is about looking and expecting the Kingdom to break into this world. Which way are you leaning? If you not leaning into the Kingdom of God and watching as it is breaking into this world, even in the context of your everyday life, then you very well may miss it.

Yes, I believe Jesus is coming again and I am looking for him everyday in unexpected places.