Hancock Church Sermon – Becca Lockwood – December 1, 2013 – Matthew 24:36-44

http://youtu.be/_3–3-NEjGE

 

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 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. 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. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

 

 “Watch Out For Zombies!”

          About a month ago Hancock’s high school youth group, HYG, traveled to another church to participate in a joint youth group activity. The other youth group is led by one of Hancock’s former seminarians Brian Gruhn. Brian had a brilliant idea. He said, let’s have zombie apocalypse.

For those of you who don’t watch TV and flip through the channels …the idea of a zombie apocalypse has in its own way taken over our visual entertainment. There are countless TV shows and movies whose plot line is based on zombies taking over the world.

And so Brian and I asked ourselves, what is a zombie and why is there such a fascination with them? And his brilliant idea went like this: he had his youth group dress up like zombies placed strategically throughout his church building waiting to prey on our youth group. When we arrived at the church we found a few of our HYGers with a note saying that some of Brian’s youth group had been taken by zombies and they needed our help escaping. So we set out to look for them.         There were only a few rules. The important one was if a zombie touched you, you became a zombie, which is often what happens in the zombie TV shows and movies. As we continued, the group would come upon notes along the way instructing us of what to do next and presenting more challenges to face along the way.

Our final clue was in the sanctuary. The clue said, “Love your neighbor.” Now who knows what cures being zombified, but in our activity we said loving them, accepting them, no longer thinking of them as “other” would be a good start. We then gathered and talked as a group about why the idea of a zombie apocalypse has exploded in our pop culture.

Some of the points we touched on were how our consumer driven economy is slowly numbing each of us. How our culture has been formed around the very idea that we can never have enough, and that only when we consume can we be happy and alive. We talked about what being a part of this culture means. We said maybe the zombie fascination is a reflection on what we have become or what we will look like if we continue on this never-ending consumer-driven path.

The metaphor of a zombie apocalypse is in many ways perfect, for all a zombie does and indeed is capable of doing, is consuming. It cannot feel, it cannot think, all it does is consume. Zombies are the walking dead. It is unaware of its surroundings, unaware that there are other zombies, other people around. It has become infected with the desire to consume.

In our scripture passage this morning, on this first Sunday of Advent, we are told to be watchful and prepared for the coming of the Son of Man. During the season of Advent we prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of God.

In these next four weeks we are reminded of what the birth of Jesus means. We are reminded of the promise God has made to us. And with open aching hearts we wait for God to make good on this promise.

The promise that the coming of the Son of Man means the end of oppression, injustice, and violence. It means the fruition and completion of God’s creation.

Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons at the end of the second century once said, “A creature fully alive is the glory of God.” What does this say, then, about our consumer-driven, life-depleting culture? Where is the glory of God? I don’t know if you have noticed, but depression seems to be gaining ground in our population. General unhappiness and dissatisfaction is becoming more and more common, leading to a population that is apathetic and indifferent.

Part of the difficulty with this economic structure is that it is designed to keep us always participating. We cannot fully disconnect ourselves from it unless we want to live off the grid. We become entranced by this beautifully packaged lie that tells us we will be happy as soon as we buy the next new piece of technology or article of clothing. And just as soon as we’ve bought whatever it is, we’re on the hunt again, our thirst never fully quenched. It is as if we think we have been running a race, only to find that we have been strapped to a treadmill the whole time, going nowhere.

Consuming for the sake of consuming is a lost virtue, and it nearly always leads to the oppression of someone else in some way. And even more significantly it leads us to treat our fellow brothers and sisters in a disposable manner. Pope Francis in his most recent document, The apostolic exhortation, speaks to this same issue, and while he manages to do so without referring to a zombie apocalypse, I have no doubt he was thinking about it. He says, “The worship of the ancient golden calf … has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose…Such an economy kills…Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric.”

Everywhere we look this underlying philosophy is supported. Everywhere we turn we are told again to consume. We are told that it will bring us joy and happiness, and yet we know it is a lie. We know that living like this, like zombies who never stop consuming, deadens the nerve endings of our spirit.

So what can we do? What hope do we have in resisting this totalitarian economy? Here in our Bible, in the stories of our ancestors, we have another narrative, we have a life-giving faith. Whatever religion the life-giving faith is from, whether it is Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Unitarian, we must to remember that there are other narratives at work in this world, ones that are life giving, not life draining. Leading a life of compassion rather than consumption will surely lead us to a full and rich life.

In our scripture passage for this morning we are told to be expectant for the fruition of God’s promise to end suffering and oppression. But we are also called to live into the Kingdom of God as we find it here and now. In the gospel of Luke we are told, “once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”

When we follow Jesus’ example of feeding the hungry, caring for those who can no longer care for themselves, when we love the unloved; that is a truer form of happiness. That is how we bring in the Kingdom of God. We see glimpses of God’s promise unfolding.

In the beginning of Terrance Malick’s film, The Tree of Life, we see the creation of the world. And in this creation story there are two narratives; one of nature and one of grace. The creation story according to nature is self-centered and survival focused, harsh and unforgiving. Eat, drink, reproduce, kill the weak. The creation story according to grace, is defined through the acts of selflessness, of charity, taking joy in the joy of others, it is about humility and above all understanding the deepest form of love. Every time we follow in Jesus’ example, every time we live into this world of grace, the coming of the Son of Man is closer. We are living into God’s vision for this world, helping God make it a reality.

One of the darkest aspects of this zombie consuming mindset is the feeling of loneliness that seems to follow in its wake. It is easy to think we are alone in this world on this journey, but look around you. We are not alone.

Remember that here in this community, each Sunday we gather, each committee meeting we attend, we are choosing to be a part of a life giving community. One that nourishes and feeds us, one that inspires and teaches us.

Remember to take refuge in each other and in this congregation. Watch out for the zombies. Whether you notice the zombie at work, next door, or in the mirror, be kind, be generous, and don’t lose faith in each other. Remember we are given another way to live—a full and joy-filled life. With God’s help, we can live a full life. Amen.