“Faith Walking” (Matthew 24:36-44, Isaiah 2), 11/27/22
There’s an old folk tale written by Leo Tolstoy about a shoemaker named Martin. One night he fell into an
especially deep sleep and dreamed that an angel had come to him and promised that Jesus was going to visit his shop
the next day. When he woke up, he began to get ready. He tidied up, swept the floor and cooked a meal for his promised
visitor. As he was waiting that morning, an old beggar came by and asked to sit and rest for a while. Martin had seen him
before, sitting on the bench across the street from his shop. But it was especially cold that day and Martin invited him in to
sit by the fire.
In the afternoon, an elderly woman came by, carrying a heavy load of wood. She was hungry and asked for food.
So Martin gave her some of the food he had prepared for his special, promised guest. As evening came, a lost boy
wandered by. Martin took him back to his home, and made sure he was safe. But while he was out, he was worried he
would miss the one visitor he had been waiting for all day. When he got home to his empty shop, he went to the Lord in
prayer and asked, “Where were You? I waited all day for You.”
The Lord answered Martin right away. God said to Martin: “Three times I came to your friendly door. Three times
my shadow was on your floor. I was a beggar with bruised feet. I was the woman you gave something to eat. I was the
lost child on the street.” And the moral of the story is… “Watch out! Christ may be closer than we can imagine.”
Has Jesus visited you lately? Maybe he was at your Thanksgiving table? Maybe he was in line at the Foodbank
last Tuesday when they gave out all those meals. I hope he was present at that nightclub in Colorado and the Walmart in
Virginia when those people were killed last week. Maybe Jesus was the one who helped the folks to tackle the gunman in
Colorado. Maybe Jesus was scooping the potatoes for Miami Valley Meals as they made 13,500 Thanksgiving meals last
week. Maybe Jesus was the one who piloted the plane that brought the Ukrainian friends Polina and Tonya from their
native Ukraine to the Miami Valley. They were on the cover of the Dayton Daily News last Wednesday. I hope Jesus has
been with you in all kinds of ways. For comfort when things aren’t going so well, as well as challenge when we need a
little umph to get going again. Sometimes God can seem really silent. And then it’s easy to lose heart.
This can happen to anybody including the Prophet Isaiah. He almost lost heart while he was writing down what he
felt called to say to the people back about 700 years before Jesus was born. Isaiah wrote about the time when the
Assyrian army invaded and took the Northern part of Israel, called the Northern Kingdom. The southern kingdom, called
Judah, was also in danger because they lived right next door. Sounds to me a bit like what’s going on in Ukraine, in the
sense of the big bully coming in and ransacking its neighbor. Isaiah wrote a bunch of the passages that we read during
Advent, beginning with the one we read today from chapter 2.
But, it all begins with Isaiah’s Chapter 1. Chapter 1 is really different from Chapter 2. Here are some of the words
that stand out in Chapter 1: rebellion, sin, evil, corruption, hate, sickness, bleeding wounds, desolation, anger. Like Verse
7: “Your country lies desolate, your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence aliens devour your land; it is desolate,
as overthrown by foreigners.” Sounds awful, kind of like the news coming out of Ukraine.
But then we get to Chapter 2, and it seems like Isaiah is starting over again. It’s kind of like a “do over.” Take 2!
The whole tone changes. If you’re a musician, it’s like going from a minor key to a major key really fast. We’ve got words
like: exalt, establish, high mountain, teach us his ways, walk in his paths, and that famous image of beating swords into
plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. In other words, let’s farm instead of fight. Sounds like a great idea to me. And
we ended today’s reading with “come let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
That’s what we’re going to do this Advent. That’s our mission for the next four weeks. “Walk in the light of the
Lord.” I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately. I’m getting ready hopefully to walk on the ancient pilgrimage route called El
Camino de Santiago (in English, the Way of St. James.) If it all works out, I’ll be walking the last 60 miles of the 500-mile
route, ending in the city of Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain, next spring. But first I have to get ready and
make sure my boots fit well and my feet aren’t going to give me any problems.
That’s called being prepared. If that sounds familiar, it might be because you are a Scout BSA. The founder of
Scouting, Robert Baden-Powell, came up with that motto a few years before Scouts was founded in 1910. When asked
what you were supposed to be prepared for, supposedly he answered, “Why, for any old thing.” Like for example, helping
Faith Church get ready for Advent and Christmas with this beautiful tree and decorations. In the first Scouting manual, he
wrote that to “Be Prepared” means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” Someone
else put it this way. “Scouts should prepare themselves to become productive citizens and strong leaders and to bring joy
to other people. Robert Baden-Powell wanted each Scout to be ready in mind and body and to meet with a strong heart
whatever challenges await him or her.”

That’s what it means to walk by faith. We’re always ready to meet those challenges. And that’s what Matthew is
talking about in the passage we read today. But not in the sense of the Left Behind series. Have you read those books or
seen the movies? It’s a big franchise- at least 16 novels and two movies. But I wouldn’t recommend them. These verses
we read from Matthew’s gospel are much more about what people were thinking in the first century. But here's their
message to us. Be prepared. But don’t overthink things. I say this because I overthink things all the time. I do this because
I like to be in control. I don’t necessarily like surprises. But listen to this little nugget from our Advent study this morning.
“Yearning for a future free from surprises is, down deep, actually a desire to be free of God.” Wow! That hits me right
here.
We don’t know how or when the reality of “God with us” is going to hit us in the face. And so maybe the message
is not to get too wrapped up in the details of life as we know it. Yup, that’s a tall order. One that I fail at daily. But it’s true.
We may not take things literally, like the author of the Left Behind series, but we take them seriously. And we also take
them lightly. You can do both. We hold the people we love lightly in our hands because we love them so much and we
don’t want to hold them back from anything God has planned for them. But we hold them lightly also because they’re not
ours to keep. This life is not ours to keep. That’s what makes it so precious.
I know I’ve told you this story before, but I’m going to tell it again because it reminds us that God's time clock is
not the same as ours. I don’t think God cares whether we’re on Standard or Daylight Savings Time, or whether or not we
give up changing the clocks entirely. Little Jimmy didn’t care about that either one warm spring day as he was laying on a
hill in the middle of a meadow. Puffy white clouds rolled by and soon, he began to think about God.
"God? Are you really there?" he said out loud. He didn’t expect an answer, so he was really surprised when a voice came
from the clouds and said, "Yes, Jimmy? What can I do for you?"
A little taken aback but seizing the opportunity to talk to God, Jimmy asked, "God? What is a million years like to you?"
Knowing that Jimmy could not understand the concept of infinity, God responded in a way Jimmy could relate to. "A
million years to me, Jimmy, is like a minute."
"Oh," said Jimmy. "Well, then, what's a million dollars like to you?" "A million dollars to me, Jimmy, is like a penny."
"Wow!" said Jimmy, getting an idea. "You're so generous... can I have one of your pennies?" God replied, "Sure thing,
Jimmy! Just a minute."
Faith walking means leaning into God’s future unafraid. That’s different from just waiting around for something to
happen, or stop happening. Faith walking means being prepared and being okay without knowing the details. So lace up
your boots and let’s do some faith walking together this Advent. Amen.