Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sermon for the Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

When I hear of the second coming of Jesus, I think of a few things. 
In my prechristian days, I think I heard about this more than anything. 
I’d see pictures of people with sandwich boards proclaiming “The day is near” or something. 
I thought they were mad. 
To this day, when people carry on about Jesus return, 
I still think they are a bit unbalanced. 

It also reminds me of the Jesus people movement of the 1970s. 
Much of the music that was recorded at that time speaks of Jesus return. 
Nearly every album by these artists will contain a song about Jesus return. 
The two texts that the hippy Christians really responded to were Revelation and the reading we had from 1 Thessalonians today:

For the Lord himself,
with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left,
will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air;
and so we will be with the Lord for ever. 

It is true, we do need to consider this. 
It is something we all believe: 
we say it together in the Creed, 
we acclaim it in the Eucharist, 
so this is not something foreign or wrong. 
It is though, an issue of emphasis. 

The problem is that this has been used as a way of control and keeping people in a state of fear. 
Fear is the best way to control people, as governments past and present know full well. 
Life with Christ should not be based on fear. 
It should be based on love:
Love of God and love of neighbour.

So what is Jesus getting at with this parable about the ten maidens.
We can look at all the details, 
we can question whether the 5 wise ones should have given the oil to the 5 foolish ones. 
We can ask what does that mean for us? 
Should we not share our oil with those who have none? 
Are we to look out for ourselves and not worry about those who can’t, 
for what ever reason?

All that is is to miss the main point:

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Keep awake.
Be ready.
Be prepared.
I was a scout. Be prepared was the motto. 
I can’t exactly remember what that meant as a scout, but it has stayed with me.

There will be items that you will always have with you. 
Wallet, phone, whatever. 
You know the things you need to have with you so you can do whatever it is you need to do, 
and if there something you might have to do.

It is those ‘just in case’ things though. 

Back home, there was a rule: always take a coat. 
You never knew how cold it was going to get, or how long you were going to be.

These days, there are several things I do to always be prepared. 
There are items I always carry with me: 
  • the Scriptures, 
  • the Prayer Book, 
  • Reserved Sacrament, 
  • Oil of the Infirm, 
  • a Stole. 

These are always in  my bag, wherever I go. 
So whatever situation I am called into, I have what I need.

These are practical things.

We keep our houses tidy in case someone pops around.
We check how much petrol we have before we go on a long drive.
Basic stuff.
We are now being told to get our bushfire plans in place. 
Be prepared.
Jesus is telling us the same thing, but on a much more serious scale. 
And even more so, he is talking about a constant state of readiness. 

Keep awake.

What does that really entail for us.
What is our state of preparedness?

I think one of the key issues is that this can’t be based out of fear.

If we only do good because we are scared of being punished, 
because we are scared of not going to heaven, 
then we are missing the point. 

Keeping awake is important for its own sake.
Being prepared is being awake to God. 

By being awake to others around us, 
we are awake to what God is doing in and around our lives. 
By being awake our hearts are opened to know the pain in other peoples lives, 
to see where God is present to begin his healing work. 
When we are truly awake, we understand that it is through us that this work is done.

When we are awake, we are prepared. 
We are prepared to see Christ among us, in us, and with us. 

We are awake and prepared when we live our lives loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves

By keeping awake, we are not only ready to see Jesus when he returns,  
but also our true selves are awoken to know his presence in every moment of our lives. 

We are awoken to the eternal presence of God.

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