Sermon by Pastor Joel Crouse
Second Sunday of Advent
December 10, 2023
Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13;
2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8 (Blue)
With God, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.
On Wednesday, this country remembered a tragedy, now 34 years old, a cold and terrible night in Montreal, when a gunman stormed into Ecole Polytechnique. Fourteen students died that night. They died not because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They died because they were women, and it was that simple. On that night, we became a country in which things like that can happen.
This week was a time to take a measure, to run a line from that night in Montreal and see where we are today. For many women, that measure was not great, it was not so different, it was a mix of tepid optimism and heavy-weighted disappointment. We are still having many of the same old conversations – about consent; about how to handle violence against women, both in society and in the courts; about stereotypes we are trying to reset as parents for our sons and daughters. Some of those conversations are happening in new places. The internet is a place of thoughtful debate, idea-sharing, and support that did not exist in 1989. But you don’t have to travel very deep into cyberspace to find where the shadows hide the same virulent attitudes that led Marc Lepine into the school on December 6th.
It was a thousand years ago. It was a day ago.
I have spent a good part of my adult life in hospitals, caring for the sick and comforting the bereaved. I have watched and listened to families of loved ones get another dismal update about the conditions their loved ones are fighting, or trying to manage as if it were some intruders banging at the front door. Time shifts and settles and sends people into yet another new reality.
They go from anger to grief to disbelief. And then to resolve and to focus. And the one being faced with their mortality is thrown from wall to wall emotionally, trying not to waste the time they have left. And the people surrounding them are also in an emotional ball of confusion, trying to process what is happening without adding to their loved one’s suffering, and being equally careful not to waste time. For those of you who have been in that space with a loved one, you know.
And it feels as if it happened a thousand years ago. And it feels as if it were a day ago.
In the gospel of Mark, God sends a messenger to prepare the way. John the Baptist is one of my favourite characters in the Bible, perhaps because he is so well drawn. He is the wild presence, the guy living on the edge, the one dumped at the front of the line and ordered to charge into a doubting world with unrelenting conviction.
He’s a bit eccentric, but who wouldn’t be? But for a wild man who ate locusts and honey, there is something so convincing and forceful about his belief – he drags you in beside him. He offers purpose and hope, while discomforting you. And people, as we hear in the gospel, were called to that. Because life is that way – when it’s most uncomfortable, most unreliable, and you need someone solid, someone with sure faith, to hold on to. Someone to offer hope.
And someone to offer comfort. That is the promise of the first lesson of Isaiah. It is easy to say hold on to your faith and everything will be fine. But it is true. For as long as we don’t lose ourselves – the core of who we are, and what we hold as our truths – no matter what happens, it will be fine. We will find a way to move past a massacre to a better society, no matter how many days and years that takes. We will find a way to accept a death and treasure life without becoming a paralyzed mess of what ifs, and if onlys, and never agains.
Faith, by its very nature, is aspirational, – it informs the world we hope to see someday, the people whom we strive to become, the relationship with God we continue to build.
In the second lesson, God reminds us that sometimes we run like wild deer, and time loses its meaning for us. God breaks through our uncertain moments and reminds us how to treasure the time we have been given. God is patient with us. Out of the uncertainty of our lives, God comes to give direction and comfort. We are not the conduit for God. We don’t have to go looking for God. We are the incarnation of God.
With God, a thousand years are like a day. Faith teaches us that as much as time has passed, as many anniversaries as we have seen, we do not give up. We keep working in all the little ways we can – teaching our children the stories that will shape their views later, making different choices ourselves. Our faith should invigorate us to keep going, to get up each morning, however many tries it takes.
For with God, a day is like a thousand years. We know that too well. When we live most closely to the tenets of the faith taught to us by Jesus – when we stop to speak to the metaphorical women at the well, or to aid the bereft on the side of the road, when we speak with love and kindness and are 1gift4good, when we talk to God, a day becomes an eternity -- a collection of hours sharp in details and sounds and alive with faces.
To not lose hope—a thousand years are still alive with the possibility of a single day. To give and receive comfort—a single day with all the life of a thousand years. That is the timeline our faith aspires to achieve. That is the responsibility it places upon us -- especially, when we are called to remember the names of those who no longer have the chance, here on earth, to make one day last for a thousand years. Amen.