The Sky is Falling!
First Sunday of Advent Year A, RCL
The sky is falling! The sky is falling! There is an old Dutch children’s tale about a chicken who was pecking at the ground. A nut falls from a tree onto her head, and she believes the sky is falling. Over the last two hundred years, there have been many retellings of this story. It is most commonly known to us as Henny-Penny or Chicken Little. As the story goes, when the nut hits Henny-Penny’s head she goes running to the king to tell him the news. The sky is falling! The Sky is falling! Along the way, she gathers other characters who join in her parade. She collects a duck, a goose, a turkey, a rooster, and finally a fox. The fox convinces the crowd that he knows a shortcut to the king and eventually leads them to a narrow and dark hole. The fox leads the way but stops a short distance in and turns around. As each of the animals follows behind, he snapped off their heads and throughs them over his left shoulder. The rooster goes in with the same fate but since a rooster will always crow, whether you want him to or not, he squawks a final “Cock-a-doodle-doo” before joining the rest. The last one to enter was Henny-Penny but when she heard the rooster’s crow, she thought “it must be morning and time to lay my egg. So she turned round and bustled off to her nest; so she escaped, but she never told the King the sky was falling.” Like so many historic children’s stories and fairy tales, there is metaphor and symbology, just like one of Jesus’ parables. In this case, the message is to warn us not to get wrapped up in the frenzy of others or to not be consumed with unreasonable fear.
I tell this tale because many people who hear today’s Gospel come away from it with an attitude that the sky is falling. Our passage brings fear of the times of Noah; with panic and destruction, being swept away by its waters. There is the imagery of people being taken away while working together. One will be taken, and one will be left. It’s no wonder that some people look at the world around them and claim we are in the end times. But I don’t think this passage was given to us to instill fear. Just the opposite, it was to instill a sense of calm.
Many of the Jewish people of the day were thinking that the world was coming to an end. Life was terrible under the Roman occupation. We can read accounts throughout history of people who believe the world is or was coming to an end. But it hasn’t. Does anyone remember Y2K and the theories of mass destruction? Thinking life is worse now than it was in the past seems to be part of the human psyche, for whatever reason.
Christ is trying to impart a couple of things. First, as I said a couple of weeks ago when the world comes to an end, we will know it. We will see things that have never been recorded in history. Secondly is that if you are in right relationship with God, there is nothing to fear. It is true that this passage is about being vigilant, but not so much for the end times but for our personal relationship with the Lord.
One of the difficulties of Christianity is that there is no specific formula for this relationship. Just like some of your friends who may have wonderful relationships with their spouses, how their relationship works out and how it is characterized may be very different from the way our relationship is lived. Each of us is unique. We each have unique challenges and gifts in life. And like any healthy relationship, there are hallmarks of what is healthy and what is not. Signs of heath are things like humility; saying you’re sorry; trying to be the best person you can be; caring for others; having conversations about what matters; and near the top of this list is trust. We trust our partner or best friend to always have our back. All these things that apply to a healthy relationship with our fellow human beings also apply to our relationship with Christ.
If we can trust that Christ has our back, then we can trust in the promises he makes to us. He promises that we are adopted as God’s children and heirs to the kingdom through our relationship with him. He promises that through him we will be raised up on the last day. He promises that God’s love is abundant and flows to all who are willing to receive it.
It is through this abundance that we find our sustenance; those things that sustain us. Through this abundance, we have plenty, even if we are poor, lonely, or afraid. It doesn’t say we will be or should be comfortable, but that ultimately, we have enough to have a healthy relationship with God our creator.
This shift to thinking about life in abundance is hard. We are bombarded with messages that we don’t have enough or that what we have is inadequate. I think any of us could open a cupboard door and know that we are not going to starve to death. Most of us know that the clothes we have, and the phone in our pocket, are adequate and don’t need to be updated as soon as the next season or next model comes out. This constant barrage of inadequacy can make us feel that we are lacking. Our hair isn’t the right color. My abdomen doesn’t look like a six-pack. I’m not smart enough, good-looking enough, or whatever it is that some company wants us to believe so that we will buy their product. God’s truth stands with us and says you are fine the way I made you.
God also tells us that we have plenty, or should have plenty, in this abundant world. God says if someone doesn’t have enough, it isn’t because of God, for God does not hold back. It is because of society. If you see someone naked, clothe them. If you see someone hungry, feed them. It is our lack of generosity that prevents others from not having enough. If you have a field, don’t harvest the crops along the side of the road. Let those passing by take some for their journey. If you have 100 acres and you leave one row along the side of the road, not harvesting this is probably not going to make you or break you. It won’t even prevent hunger in the world. But it will help those who pass by.
In some ways, this is what I see the Church as being. We don’t live in an agrarian society. Most of us don’t have rows of crops to share. But we can share what we have with others through Grace Church. We can share a small amount of what we have to help each other in our spiritual journey and help those in need. Through the church, each of us can delegate some of our harvest that comes from God’s abundance. And we can delegate some of our time to help others.
The annual stewardship campaign can be a stressful time in many churches. Likely, some of us have been in churches where we hear people saying that “the sky is falling" if we don’t give more money. We may have heard speeches from treasurers speaking about the devastation that will occur by not having a balanced budget. And while these facts on paper may be true, and that the long-term health of a church needs to be managed well, these examples do not demonstrate how God works in our lives or the world. We are called to live into the abundant love of God, trusting that each of us will do our part in the way we can.
Pledging to the church is a faith practice. It is you putting your trust into this community, knowing that we will use the resources we have been given to the best of our abilities to serve God and God’s people. And I trust you in giving what you can. Knowing that you are listening to God’s voice in your heart as to how much you can give to this church in both time, knowledge, and money.