Reverend Philip Stringer
November 27, 2022
LET US PRAY: Come, Lord Jesus– and fill us with expectant waiting. Give us ears that hear your coming, and receiving hearts. Come and lead us into the world to serve you, as we watch and pray for your coming in Glory. AMEN
I spent a good portion of the third grade in the hallway. It’s not that I was a bad kid. I wasn’t causing trouble. I just couldn’t pay attention. Not just in third grade, but all grades, really. For some reason, though, Mrs. Peppler thought my inability to focus was a distraction, and so I was often out in the hallway— often sitting on the floor, but and some point she even put a desk out there for me.
And I remember Mrs. Howard waddling past me on her way to the teacher’s lounge. And she would stop and look down at me and say, “I’m glad you’re not in my class!”
It was a problem that plagued me constantly— and year after year, at parent conference after parent conference, report card after report card, it was like a broken record: “Philip could do so much better if he would just apply himself.”
So when I hear words like those spoken by Jesus in our Gospel text today, a shudder of dread passes through me. “Keep awake” “…you must be ready.”
PAY ATTENTION! I hear those words, and deep down, I know I’m going to fail.
What my teachers didn’t know back then in my childhood— what none of us knew back then— was that I, like many other people, am wired differently. In a way we often refer to as “Attention Deficit Disorder.” It wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that I was diagnosed— and that was the beginning of me learning a new perspective on life. I have learned a few things in light of my diagnosis that may be helpful for you, too, regarding how we view Jesus’ words today.
If you have ever worried about being late— or being caught off guard or unprepared— If you have ever been afraid of failing, there is good news for you in our scripture readings today: Jesus is the one who is coming!
There is no debating that there is a sense of urgency in Jesus’ words today— and his comparison to the great floor is rather cheerless— but we must remember who it is who is speaking— and who it is we’re watching for. We are watching for Jesus and we are watching for the coming of his kingdom, and that makes all the difference.
The people in Noah’s day were unaware of the coming of a disaster. But this is not that time. The coming of Jesus will not be a disaster— it will be a wonderful thing— so let’s not live naively and ignorantly and selfishly like the people of Noah’s day.
The owner of the house Jesus describes was surprised by a thief in the night. But Jesus is not a secretive thief on a mission to violate our homes and steal what is ours. He is coming to bring good things and we know it— so don’t live like a clueless homeowner.
When you hear Jesus’ words— if your first reaction is to be afraid that you’ll take your eye off the ball— that you will be a failure and maybe won’t be good enough— well then just climb right into the boat with me and hear this good news: You and I may forget. We may fall asleep at the switch. But Jesus will NOT forget. Jesus will NOT fail. He will not forget to come and he will not forget us.
That takes some pressure off. So let’s not be too hard on ourselves. Rather, let’s celebrate Jesus’ words as an invitation to keep our attention on him as best we can. Because when we do this we will never be disappointed. When we watch for Jesus, we will see signs of him coming already. Do your best to focus on him— not because we are afraid— but because Jesus knows that when you and I look back on our lives we will find that the happiest times of our lives— the most joyful periods of our lives— will be those times when our thoughts and minds have been rooted in looking for the ways Jesus is at work in our lives. We will live life best when we live with Thankful hearts.
That is what Paul invites us to do, too, in our second reading today. “Let’s base our thoughts and our deeds on what we believe.”
Here is something you will likely hear me reference often. I believe that at our deepest level, there are 3 things that all people long for and need.
We want to be safe.
We want to be loved.
We want to be known.
There is so much suffering and heartbreak in the world that comes from these needs not being met, and people desperately trying to get them. War and violence, fear, cruelty— all in desperate and futile attempts to satisfy these needs.
Paul, writing to his fellow Christians says, “We know that all of what we need has come to us in Jesus— So lets not live like the world lives. Let’s stop living on the world’s terms. Let’s not live in ways that we know will ultimately leave us feeling unfulfilled. Instead, let’s live FULLY. Let’s live joyfully, hopefully, lovingly— all because we know that in Jesus we are known and loved and safely held.
In a few minutes we will celebrate Holy Communion.
Jesus is coming— and he meets us in this meal with a foretaste of his coming. In this meal we receive forgiveness and new life and the promise of salvation. He comes to us in this meal because he knows we cannot come to him. He knows that we will drop the ball. He knows that we will forget to watch. He knows that we have had failures and will have more.
And in this meal, he comes to say, “yes, I know you. You are known. I still love you. You are still safe.”
Stay alert— watch for the ways that Jesus is coming to meet you today.…(as best you can! 😉 ) I promise that when you do this, you will not be disappointed! AMEN