Holy Hawks + Saintly Squirrels

Sermon for Second Sunday of Advent Year A + December 5, 2010

I heard the hawk before I saw it.  The majestic bird swooped down and in a flash of feathers and the pained cries of the squirrel it was over in an instant.  The morning fog still hovering on the frost covered lawn.  The sun casting shadows of the gothic stone building with the cross on the highest peak backlit in the brightening December sun.

Time, in Advent seems to stand still some days.  Other days time flies.  Some days we feel like the hawk and other days like the squirrel…

We go to work or school under grey skies and return home in utter darkness.  Our time filled with December commitments and decisions to make… 

  • Who do I send Christmas cards to this year? 
  • What do I do about all the things on my “to do” list and not enough time? 
  • When will I get all that shopping done? 
  • Where will I spend the holiday this year? 

Time stands still when we are overwhelmed by it all…

  • We want to run away. 
  • We want our time to be easier. 
  • We want things to be like they used to be. 
  • We want and long for simpler times. 
  • We want to be free without a care in the world, to have the time to fly through the morning air or scamper through the tree-tops and lawns of our lives, free from fear and full of hope.

Advent is for most of us, all about time.  It is a season, a time of year when time and our patient longing for it fill our days.  The time some long for, is more time.  The greedy, selfish want of more. 

  • More time to do more things. 
  • More time to make more. 
  • More time to fill the emptiness that seems to consume more and more of us. 

There are times we feel like the ravenous hawk and other times we feel like the chased, killed and consumed squirrel.

 +          +          +

There are times when we realize or remember that we are fallen from grace… 

  • When we see the brokenness we are a part of, the pain we cause, the destruction we cause. 
  • When we realize that the feathers of destruction on the blood splattered lawns of our lives are of our own doing. 
  • When over time we see or sense how our hope is killed by the sin of our hawkish nature. 

There are times when we realize or remember that we are fallen from grace… 

  • When we selfishly store-up our prized acorns or spend our time foolishly chasing our tails. 
  • When we greedily squirrel things or ourselves away for another time out of fear or out of greed. 
  • When over time we see or sense how our hope slips away by the sin of our squirrely nature. 

 There are times when we realize or remember that we are fallen from grace… 

  •  When we realize that we are dead to the needs of others and remember the sins that consume us.
  • When we fail to be grounded by God in faith communities, we feel uprooted by the uncertainty of our relationships, jobs and future.
  • When we feel as dead as a stump, cut down in our prime, diminished by disease, or dormant, hope numbed by the cold and darkness of our lives. 

There are times and these are those times, when we need time to repent, time to see and hear of the time to come, time of God…

  • When we are freed from our hate-filled hawkish nature.
  • When we are freed from our self-centered squirrely nature. 
  • When we are freed from human time constraints, from human divisions, from human violence.

Time when God’s presence fills the air and all creation.  Time when we see, hear and worship God with us, the risen one, the sustaining one who fills our lives with the one peace, with the one hope so that we live and know the Holy One, the Holy Three.

+         +          +

There was a time when God’s people were divided.  They lived in a northern kingdom, called Israel and a southern one called Judah.  Israel is being oppressed by Assyria, while Judah and its capital Jerusalem are unstable.  The prophet Isaiah has been critical of Jerusalem, calling out its king for a lack of faith.  Isaiah is trying to stir up hope that God will dramatically change their circumstances through the advent of a new king.  He describes this king in a hopeful way, remembering their glory days under King David some 400 years earlier.

So Isaiah preps Israel for the new David who will be more than a king.  He will be a radical bringer of peace and hope, a Messiah… 

  • Who will bring wisdom and peace. 
  • Who will bring comfort and fairness to the powerless. 
  • Who will bring down the self-serving, the wicked, and the powerful who pollute our world with hatred.

Isaiah reminds Israel that David was the son of Jesse and tells them about how of a shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse.  This shoot is a new branch of the family tree, a tree that has been dormant, a dead looking stump, all that remains of a once-glorious tree.  Most people pull-up or grind down stumps, few take the time, or have the patience to wait for the promise of new growth from an unsightly and unseemly source.

But God does things in God’s time, in God’s ways.  Time and ways that for us happen in places and forms that seem unlikely, that are often hidden, that we often overlook.  But time and ways that show forth the love of God, the promises of peace, and the time of hope that the Advent of God will bring.

Listen to the time and ways of God spoken through Isaiah…

  • On that day, a shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
  • He shall not judge by what he sees, or decide by what his ears hear,
  • but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.
  • He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Isaiah shares this vision of a new leader sprouting from what appears to be a dead stump, all that remains of David’s family tree.  The new branch that springs forth will bring about a new Creation.  The new creation rooted in the Messiah will be where justice and peace challenge what we see, how we think, and what we think we know about the realities of our time. 

The new creation will change the time and ways of how things are…

  • The wolf shall live with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
  • The calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
  • The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lay down together.

Even the great theologian and cartoonist Charles Schultz shares this radical vision of Isaiah.  In a great comic strip, Snoopy is lying on his red doghouse, marveling at the season.  His head is filled with a vision of bunnies and beagles, natural foes from birth, lying down peacefully together.  Even though we may see these images from Isaiah as just the stuff of cartoons, God speaks through the prophet, Snoopy, and the lives of you and me each day.

There are times when we see ourselves as the hawk, our lives bearing the bloodstains of sin, our days revealing the reality of our brokenness, our nights haunting the hatred of our hearts. 

There are times when we see ourselves as the squirrel, our lives serving the selfishness of self, our days hoarding the harvest of our greed, our nights screaming the scarcity of our souls.

There are times when we find ourselves in December… when we see that the lawn is covered in frost… when we realize that we are filled with longing as we wait… 

  • For the Advent of everything, of all that we wait for.
  • For the Messiah wondering who for us today, are the beagles and the bunnies, the wolves and the lambs, the leopards and the kids, the hawks and the squirrels.
  • For the promised hope, the peace Isaiah shares, the branch of grace to sprout, to become flesh, to live among us, to die for us, to save us, to be with us in this time, and for all time. 
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