Posted on Tue, Nov 29, 2016
November 27, 2016
Fourth Sunday in Advent
Matthew 24:36-44 - “WAKE-UP and FOLLOW!!”
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.
Advent is all about preparing for the arrival of the Messiah of Israel, the Savior to the Nations, with the birth of Jesus, Christmas! It seems interesting to me, that we accept the truth of Christmas so easily. Christmas is about the promise God made to enter our world, a world filled with ordinary events as well as pain, injustice, and so many things we cannot understand. It is about God, becoming human … The Holy Spirit sure is amazing in giving us faith to believe with all the distractions going on. But the message of Christmas is about making the God of the imagination, spiritual visions, invisible concepts and story, become as human and real as the person sitting next to you.
These texts bring up memories of the “Left Behind” series, and the talk of something called the “rapture” where the ‘right kinds of Christians’ are “taken up,” from the world to sail through the air while Jesus lets those left behind seven years to get their act together… (“Rapture” is a word that isn’t even a part of scripture.) The Rapture is a concept cobbled together by a John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s. My point being that, this concept only induces fear of punishment, and doesn't include anything about the blessings of the Cross of Christ.
Today’s Gospel text isn’t really about end times, but is about living in the very present. It is as if Jesus was screaming to everyone who has ears to hear, ‘wake up’ and see what God is doing through Jesus, right now!
What was the central theme Jesus kept preaching? And what has he been doing throughout his ministry? He was proclaiming “The Kingdom of God has come near!” or “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” And in Jesus’ mere presence, what Jesus was teaching, became true! Plus, out of pure love and mercy, Jesus was healing people, healing all people.
Remember how Jesus began his ministry, it is recorded in Luke 4:16-21:
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’
20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
Think of all the people Jesus has healed during our journey through Pentecost, the themes he preached on, the people transformed through healing, forgiveness and simply being called to follow! The Kingdom of God was revealed to the people through the preaching, teaching and healing of Jesus, right then and there.
The woman at the well way up north was lonely, and ostracized by her village, WHILE she lived within the same village. When Jesus chose to speak with her face to face, she received forgiveness, not condemnation or any reason to fear. She was transformed. She was freed from guilt and shame to freedom and courage! Our confirmation student know all about the Garasene man who was possessed by a legion of demons, and therefore lived in the tombs and was helpless in the grips of his demons, Jesus cast them out, and the man was returned to being a man “in his right mind.” And like the woman at the well, he also wanted to follow Jesus wherever Jesus was going. Instead he became an evangelist to the people living in that region of Israel.
Little did they know when they woke up that morning, how their lives would change when Jesus stepped into their lives.
Oh, how humans like to think they know everything, and have everything in control. In reality, we control very little if anything at all. It becomes pathetically humorous when another TV evangelist predicts the day Jesus will return, and the world will come to an end. Jesus made it clear, that even he did not know the date or time. That means there is nothing advantageous about even pondering the day of Jesus return. In fact I would say it is a sin to even waste time trying to guess at the time of Jesus’ return when Jesus our first job is to first love God and then love our neighbor.
While there are hungry, hurting, lonely, imprisoned, ostracized, enslaved, forgotten or anyone living in fear or dread, the work of the church is not done, and we have no time to waste. Wasting time and energy on preparing for a hunch about Jesus’ return distracts from our mission on earth to worship, pray, serve, and to live in Joy and Faithfulness.
Notice the comparison to the time of Noah. What were the people doing? Ordinary things. Everyone knew what was coming, but only Noah believed and was prepared. When the time came, while the people were doing ordinary things, they were “taken away.” “Taken away” is a euphemism for dying. Just like we say, one has “passed on,” being “taken away” is a euphemism for dying, not being ‘raptured.’
On Thursday morning, Mac and all the wonderful Angel Network volunteers put together the best Thanksgiving. One volunteer described the event as, “God in Action!” She was exactly right. We were God’s hands doing God’s work.
As I got in my car to go home, I received a text from my sister that informed me that my beloved Aunt, Ardis Mason had passed away moments before. My heart sank after being in such a joyful place. Ardy was like a second mom to me when I was a very young boy. She implanted in me the importance of exploring and experiencing new places whenever possible. Ardy and my uncle Les took my three cousins, all boys, all over the country in their trailer and she would tell me about their travel adventures over the best hot chocolate I have ever head… her secret recipe. The best images of Glacier National Park come from her descriptions…
My aunt’s funeral will be on December 16 in Brainerd, Minnesota but her memory will always bring me joy. Many years ago, she took the time to talk, she had the wisdom to ask the right questions and she changed the way I chose to live my life.
A few months ago, one of the master divers from Island Divers called me and told me that a good friend, Master diver and instructor Larry Hogan suddenly passed away in his sleep. I was just diving with Larry the Monday before. They asked me to meet at the Island Diver Shop that night to break the news to all the students at the Hawaii Scuba University and all the members of the dive community. There were at least 60 to 100 divers gathered on the boats, all adventurous and certainly invincible young people. I seem to have become the Padre of the Scuba and Scientific community on the Island. I just lost a dear friend, they lost an instructor and life mentor.
On Friday night, after I got home late from finishing my first draft of today’s message, I received a call from another family, of sorts, amongst them there was a sudden fatality and they called me to share some words and comfort. We still don't know the reason for the fatality, but they called me to be the one to bring words of comfort and solace for the survivors.
In today’s text I hear Jesus screaming at all of us to “WAKE UP to the gift of living in the NOW!
Jesus, the Chosen One is here! Prepare your heart and mind to welcome him at all times in all circumstances. Make room in your life to live the life of faith we have been freed to live. Awake; awake, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Amen.
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