St. Augustine's in-the-Woods Episcopal Church People of Faith Serving Beautiful Whidbey Island


Compassion ~ Commitment ~ Reverence ~ Reconciliation


The messages delivered each Sunday by our clergy at St. Augustine’s in-the-Woods are powerful expressions of our values and theology.  Below is the most recent.  To read a  particular favorite, read one you may have missed or get acquainted with our clergy, please visit the sermon archive, here.

First Sunday of Advent-Year C-The Rev. Canon Joan Anthony-11.28.21

Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-9, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36

`“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made …”. Thus begins our reading from the prophet Jeremiah.  The days are surely coming… those could be words of hope or words of terror depending on what you think the days coming will bring.  They can be words to us of encouragement or despair depending on how we view the promise of God.

Jeremiah was a prophet in Jerusalem and Judah for some forty years before the fall of that city to the Babylonians and the end of the kingdom of Judah.  These were words of warning of what was to come.  Warning because the people would not turn from their ways and follow the path God had laid out for them.  The days that were surely coming were days of destruction and exile, and come they did.  Yet, they were not the end of the relationship between God and God’s people, between God and humanity.

For Christians the words of Jeremiah have a different meaning.   They bring to mind the promise of God that was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus into the world as a human being.  Those days too surely came and continue to come.  As we enter into this first Sunday of Advent, we are reminded most graphically of the coming of Jesus and the coming again of Christ.  The two encompass our lives; past present and yet to come.

It may seem odd to begin the season of preparation for the birth of Jesus with predictions of the end of time.  Each of the three synoptic gospels has a depiction of the events to come at the end of the ages.  They are all vivid and imaginative pictures of what this time will be like.   Because we cannot see into the future with clarity, we do not know the specifics of this time we call the end of time.  We cannot know exactly how Christ will come again.  Last week the Gospel spoke of the difference between fact and truth.  This week we can look from another perspective at what in God’s terms is truth.  For God, the truth is held in the promises that God has made to us.

Sometimes it is easier to see truth in story, rather than in fact.  To that end, I offer a story, told by Megan McKenna.  She begins by saying that this is an old story told in many traditions and like such stories, begins “Once upon a time there was…”. So settle back and imagine you are a part of this story.

Once upon a time there as an old, old monk who had become the revered abbot of the monastery.  One day a very young and enthusiastic monk came to question him about his life. “Father,” he asked, “in all these years of prayer and discipline, of early rising and penance, have you become enlightened or holy?”

“The old abbot broke into peals of laughter, saying, ‘If you have to ask, isn’t it obvious?  No, I’ve not become all that holy:  And wisdom or enlightenment?  I don’t know.  Sometimes it’s hard enough just to survive day-to-day with some sort of gracefulness.  To learn wisdom as well is asking for a lot.”

But the young monk was serious and pushed him: “Then why do you stay?  Have you learned nothing in all these years?”

The old monk eyed him seriously and answered, “Well, yes, I have learned one thing about God.  Stay awake!  You never know when God is going to decide to come and visit you.  Stay awake! You never know when all your plans so carefully laid and detailed will be derailed, when your patterns and routines will be rudely interrupted.  Stay awake!  God loves to surprise you, catch you off guard, and throw you off balance, coming and insisting that God be allowed into the center of your life.  So, stay awake!”

Stay awake so that you will recognize the coming of Jesus into your life.  Jesus comes into our lives every day. Some years ago, I commuted from Bainbridge Island to Seattle each day.  Because I lived close to the Bainbridge ferry, I would walk on rather than drive most of the time.  As I walked from the Seattle ferry terminal to First Avenue, I would often see a man sitting on the edge of the walkway, with his belonging bunched around him.  He would smile at each person who came by and wish us a good day.  Many of us, myself included would avert our eyes.  This man was obviously homeless and poor.  We could give him a few dollars, a warm scarf in winter and a bottle of water in summer.  But we could not solve the problem of homelessness.  And so, feeling embarrassed and helpless we would pass on by.

One day, a day seemingly like every other, I really looked at this man, smiled, and acknowledged his greeting.  It was that day that I realized that this was the face of Jesus.  For that moment, it was enough.  I could not in that moment end poverty and homelessness.  What I could do in that moment was acknowledge another child of God.  I could smile back and wish him well in that day.  It was a beginning, an awareness, so that from that time on I could not ignore my connection with this person.  We cannot solve all the problems of injustice and poverty, would that we could, but we can and must stay awake, observant and ready to see and do what we can.  Stay awake!  That is the message of this first Sunday of Advent.