Fr David's Sermon
1st December 2002
'From the fig tree learn its lesson.' Mark 13.
Jesus seems to have been a great observer of the natural world, of agriculture and of animal husbandry. What he noted, he used to illustrate his teaching, especially his parables. He knew his hearers would readily identify with his many references drawn from the countryside around him. In today's Gospel, Mark records how Jesus used the lesson of the fig tree, with its green shoots heralding the nearness of Summer, to urge his listeners to look for the coming of the Kingdom of God, and to be awake for signs of the end time.
As autumn gives way to winter it is the bareness of the countryside that strikes us, especially this year when most of the leaf fall took place during one great storm. It is a delight to behold the form of trees denuded of their leaves.
In the Wind in the Willows, Mole sets off into the Wild Wood in winter, into a snowstorm. Kenneth Grahame tells us that Mole 'was glad that he liked the country undecorated, hard and stripped of its finery. He had got down to the bare bones of it, and they were fine and strong and simple.' P32.
That will serve to lead us into Advent. The words find an echo in the stark beauty of the Advent Collect: - ' Give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light…' In Advent the church, the faith, is undecorated, hard and stripped of its finery. We get down to the bare bones of our Christianity. Fine it is, strong and simple. Advent then is a time for recovering our fine, strong and simple faith, a time for renewal.
A good way to do this is to allow God to question us and to spend prayerful time reflecting on our answers. Here are three questions from the Bible.
Those three divine questions are an invitation to enter into a profound conversation with our maker and redeemer. When we embrace them we will know for our selves their converting power. Adam & Eve tried to hide from them and were driven from paradise. They fell from grace. Peter and Bartimaeus answered their questions truthfully, from the core of their being and were changed for ever by their encounter with Christ Life was never the same again, but it was always full of a deep joy, even in the face of the cross and certainly in the presence of their risen Lord.
So let us ask God for grace to embrace those stark, bare Advent questions in the faithful trust that in our answering we will find life in all its fullness. Amen
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Last updated 01/12/2002 12:00:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd