In 1898 there was a book written by an author named Morgan Robertson called Futility. It was a story about the lives of many important and influential people who boarded a huge steamship for its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. In the book, the ship was described as unsinkable and carried approximately 3,000 people. The story goes on to tell of the ship setting sail in mid-April and how it hits an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic. The unsinkable ship begins to sink and the passengers on board discover that there arent enough lifeboats to save everyone on board.
This particular book, at the time of its printing, never made to the top ten, in fact it was an obscure little book that never got past the first printing because the publishers said no one wanted to hear such a depressing and unbelievable story. So Morgan Robertson the author was buried into the obscurity of history and his little book called Futility about a steamship called Titan never quite made it . . . until 14 years later when this prophetic work was resurrected upon the sinking of an actual ship, the Titanic hit by an iceberg in the Atlantic on April 15th 1912.
Todays lessons are about prophecy and how one can either believe, or not believe . . . but how only the foolish will ignore or mock Gods prophetic message to all mankind.
Malachi was one of the Old Testament prophets who we heard this morning in our reading when he prophesied saying . . . See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight– indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
In this one sentence are three prophesies, two of which have been revealed to us and the third we continue to wait for. See I am sending my messenger . . . is a reference to John the Baptist who came to prepare the hearts of the Jewish people for the Messiah . . . and then . . . the Lord whom you seek will be suddenly come to his Temple. Jesus came to Jerusalem and entered the temple on what we celebrate as Palm Sunday. It was at this time that he drove out the money changers, which many believe sealed his doom. And then finally Malachi continues . . . he is coming . . . but who can endure that final day . . . who can stand when he appears. This is the prophetic vision of Advent that we celebrate each year concerning the Lords second coming and the event we as Christians have been waiting for since the ascension of Christ into heaven so many years ago.
The second line of Malachis vision is equally telling . . . for he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
What this final vision offers is a look into the far future when the sons of Levi, the descendants of the temple priests at Jerusalem will be refined . . . meaning that what was impure will be drawn out of them and they will once again make an offering of thanksgiving to God which will be pleasing in his sight as in the days of old.
Now as in the days of old refers to the days of Solomon and his temple built to honor the presence of God in the holy city of Jerusalem.Today, both Christians and Jews around the world and for generations before us have been waiting for the rebuilding of the temple and re-establishment of the ancient religion at Jerusalem, the prophetic capital of the world at the end of time.
But it hasnt been until this generation that the rebuilding of the temple could be even remotely possible. For within this generation, within the past 60 years, nearly all of the biblical prophesies about Israel and the end times have come to pass beginning with the establishment of Israel as a nation in 1949 . . . then the return of the Jewish people from all across the world during the great Exodus, then in 1966 a great war that Israel would win against foes on every side and the regaining of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and then lately the desert of the Negev has been transformed by irrigation and now supports pools of water and . . . more recently, through Operation Exodus, the coming of thousands of Jews from all over the world to their homeland. Israel, once a desert, now exports its fruit like dates, pomegranates and olives and grows vegetables and raises dairy cattle and in fact has been transformed in 60 years into a land of milk and honey and is the virtual garden of the entire region and the envy of all its neighbors. All of these . . . fulfilled prophesies of Israel before the end of time.
So when, you might ask did all this start? Well it started with the coming of John the Baptist who we celebrate today and who was foretold of in a prophecy by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah . . “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”It was John, the son of Zachariah, and himself a Son of Levi who would herald in the messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God who would first free his people from their sins by sacrificing himself upon the cross . . . and then to lead his people from this world into a paradise by finally defeating Satan, the enemy and the god of this world.
And if you and I are blessed to live long enough, we may see the end of days happen in our life time. As the time draws on, it seems to becoming a distinct possibility that the final prophesies could take place within the next generation because the rebuilding of the temple is already a distinct possibility as the corner stone is already hewn and the vessels for the service at the altar are already forged and in waiting. The war of Armageddon (the final war between good and evil), it seems is nearer today than at any time in our history, so it seems appropriate for us to continue to watch and to wait as we pray . . . for this is our bounden duty according to the Advent tradition.Paul writes to us today . . . And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Twenty five years ago, my Aunt Lucille gave me a stole for use in Advent as I had just become a deacon and needed a purple stole. My Aunt Lou was a believer and also, for all intensive purposes, a clairvoyant, who often told my family some pretty unbelievable things. We all took her with a grain of salt and delegated her as our crazy old aunt of the family. I want to tell you though, that when I received this stole from her, I received with it a prophesy from her to me. She said that one day I would become a priest in a parish in Buffalo, but not until my hair was gray. When I left the Episcopal Church years ago, I left any thought I had ever had of becoming a priest because for 1. I knew it could not happen now matter what and 2. I really didnt believe what she told me in the first place because it was impossible. But today, as you know this prophesy of hers has come true as well.
I am here to tell you that you can never take God by surprise. You can never anticipate what he will do. In my life, he has always made the first move. He was there ‘in the beginning’ and . . . before any of us existed God acted on our behalf. Before a person stirs himself up to seek God, God seeks him out. In the Bible we never see a person searching in the darkness after God; we always see God reaching out for them in the light.
This is what our Lords Advent is about. Let us hope and pray that the Lord of the Harvest finds us faithful to our calling when he comes again to reclaim his own. Amen.