From the East to the West Why Wait?

Passages: Is. 66:1-24; Col. 2:8-3:17; Matt. 22:34-23:39

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

What is it that we are waiting for? What or who continues to grasp our heart and mind, which keeps us awake physically but spiritually asleep? Today, we celebrate the final Sunday of the Lenten period known as Advent or in Armenian Kalstyan – the Sunday of the coming. Perhaps this Sunday is about Christ’s second coming; after all, all of Lent was a time of preparation for what, when Christ returns, correct? Perhaps this Advent is about next week, when Christ comes to enter into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and how the Holy Altar is reopened to us and we are able to receive Holy Communion again. In either case, we know that Christ Jesus is coming and he is coming how?  “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man.” (Matt. 24:27 RSV) From East to West – that is why our Altar’s traditionally face the East.

Yet, what is interesting is that any grade school student who is studying lightning and clouds, and every meteorologist could tell you, lighting doesn’t come from the East to the West.  Lightning is powerful and electrifying but it is not directional – it strikes wherever it will. Therefore, what does it mean that the coming of Christ will be in such as way? When we look to the original Greek text, the word used here is ἀστραπή (prounc. astrapé).  The root of this word is astro – which means star and the most relatable star for us which comes from the East is what? The Sun! Therefore, it would not be wrong for us to say that Christ will come like the Sun, which rises in the East.

But how many of us would compare the Sunrise to a lightning storm? Sunrise’s are beautiful, warm and captivating, whereas, lightning storms can be frightening and loud, especially for our kids. However, my dears, let me ask, if we had important work to do, an appointment, to catch a flight, to get last minute studying done or something much more dire then these examples, and they that needed to be accomplished early in the morning before the Sunrise’s, what would we feel or think if we opened our eyes and saw that the Sun had already risen and we were still asleep?  Perhaps we would feel angry, upset, fearful, confused? We would be unsure what we could do to make up for what we had missed and how quickly we could get it done in an effective manner.

My dear brothers and sisters, what is it that we are waiting for? What or who continues to grasp our heart and mind, which keeps us spiritually in a coma? Not only the season of Great Lent but all our lives, every day is for us an occasion to prepare spiritually for the coming of Christ. To set our alarm clocks so that when the Son of Man comes, when Christ returns like the sun or lightning, we will not be caught off guard or be filled with fear. The image of lightning speaks about the quickness as a warning for those who are unprepared for the moment that the Son of Man will come. But the sunrise is welcoming and filled with beauty, warmth and light for those who are awake to greet Him. That is why in today’s reading of Isaiah, repeatedly the prophet tells the Israelite’s, those who are prepared, to rejoice for God’s coming; but also warns those who are evil: “You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants, and his indignation is against his enemies. “For behold, the Lord will come in fire, and his chariots like the storm wind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will the Lord execute judgment, and by his sword, upon all flesh; and those slain by the Lord shall be many.” (Is. 66:14-16)

Yes, my dears, God is coming, will we be awake or asleep? Will we be prepared to greet him or will we be filled with fear? Throughout our lives, God speaks to us through the Church, through the sermons, through confession, through prayer, through the Holy Scriptures, through our parents, children, neighbors, etc. God gives us the tools and also includes the instructions in how to use those tools, in order to prepare ourselves. Will we listen, will we pay attention, will we, as St. Paul teaches us today, “set our minds on higher things”? Will the coming of Christ be frightening as lightening for us or life giving as a sunrise?

What is it that we are waiting for? What or who continues to grasp our heart and mind, which keeps us unprepared, thirsty, hungry and spiritually asleep?

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