Sorry, There is No Snooze Button

Matthew 24: 36-44

36“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But 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. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

You know that moment in the darkness of the early morning when the first light begins to peak in over the horizon and make its way through your bedroom window?  You know better than to look at it, knowing it will surely sting your eyes that are groggy from hours of being closed off to the world.  So you look away, trying to let your eyes get used to it.  And slowly, very slowly the new morning begins to come into focus.  At that point you don’t know what the day holds-you don’t know what will go as planned and what will not.  You do not know what you will learn or what you will lose or what you will gain.  But, no matter what, you have to get up.  WAKE UP!

Today we find ourselves about halfway through this Advent season, halfway through our waiting, our preparing, our looking at ourselves in a new way, our listening, our remembering, our looking forward….zzzzzzz…..WAKE UP!  It’s time to wake up. And sorry, there is no snooze button.

Theologian William Long equates Advent to an “echo chamber” that heightens our senses, that makes us realize that those small sounds of salvation that we hear are all around us.  I think it holds the sounds of the past and the future that reverberate in our present and reminds us that salvation is not something “out there” or, even worse, “up there”.  Whatever you may think that heaven or whatever is next is, it is not way up ahead.  It is not shielded from view.  It is all around us.  The air is thick with God’s presence.  Barbara Brown Taylor says that “Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.” The only reason it is veiled is that we have too much clouding our view and we’re not yet prepared to see.

The vision is ever and ever closer.  We cannot be lulled into a comfortable, sleepy complacency.  Think about this.  Years ago, a Lutheran preacher, Edmund Steimle, preached a Christmas Eve sermon entitled “The Eye of the Storm”.  He compared that serene view of Christmas Eve, the stuff that is depicted as we sing “Silent Night” and light our candles, to the eye of a hurricane.  We’re familiar with that.  The winds swirl and the rains come until we almost cannot bear it.  And then they stop.  And the calm descends upon us.  But, lest we get too comfortable, we are reminded that they will come again, seemingly unwinding themselves from where they were before.  We just have to stay awake because God is in it all, both darkness and light.  Robert Benson has a book entitled “Punching Holes in the Dark”.  In it, he speaks of our faith journey as being one where we are called to continually punch holes in the darkness so that more and more of the light will be able to enter.  But we have to be awake to do that.  And being awake, being ready, is not something to be feared.  It is a gift.  It is us at our fullest self.

A legend tells how, at the beginning of time, God resolved to hide within the Creation that God had made.  As God was wondering how best to do this, the angels gathered around.  “I want to hide myself somewhere in Creation,” God told them.  “I need to find a place that is not too easily discovered, for it is in their search for me that my creations will grow in spirit and in understanding.”  “Why don’t you hide yourself deep in their earth?” the first angel suggested.  God pondered this idea for a while, then replied, “No, it will not be long before they mine the earth and discover the treasures that it contains.  They will discover me too quickly, and they will not have had enough time to do their growing.”  “Why don’t you hide yourself in their moon?” a second angel suggested.  God thought about this idea for a while, and then replied, “No, it will take a little longer, but before long they will learn to fly through space and will find their way there and know its secrets.  They will discover me too soon, before they have grown enough.”  The angels were at a loss to know what hiding places to suggest.  There was a long silence.  “I know,” piped up one angel, finally.  “Why don’t you hide yourself within their own hearts?  They will never think of looking there!”  “That’s it!”, said God, delighted to have found the perfect hiding place.  And so it is that God hides secretly deep within the heart and soul of every one of God’s creatures, until that creature has grown enough in spirit and in understanding to risk the great journey into the secret core of its own being.  And there, awakened, the creature discovers its creator, and is rejoined to God for all eternity.” (From “One Hundred Wisdom Stories From Around the World,” by Margaret Silf, p. 32-33)

So, Advent comes and disrupts our comfortable lives.  And we are called to wake up to God breaking through the darkness into our lives—2,000 years ago, in the promised future, and even today if we will only awaken to the dawn.   Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “people only see what they are prepared to see.”  That’s what we’ve been doing—preparing to see.

