NOV. 27, 2022
“Wake Up Call?” Chan Willis – F.P.C.-L.C./Welsh
Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44 Nov. 27, 2022 – 1st Sun. Advent
Snooze buttons. Most of us are quite familiar with these. How about you? I have to say that my ‘snooze button’ on my phone is one of my favorite features. (remember when they were on the alarm clock? Or, if you’re like me and never want to let go of anything that still works, maybe still is! 😉) Regardless, it affords me the opportunity to catch up on sleep, while delaying the inevitable of having to face the day. I will often set my alarm for earlier than I need to, and then hit the snooze button for an extra 9 minutes of ‘reprieve.’ Which, of course, after getting a little carried away with ‘rinse and repeat,’ can sometimes result in me waking up in a panic, having to rush around to get ready. Perhaps to the point of being late to my commitment. Like, for instance, my 7 AM walking group at Prien Lake Park. Especially on low-temperature days when that bed feels REAL good, that snooze button is even MORE attractive…
Anyway, could not the season of Advent be likened to that alarm. Advent reminds us… every year… of the coming of Christ. Not just as a child, but as the King who comes to judge the world. Each year do we hit the ‘snooze button?’ we like staying in our ‘comfort zone.’ We have time. Until we don’t. When we hear that favorite verse every year saying “you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (42) Do we find it just a reassurance that we don’t have to worry about when that time is… until it’s too late? Or, will this year be our “Wake Up Call”?
Why is it that you think we NEED these periodic ‘wake up calls?’ To scare us into being a better follower of Christ? To cause us to look at the horrific, perhaps apocalyptic, events of these present days in PANIC? I don’t think so. How many times did Jesus tell his followers “Fear not.”? Is FEAR in keeping with a Heavenly Father who sacrificed His every own Son for US? What is one of the most favorite definitions of the character of God? ‘God is panic?’ NO! “God is love.” As in, “For God so LOVED the world.” It is to that Loving God that the Apostle John attested to when he wrote that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) Jesus IS the perfect love of God, made flesh. Jesus, who said in the parallel verses in Luke to today’s from Matthew, “Do not be terrified… this is an opportunity to testify.” (Luke 21:9, 13)
Now, for some, an opportunity to testify might indeed be considered a time to PANIC. There would be those who find testifying in court preferable to testifying in person about Jesus. Whatever ‘anxiety’ we might have over sharing with someone about our faith should be tempered with our confidence that it IS that faith in Jesus, and his unconditional LOVE for us, that helps us to overcome our fears in this world. While we do NOT know what the future holds, we do know who holds the future. That History… ‘HIS-story’… is going somewhere. Our days on this earth are NOT meaningless, or random… OR eternal. Just as there was a real beginning, there will be a real end. And at the end we WILL find Jesus Christ. Who comes to ‘judge both the living and the dead.’
The big issue for so many is whether or not they’ve been ‘good enough’ to be spared death in that ‘judgment.’ I would imagine that many of you may have heard someone declare, when the issue comes up of their going to heaven or not, they say ‘Well, I sure HOPE so. I sure HOPE that I’ve lead a good enough life.’
Remember what Jesus said when someone called him ‘Good teacher’? “There is none good but God.” (Luke 18:19) I read this quote from a Michael Green, NT Scholar at Oxford, England, who said: (Christ’s return in judgment) “…will not be a matter of degrees of goodness (‘little sins’ vs. ‘big sins’), but of whether they come to him with arms outstretched at this coming, or shrink away in fear and hatred.”
How about YOU? What will YOUR response be to the coming of Christ? Or better yet, what will the response be of those whom you LOVE? ‘With arms outstretched’ in joy and praise? Or to ‘shrink away in fear’…? Who in your circle of close friends or family may need their own ‘wake up call’ to be ready for Jesus?
Aside from the FEAR, or even PANIC, that can invade one’s heart from reading about ‘eschatology’… the final events of ‘His-story’ associated with Jesus’ Second Coming and Final Judgment… such considerations can also be quite a PUZZLE. Like many of the things that Jesus taught to the people, can’t we sometimes be scratching our heads, trying to figure out exactly WHAT point He was trying to make? When Jesus spoke of people in “the days of Noah” being “swept away”… field hands and grain processors, ‘one being taken and one being left’… a homeowner being ready for “the thief”… how comfortable were you in KNOWING just what our Lord was saying? It could very well be that he was warning all of those who do not take their faith in God seriously to ‘be-ware’… to ‘be-Aware.’ Or, perhaps WE are those outside of Noah’s ark, out in the field, or not ready for “the thief” to break into the ‘house’ of our hearts.
