“Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
Reminds me of the prayer in Compline that lots of people love:
Keep watch, dear lord, with those who work or watch or weep this night…
Keep watch—remember, don’t forget about
or stay awake, don’t fall asleep, wake up!
You may have heard something else in today’s gospel reading
“Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding meal together;
one will be taken and one will be left.”
What does that mean?
That isn’t what I think it is, is it?
Is it like those bumper stickers you see:
“Warning: in case of Rapture, this car will be unmanned.”
That the driver (and presumably the other riders)
And therefore will be taken up to heaven in The End
Leaving the rest of us behind?
There’s a little problem here
How do you know your car will be unmanned?
I work at the Edge Campus Ministry House at UC
Our housekeeper says she grew up in a church where
only the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation
could take communion—and she wasn’t one of them
How do you know when it’ll happen when Jesus explicitly says you can’t?
How do you know YOU are righteous and others aren’t?
And if you DO know that your righteousness is so great,
Isn’t that the sin of pride,
landing you smack back in the driver’s seat?
I’m not joking here
A substantial portion of Christians believe that
one day, all the believers will be caught up into the sky,
leaving their families and lives behind to fend for themselves
in the coming Tribulation.
Is it real?
Can we pin it down to a date or plan of action? Not really
There isn’t much in the Bible and the concept
and term Rapture came into being in 1800s
what’s Jesus talking about?
Since the story of Noah and his family being saved from the flood
Comes right before
Maybe the ones who are spared are the ones left behind
“taken” might mean punished rather than spared
I’m not going to tell you what it means—surprise, surprise…
The point ≠ knowing the time or who or what is happening
The point is to focus on the here and now
Keep awake, keep watch, pay attention, wake up!
God is on the move
Like Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
God is working and will surprise you
“you do not know on what day your Lord is coming”
You don’t even know what God will look like!
When you see God, it will not be as you expect
It will not be to exclude the unrighteous like the Rapture
And it won’t be all love and peace and harmony like we want either
God moves when you least expect it
A lot of folks were upset about The Golden Compass, a movie based on the book by Philip Pullman
Some are concerned that it has themes of atheism
and downright hostility towards the church
But I met God in reading the books nonetheless
We don’t expect to see God in atheists or in movies
and then God shows up saying, “pay attention—wake up!”
maybe you’ve heard someone say
“Christians don’t want to see murderers and rapists in prison
being entertained, using fancy gyms or libraries,
or being given comfort and compassion.”
In the words of St. Johnny Cash,
“then maybe they ain’t Christian”
The experiences these men and women have behind bars
Are beyond our knowing
And God lives there with them
Looking at us through the bars saying,
“pay attention—wake up”
most of us really don’t expect to see peace in the Middle East
we pray and hope but deep in our hearts,
we don’t see Jerusalem ever being at unity with itself
as the Psalm says
yet we keep trying, multi-laterally, for a solution
no matter what boats get fired upon
or who moves into the West Bank
what do you see in that as you keep watch this Advent?
My youth group used to volunteer at the Comm. Land Co-op in the West End
We spent hours hours loading a dumpsters with broken bricks and concrete
Demolishing a wall in a dark, scary basement
And removing a water-damaged ceiling
All to help prepare a house as affordable housing for a low-income Cincinnatian
if you’ve ever spent much time doing demolition on an old, dirty house
you know it’s hard, filthy work
We all ended up with black soot streaking our faces and clothing
face masks keep it out of your lungs
but also make the air you breathe hot and moist
Fogging up your glasses
The basement is moist and smelly and not a little creepy
And then you take a break—go outside for a moment
Emerging from the dust and muck and darkness and closeness
the cold air is crisp and focuses your mind immediately
What Jesus is talking about in Matthew’s gospel is waking up
Waking up to the world around you
The relationships, the arguments, the beauty
How aware are you of your contribution to a problem?
How aware are you of another person’s feelings in a given moment?
How aware are you of the presence of God, of the movement of God?
God is on the move
Nudging us towards what is right, sometimes shoving us
Think about when you’re driving
And you drift a little into the next lane, not really paying attention
And something pulls you back
Your skin prickles unpleasantly
You sort of “come to”
You pull over into your own lane
And a car whizzes by within inches
Or seeing into the hearts of those you consider your enemies
School adversaries, your boss or co-workers, even political radicals
Have you had a moment when you suddenly saw them
In their vulnerability
Doing or saying something that you yourself have done?
Suddenly understanding their motives
No matter how much you disagree?
This is awareness—this is being awake, keeping watch
This is what Advent is for
We are waiting for the birth of our savior
And even though we know the end of the story
—Christmas and stars and sheep and the baby—
We can’t forget the process of getting there
Advent is about waiting and keeping watch
Mary’s still pregnant, remember
As are we—pregnant with possibility
Expecting the unexpected
Observing for a moment what we’ve done so far
and letting the things we might do next unfold gestate
this Advent season,
I invite you to keep watch each day
Take 10 minutes every day just to sit and watch
And be aware of who you are
And whose you are
Take 10 minutes every day
to ask yourself what you’re waiting for
take a step back
breathe in that crisp, cold air outside of your busy, close, dark life
look for patterns
look for God moving in your life and in the life of the world
Keep awake therefore Pay attention Wake up!