Friday, November 30, 2007

Keep awake!

This will be an experiment in altered consciousness. Last Sunday, I was in the emergency room My left leg was the shape of a melon and the color of a beet. The doctor said I have phlebitis. They gave me meds and told me to sit still with a hot compress on my leg. The combination of drugs, stillness, and warm legs has kept me in and out of sleep for most of the week. Being awake has usually meant a droop-eyed stupor just one notch shy of drooling. So imagine my amusement when I read the gospel for the first Sunday of Advent.

Jesus said to the disciples, "For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 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, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 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. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 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. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

Matthew 24:37-44
Noah's neighbors never saw it coming. They saw the signs. Some of them may even have asked what in the world he was doing. But they wouldn't accept the truth of his words. In my mind's eye, I can see them coming out on Sunday afternoons with a picnic lunch to watch the crazy man building an ark in his field, then filling it with a menagerie. God's plan wasn't hidden from them - it was there big as life. They just chose to call it madness.They never saw it coming.

As a child, Mrs P was terrified by the gospel song;
Two shall be working, working in the field
One shall be taken, and the other left behind
Will YOU be ready when Jesus comes?
Have you encountered the little tracts from Chick Publications? I was fascinated by them when I was a teenager.The drawings were graphic and disturbing. I remember one about the rapture. In an instant, where someone had been driving or working or reading their Bible a moment before, there was only a pile of clothes. Their discreetly posed naked spirits flew up to heaven while the others were left behind to try and understand what had happened. These tracts are still being published and I don't recommend them. They combine simple mindedness and mean spirit in a way that has impressed me since my teen years.

Still, it is an ill cartoon that blows no good, and even from these little comics I was able to learn about the seriousness of matters like good and evil, sin and repentance, destruction and salvation. The picture Jesus presents in this story is worth a thousand words of theology. The image of one woman delivered from the terrible events to come while another is left behind reminds me that I don't have the luxury of putting Jesus off. I can't move him down on my list of priorities. I need to live each moment as if it is my last chance to do God's work in the world.

So what am I supposed to do, stay awake like a homeowner waiting for a thief? Spend every moment in tense vigilance waiting for the second coming? I find wisdom in this thought from Will Rogers:
"Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip."
Jesus doesn't want us to wait. He wants us to live AS IF every moment matters - as if whatever we do, wherever we are, we would welcome him to join us.

The Son of Man is coming. I don't know when, and it really doesn't matter. My job is to always be about his work. My role is to feed his sheep so he doesn't find them hungry when he returns.

Even when I'm only half awake.

May God bless your worship as we begin a new Liturgical Year and the holy season of Advent.

Image Sources
Sleepless Smithers
Rapture Shoes
Who's Missing?, Jack Chick, LLC, 2003.
Will Rogers

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