OR, maybe all of those people groups that Jesus speaks of are those that you and I are to ‘stay awake’ for. Perhaps Jesus is telling us to ‘PAY ATTENTION’ to those around us. Be sensitive to the needs of those revelers of Noah’s time (or OURS!), who might hide behind masks of ‘eating, drinking, and being merry.’ Be mindful of the needs of everyday workers, whom we might find quite easy to overlook. Or, how often might we have an open heart and mind to a ‘thief’… someone who is trying to fill a gap in their life by taking, rather than giving…
To ‘stay awake’ for Jesus is not just for HIS coming… but for all those who ‘come’ to us that He has put there for a purpose…
So much more than causing us to ‘panic’ over what is to come, or to ‘puzzle’ >our finite human minds over the future, these words of our Lord are to PREPARE us for living in the PRESENT. That intimidating word, “Eschatology,” can also be defined simply as “how God is acting (present tense) in human history to bring about his Kingdom.” BOTH the kingdom of our current age, and the one to come in the future age. What are we doing to PREPARE ourselves, and others, for ‘Kingdom living’… in this world and in the world to come? Are we being ‘watchful’ that Jesus will not, in the words of Professor Green, “find us idle or abusing our privileges” as Christ’s followers. To put it simply, we must ‘stay awake’ because there is much work to do!
As we each struggle with the challenges we face in sharing in the privilege we have to ‘work’ for Christ, I would leave you with this scene from the 70’s Christian musical “Godspell.” Disciples, when confronted by Jesus with this command… “You must be ready,” use the same words to respond, but in a very ‘discordant non-unison’ manner—“Everyone else may fall away, Lord, but I never will.” (Hmmm… sound a little like similar words by Peter, ‘the Rock?’…)
Is the ‘YOU’ spoken by Jesus… “You must be ready”… referring to individual followers? Or to the ‘community’ of faith? In the Greek, it is the plural you. The task of ‘keeping awake’ for Christ’s coming is one that we wait, we prepare, we witness TOGETHER! “We wait for Christ’s coming by becoming Christ’s people.” In the words of Isaiah 2, another one of our lectionary readings:
“Come to the house of God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” (vss. 3, 6)
On this first Sunday of Advent… which the church universal celebrates a theme of HOPE… the Christian community is called to “actively hope”— to engage world’s brokenness with the unfailing expectation that God is active in bringing about world’s redemption. Called to ‘keep living faithfully as Jesus taught us to live.’ In the words of William Barclay, long-acclaimed Bible commentator,
“May we never get so immersed in time that we forget eternity. Never let concern over earthly affairs completely distract us from remembering that there is a God, that the issues of life and death are in HIS hands, and that whenever his call comes… morning, noon, or night… He must find us READY. …He WILL gather to himself those who are His own…”
As you and I dwell in the Kingom that is already… awaiting the one that is ‘not yet’… may we never forget… or fail to remind others… that “THERE IS A GOD. That life and death are in HIS hands. And that WHENEVER He calls… morning, noon, or night… He must ‘find us ready.’ In the words of the Apostle Paul, “…The night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light…put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 13:12, 14)
Just as surely as we must put on clothes once we wake up in the morning, let us also make sure to ‘clothe ourselves’ each day with the ‘armor of light’… Jesus Christ. May we take each new day as a ‘wake up call’ from our Lord Jesus. When it comes to HIM… Let’s just NOT ‘hit the snooze button’…
CHARGE: I would leave you with these words from our historic Westminster Confession of Faith:
“As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all from sin, AND for consolation of godly in their adversity, so will He have that day unknown, that believers might shake off all carnal security, and be prepared to say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.” (WCF 33.3)
There will be a day of judgment… to encourage us to do ‘right,’ and to comfort us when things go ‘wrong.’ May our security not be in anything of THIS world, but in the life of the world to come. This Advent season, may we continue to be prepared to say, “Come Lord Jesus; come quickly.” Until He comes, may we KNOW that the Spirit of the living God… And may all of God’s WIDE-AWAKE CHILDREN say, “AMEN!”
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