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Adventure of Hope - Rev. Dr. Hyuk Seonwoo
Sunday, December 3, 2023
Scripture Reading: Mark 13:32-37
32 "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only
the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a
man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work,
and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not
know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or
at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I
say to all: Keep awake.”
Have you seen the movie, ‘The Way?’ In the movie, Dr. Thomas Avery, an eye
doctor, flies to the Pyrenees mountains on the French-Spanish border to retrieve
the body of his son Daniel, who died while walking the Camino de Santiago
(meaning the Way of St. James), the Spanish pilgrimage route. Tom remembered
one of his last, uneasy conversations with Daniel, in which Daniel suggested a
father-son trip to Europe together. “What for?” Even though Tom didn’t say so,
the rest of his conversation echoed his cynical response to Daniel, “What for?”
Right before flying to the Pyrenees, a priest asked Tom whether he would like to
pray with him. Tom’s answer was again, “What for?” but this time with a broken
and aching heart. After cremating his son’s body, Tom decides to make the 500-
mile pilgrimage himself, taking his son Daniel’s ashes with him. On the walk,
Tom places himself in his son’s shoes, and also starts to open up to other pilgrims
from around the world, all seeking greater and deeper meaning in their lives. At
the end of the movie, Tom was doing a backpacking trip to India (or Nepal)
implying that he would continue to do father-son adventures around the world,
embracing (or at least trying to understand) his son’s life’s value.
Have you tried backpacking? The beauty and excitement of backpacking is
experiencing new things every day. Rather than following the travel agency's
schedule, backpackers need to be flexible, embracing the unexpected. Sometimes
it requires risk-taking. I’ve travelled around 18 countries and half of them were
backpacking. Backpacking is an interesting adventure because we don’t have full
information on “what is about to come.”
Today’s sermon title is “Adventure of Hope” and it is not a typo. Advent reminds
us that the Christian faith is (and should be) always filled with expectation, hope,
and sense of new day because God continues to surprise us creating and bringing
The words adventure and advent are etymological twins. Both Advent and
adventure have the meaning of “what is about to come.” They literally mean
‘coming’ or ‘arrival’ in Latin (ad means ‘to’ and venire means ‘come’). Advent
season is an adventurous season, because something is about to come. Something
is about to happen.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which is the beginning of the Christian Year.
A time of expectation and hope because of God’s adventures of coming and
becoming Immanuel (“God with us”).
Advent is also a season of great joy and tension, because Advent allows us to hope
for and notice God’s coming, God’s imminent arrival among us in the midst of the
world’s darkness and turmoil. In other words, we await, expect, and prepare for
not only the coming of a child in Bethlehem, but also the coming of Christ in the
present and the future. In this season, we experience both ‘already’ of divine
incarnation through baby Jesus and ‘not yet’ of the divine consummation of all
things in Christ at the end of time. Do you see why we call Advent a season of
The coming of Christ in the present and the coming of Christ in the future cannot
be separated from each other. We Christians begin our yearly new journey by
recalling the end of time, which helps us prioritize what is important to us, opening
ourselves to the coming of Jesus in our ‘here and now.’ Slowing down. Pausing.
Waiting. In this season of Advent, we are invited to join God’s adventure of
coming, living, and breathing with us.
December is often the busiest month, but Advent still invites us to pause, pray
(and contemplate) more deeply, and foretaste the mystery of God’s dwelling
among us. Advent is also a time to hold on to the thread of hope that comes from
God’s unfailing love, no matter how challenging a situation we are in.
There is a painting titled “Hope” by the English painter George Frederic Watts. It
pictures a poor woman sitting on a sinking globe. She cannot see because her eyes
are bandaged. She is holding a harp (lyre), but all the strings are broken except
one. The one last unbroken string is the string of hope. She bends her ear to listen
to the faint music. She looks so weary and, at the same time, peaceful. Not only
the unbroken string, but she is also a symbol of hope. The artist painted an
encouraging fact: Even when almost everything is gone or broken, you still can
have hope. And if you don’t lose hope, you become the embodiment of hope.
If I summarize what Jesus said in today’s scripture reading, it would be: “Wake up
and stay awake!” If I summarize all Jesus said about the end time in one sentence,
it would still be: “Wake up and stay awake!” (E.g.: Mk. 13:24-37; Mt. 24:36-44;
Lk 21:34-36; Rev 3:2-3)
In Mark 13, Jesus talks about the end-time turmoil but encourages his disciples to
endure the hardship. Jesus says, “No one knows about the day or hour, neither the
angels in heaven, not the Son, but only the Father.” The only solution for the
disciples to be prepared was to be always on guard and alert. Today’s reading
encourages us, also, to stay awake! What Jesus wanted us to do was to live every
moment like it is the end-time. It doesn’t mean to live anxiously. It means to
prioritize what is essential in our daily routine and long-term journey.
John Wesley was once asked what he would do if he knew the Lord would return
the next day. He said, “I would do what I do now, because I would want the Lord
to find me doing what he had appointed,” in other words, what God had called on
him to do. Wesley knew what was most important to him and didn’t lose it.
Wesley continuously lived out his “yes” to Jesus when Jesus said to him to keep
awake every moment.
We Christians begin our yearly new journey by recalling the end of time, which
helps us prioritize what is important to us, opening ourselves to the coming of
Jesus in our ‘here and now.’ In this season of Advent, we are invited to reflect on
God’s self-giving love through Jesus Christ, who graciously comes to us, is with us,
and reminds us that we are God’s beloved. We are also called to remember what is
important to us in this journey of faith.
Slow down. Pause. Wait.
Let us continue to cultivate our inner garden, especially in this time of Advent
hope. As Henry Nouwen said, “Hope frees us from the need to predict the future
and allows us to live in the present, with the deep trust that God will never leave us
alone but will fulfill the deepest desire of our heart.”
Slowing down, pausing, and waiting helps us to wake up and stay awake. As we
continue to wait, listen, discern, and act while praying and living out the Kingdom
of God in our daily lives, God will continue to help us see the priority in our faith
journey, empowering us to live an awakened life. Are you ready to begin a
journey of adventure of hope together? And all God’s people say, Amen!
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