22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

Living Fully in the Present Moment

27 November, 2016 Living Fully in the Present Moment Advent 1 By Rev Dr Christopher Page


“Earth's crammed with heaven...But only those who see take off their shoes.”
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Introduction:
This is the first Sunday in Advent. That may come as a surprise for some who thought we were already in Christmas because of the Christmas carols surrounding us in the department stores and supermarkets. Advent has made a bit of resurgence in Protestantism over the last 20 years because our culture has not only embraced Christmas, it has taken it over and consumerised it. I recall some years ago an Australian politician saying that if you love this country spend big at Christmas. Ummm! I don’t think I really want to buy into that ideology (did I just say buy into??) So many, myself included, think that this time before the celebration of Christmas should be a reflective time and not dominated by a spendthrift culture.

Now before you suggest that I am bringing a “humbug” attitude to Christmas, let me say I love the celebrations and yes, even the gifts, depending what I get…just kidding. I think as purveyors of the Christian story we should exploit the message of Christmas, particularly when it centres on “Peace and goodwill toward all people and God’s favour on everyone.” Nevertheless it is good to have this time of preparation so that we can enter more fully into the message of grace, hope and peace that is central to the Christmas celebration. We need to cultivate within ourselves that capacity to wait, reflect and ponder the story and the celebration that we are moving toward.

In the early Church, after Jesus’ presence had subsided, there was a very harsh sense of Jesus being The Christ…The King…The Lord and little of the humanity and personality of Jesus. Have you ever wondered how the parables, the stories, and the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount morphed into the Nicene Creed or the Athanasian Creed? If you have read them you may feel that they lack the blood and bone of the gospel readings. I may be in trouble for saying that…. But as for me, I want the earthiness, the inconsistency and confusion of the original writings. I want their spontaneity and that presentness. Why? Because that is what life is like. It doesn’t matter where it is: in the first, second, or 21st century; the message is best when it is grounded.

It was in the 13th century that the way we began to celebrate the coming of Jesus began to change. Wikipedia suggests that:

The 13th century witnessed a major turning point in the development of a new "tender image of Jesus" within Christianity, as the Franciscans began to emphasise the humility of Jesus both at his birth and his death. The construction of the Nativity scene by Saint Francis of Assisi was instrumental in portraying a softer image of Jesus that contrasted with the powerful and radiant image at the Transfiguration, and emphasised how God had taken a humble path to his own birth.

Advent – Coming and Coming Again….
There are in the gospel story many themes that call each of us to live in a particular way. In the last couple of weeks I have taken a number of funerals in our church. Let me say that many people comment on the sense of the sacred and beauty when they enter this place. On one occasion I had a conversation with someone close to the person who had died. He said he lamented that he had nothing to do with church any longer and he felt that there was something missing from his life. As we talked further, he said, “It’s the narrative I don’t have. A story that is bigger than me and my family that I can live by and that can give me meaning in life.”

I know that we in the church can be critical and feel almost a sense of failure that the story we grew up with has not always been passed on to the next generation. But remember, our culture and those within our culture are truly seeking a story to live by. Ah! But here comes the rub. It may not be the telling of that story with which we are so familiar. Even the passage read today has so little currency in the modern world. It is powerful in its narrative form, but the mythology, the ancient text that supports it, is lost in the 21st century.

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. ….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.

We begin this season of Advent with a peculiar sense that with this coming of the one who brings peace, hope, love and compassion into this world, he has not finished his job and will return. But the return is not dated nor predicted. In fact, as we are perched at the beginning of the 21st century, our mythology is very different. Let me say that this day of return has little to do with a person and everything to do with the present moment:

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.

Did you notice how often the words “you do not know” appear? And the emphasis on staying awake and being aware. May I wander into the controversial for a moment? I think it means stay awake and don’t swallow the ideology of the day. I think it means take humility seriously and recognise that you and I don’t really know the outcomes of this world or the next. And be suspicious of anyone who tells you that they do.

So we begin this Advent season with a disposition of waiting, humility and a pondering of the life we are all living. I take from this reading the need to be awake and aware to the unpredictable and to the coming of God into our lives when we least expect it.

Therefore you also must be ready, for the human one is coming at an unexpected hour.

I have quoted before Paula D’Arcy’s words, “God comes to us disguised as our life.” The hidden, unexpected and unpredictable can be gifts that bring us to life. Even when they come wrapped in strange packages.

I think the only way to be awake is to live completely in the present moment. That is not an easy thing to do. But when faced with the unpredictability of life, that is the only way we can live with meaning. The present moment – being aware and awake - remarkably contains the past and the future. I think that is what the gospel writer is alluding to. The fruit of life past and the seeds of life to come are found in life present.

It was the poet T.S Eliot in his poem the Wasteland, the last poem he wrote before he embraced the Christian faith, who said:

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

This is for us the beginning of the church year, but even here on this first Sunday in Advent and the journey to the Feast of the Nativity, there are the signs of the end. So stay awake, be aware, live fully in the present moment and don’t try to predict how all this will work out. That is in the mind of a loving God. Or as the author Eckhart Tolle wrote:

Realise deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life. Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.

Once again, to sum up: the message of this Advent season is - stay awake, be aware, live in the present moment and don’t try to predict how everything will work out. That is in the mind of a loving God.

Keep up to date with the latest Toorak Uniting news