Posted on Sun, Dec 1, 2013
November 30, 2013
First Sunday in Advent!
Gospel Text: Matthew 24:36-44
The Necessity for Watchfulness
36 ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Let’s All Get Left Behind – “WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?”
When I was a teenager, I saw this video and read a book from the 1970’s that depicted the “rapture.” It had all of these nice looking people being neighborly and mowing their lawns and cooking in their kitchens until POOF! — all of a sudden, in a flash (and with terrible film editing) one of them was gone. The camera cut to an oven still on, unattended, and then to a lawn mower lurching eerily down the lawn without anyone to steer it. This week’s lectionary text is the Scripture passage the video tossed up on the screen at the end, like a literal slam-dunk for Rapture-believing “Bible Thumpers.”
This was, I believe, supposed to scare us into being Christians. (Never mind that Jesus wasn’t really into fear-mongering or creepy propaganda. Actual fear sometimes happened in the gospels, but not fear with intent to persuade, like a bad car salesman. But I digress…)
Here’s the problem: I think we’ve been reading this whole thing backwards.
1. Floody Thieves
We tend to read this as if the “saved” are the ones who are taken away, and the others are left behind. But that’s not what the text points to at all. In the reference to Noah and the flood, it’s the people who are swept away and taken who are the ones on the “outside.” The ones who stay–the ones on the boat–are those who are saved. We’re all clear that we would rather be the people on the boat, right?
Likewise, in the metaphor of the thief, the thief comes and takes someone or something of value away. It’s a kidnapping story, not a Peter Pan-whisking-you-away-to-Neverland story. The hope for those who are ready is that their doors are locked and they stay put, right where they are. It’s like a kidnapping Passover. (I wonder if that image was meant to hint at that?)
2. Bring On the Bridesmaids
If you aren’t yet convinced, keep reading into chapter 25, where we get to the story of the bridesmaids. Again, the ones who weren’t prepared were gone when the bridegroom came. Maybe it was Black Friday, and they went shopping at midnight… The point is that they were gone, and they missed the bridegroom when he came. The bridesmaids who stayed put were there to greet the bridegroom with lamps burning brightly.
You see the trend, right?
Thy Kingdom Come…Where?
This ought to make perfect sense to us, because Jesus has made it abundantly clear in his life, death and resurrection that the earth is his home. It’s a dual citizenship, certainly. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. But why we always short-shrift the Earth part, I couldn’t say.
16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
The entire Book of Revelation describes Jesus coming to live with us forever, here on Earth. “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them” (Revelation 21:3).
And in the Apostle’s Creed, we proclaim that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, and from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. We do not say he will then turn back around again and go back.
So…can we stop all of this Left Behind nonsense already?
The Hardest Question
Where do we think we’re going, exactly?
Where do we think we’re going, if we are getting taken away whilst mowing our lawns? Why would you want to go somewhere else when Jesus just got here to stay?
Where would we go when Jesus commands us to: “19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’*”
It’s not about Jesus one day sprinkling pixie dust on us to take us away to a safe place in the sky, but rather, it is about Jesus coming to us here and now, to the world where we live in with all it’s joyful and painful parts, Advent is all about Jesus coming to us in order to live amongst us so that we can be Jesus to a world that needs a Savior, Redeemer and Proclaimers of God’s Forgiveness, mercy, justice, grace and love!
On Thanksgiving morning, along with a ton of volunteers and food provided by so many angels, I witnessed the Body of Christ doing what Jesus was so good at… feeding the hungry, comforting those who don’t find Thanksgiving or Christmas a very “fun” time, creating community, and just being servants, being Jesus to all who were hungry. Jesus was here in all those volunteers, I can’t believe Jesus would yank all those angels from our midst with so much work, teaching, service and proclamation we have to do in this very troubled world.
No, Jesus has come, given his life and rose from the dead for our sake, and for the sake of all those who have yet to hear His name. So, rather than for asking Jesus to take us we away, we pray, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest!” Guide us, teach us, help us to serve and bless our Advent Journey. Amen.
by Danielle Shroyer
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