The curtain is rising.  Jesus is not waiting in the wings somewhere until the play is done; rather, Jesus is standing on the stage itself, inviting us in. “Come, awaken, wait with me.  You do not know when the Glory will come but this waiting is a holy place.  Stay awake so that you won’t miss the inbreaking of the Divine itself, the dawn of the fullness of the Kingdom of God.”  The reason we read this passage that begins at the end is because it is the same as the beginning.  God is the Alpha and the Omega.  Birth and death are all wrapped up together, needing each other to give life.  Awaken now so that you do not miss one thing.  Open your eyes.  We’re halfway there!  The baby is coming!  The extraordinary miracle of what is about to happen is matched only by the moment before it does—this moment, this time.  The world awaits!  Awaken that you do not miss the story!

So, are you awake?  When God is ready, God will come.  Watch…for you know not when or where God comes.  Watch, that you might be found whenever, wherever God comes. WAKE UP! so you don’t miss one glorious thing.

We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with [God]. God walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always easy to penetrate. The real labor is to remember to attend. In fact to come awake. Still more to remain awake. (C.S. Lewis)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Anticipation

 

 

The Top of the MountainScripture Text:  Mark 13: 32-37

But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

 

You know that feeling when you’re driving up a really big mountain (or maybe climbing the tallest loop of the roller coaster)?  You can see behind you (although that’s probably not a good idea if you’re actually driving!) and you can see ahead–but only to the top.  You can see where the top begins to round out its shape and give way to the other side but in your view, there is no other side.  It almost looks like you’re just going to keep climbing and be propelled into the open sky, to lose control, to lose footing altogether.  At this point, there is no way to plan at all.  You just trust–trust that the mountain will gently curve its way to the other side and give way to another view, trust that the road on which you’re traveling actually DOES continue and that you will not fall into nothingness, and trust that, in just a moment, in just a moment…this climbing will end.

 

Advent reminds us that we’re sort of on that road.  We feel it under us.  We see it up ahead.  But it continues beyond what we can see, beyond where we can comprehend at this point.  And so we trust and we anticipate that what is up ahead and where we are called to go.  The Scripture text (which we Lectionary readers read this past Sunday) exhorts us to keep alert, to stay awake.  Maybe it could just as easily tell us to anticipate what is up ahead.  I mean, weren’t you told that by your driving instructor all those years ago?  Anticipate the road. I don’t think that means become a psychic or a mind-reader.  After all, the Scripture reminds us that we do not know, that, in fact, we CANNOT know, that we are not at this point in our being, capable of knowing what is up ahead.  Anticipating is not about knowing; it is about readying oneself, preparing oneself, maybe even feeling the road a little more deeply.  Perhaps living with anticipation is about being so awake and so aware that you can actually taste the Presence of the Divine and know that Presence so deeply that life changes.  If one begins to anticipate what is up ahead, one begins to live life as if the road is beginning to curve.  As if…what would it mean to live “as if”?  What would it mean to live as if peace were the norm?  What would it mean to live as if poverty ceased to exist?  What would it mean to live as if God’s Presence was so real that it literally permeated every thread of your being?

 

Advent is our calling to wake up, to anticipate and begin to live as if God has already come into our midst, because that’s EXACTLY what has happened.  The call to keep alert is not a threat; it’s God’s gift to us.  Stay awake, my child, for you do not want to miss it.  Life is coming, a Life that you cannot even fathom how incredible it is.  The road is beginning to round and another view is just up ahead.  Be alert.  You don’ want to miss it.

 

A dreamer is one who can find [his or her] way in the moonlight, and [whose] punishment is that [he or she] sees the dawn before the rest of the world. (Oscar Wilde)

 

FOR TODAY:  What does it mean to be alert?  What does it mean to allow yourself to be awakened to the presence of God in our midst?  What does it mean to anticipate life, to live as if?

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli