“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” [NRSV]
CAUTION: The Yellow Flag, the Caution triangle, the surgeon general’s official warning.
Key Verse: Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.
- Be Alert.
- Pray for strength
- Be ready to stand before the Son of Man
Advent: Be Alert. The core purpose of the liturgical season of Advent is to make time and make ready our lives for Christ.
It has little to do with #redcups from #starbucks or store’s commercializing the season without the faith-based reason. It ultimately is study time before the test. It is practice driving before getting your drivers’ license. It is the work that leads up to the #retirement time we live the life unencumbered by work. (ideally)
I invite you to join in a series of mini marathons to prepare us for the full #26.2 mile race. I am not a runner at this point in my life. I learned from my DNA research that my people only have a 3% of becoming sprinters. I am certainly in the right family. But I do know that if I was going to self-propel my body in any fashion for 26.2 miles. I am not ready for the race today.
The first word of preparing in our text today is ‘Alert.’
Alertness is a willful, intentional, state of readiness to be either proactive and/or reactive to the situation and circumstances around us.
The rampant increase of acts of terror have raised our alertness to evil in the world. Paris, Mali, Chattanooga and even in our experience. We are cautioned to prepare one another to be watchful. If something is wrong or out of place, then report it, follow up on it and take the information as credible until it is disproved.
This way of daily life is stressful, and it carries the risk of being so cautious that we withdraw or cause injury to ourselves and others. The text affirms that we live in risky times. So learning how to be alert that is appropriate to the level of risk is what our insurance companies help us figure out.
Based on our experience of driving, they determine the degree of risk to cover inevitable accidents and losses we will experience. Every insurance representative would work with drivers, renters and home owners to take proactive precautions to prevent poor impact upon policy payments.
For our spiritual journey and spiritual home, we prepare in similar styles. Be preventive and proactive.
Luke and I have agreed to encourage each other in goal of loosing the same amount of weight. He is loosing muscle, I’m loosing fat. If we wait start until the end of April to meet our goals. We will surely fail.
We both agreed, let ‘s start after Christmas. With all the dinners and parties and festivities. It would be better to start when we were less tempted. But we are fooling ourselves.
Remember Jesus ministry was challenged by temptation before he told the first parable or healed the first person. We get busy in the temptation, because the nature of letting our attention and guard down opens the flood gate for failure and disappointment.
Advent. 1.a, Step one, be alert by study, fellowship, singing, exercise restraint from the thing we KNOW are not helpful. Be attentive to the building up of our spiritual self. Make our spirit the priority of each day. Not at the expense of all else, rather the priority of the day.
Advent. 1.b, Step two, pray for strength.
Wow, Jesus knows the disciples are going to find their weak points in a hurry. Not only will we get lazy and justify our physical demands replace our spiritual demands, but we will grow weary, quickly.
The preventative training is to pray. Pick a time and work to make it your prayer time. Read the prayers of others, start with the prayers of your childhood, sit in silence as ask God to hold your thoughts and worries and simply rest in the arms of God. But start praying with the regularity with which we do important physical things. When you eat, prayer. When you rest in the room of rest, pray. When you get in the car, prayer. When you arrive at school or work or your destination, pray for what you will face. Start talking and listening to God. Listen to spiritual music, read spiritual writers, discuss spiritual topics with a desire to inform and learn rather than force others to agree. All these are forms of prayer as we offer our speaking and listening to God.
Advent 1.c, Step three, Be ready to stand before the Son of Man.
Keep the goal in mind. Not only be awake and proactively growing your spirit. (2016: Have every member of RSUMC involved in some spiritual growth group. 3-300, sized) Not only be talking and listening to God, encourage one another to keep the goal in mind.
Our lives our gifts of God, entrusted to us to build a relationship with God through the grace of Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of the Church. When we finally have lived our life, and we stand before God. Can we say, “I want to be with you.”
It sounds crazy in a way. It seems if anyone had a chance to stand before God and say I love you our I hate you. I know you or I never really knew you. If there was sliver of opening, we would want to go with God. But the truth is that not everyone believes this to be true, or has another way of fulfillment and meaning. Some folks with stand before Christ our judge and is not interested in our excuses or laziness or business or intentions.
The text’s second warning is that difficult, terrible, and oppressive things are to come in this world: Things we will want to escape.
Be alert, be preparing, be strong , be encouraging… but do all this for what?
Jesus has come into the flesh to show and open a relationship with God. Think of your best friend. How often would you want to share
- a meal?
- an adventure?
- a comment about the news or a movie?
- or build a memory or retell an old one?
- working through your struggles?
These are the journey points of a relationship with God. It is not just saying we are friends, it is showing it with the life, time and stuff that makes up our being.
Finally, we in a time of preparation, aimed for more than a day.
Like so many #wedding have months of planning and preparation lead toward a day, but should always be for more than that day: “That Day” may be the wedding, but it is the marriage that begins. Christmas is the season for which prepare. This is our first journey
- How am I going to keep alert my spiritual self and relationship
- How am I going to talk and listen to God and God’s people
- How am I going to become strong enough to finish the race.