The First Sunday in Advent (November 28, 2010)

Watchfulness and Attentiveness

Lessons: Isaiah 2:1-5 Psalm 122 (1) Romans 13:11-14 Matthew 24:36-44

Prayer of the Day: Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Text:

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

St. Matthew 24:36-44. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Two men are sitting in the lower section at Coors Field: one intently fixed on the duel between pitcher and batter, the other checking e-mail on his Blackberry. The pitcher fires a slider at the plate, the batter swings, and the ball comes screaming at the stands. “Watch out!” the one yells to the other. (We all know which one, don’t we?)

Two friends are taking a late-afternoon hike in the woods: one drinking in the sights and sounds and smells, the other pre-occupied with memories of a fight she had with someone the day before. “Did you see that wren feeding her chicks?” the one says to the other. (We all know which one, don’t we?)

There are times when we are deeply attuned to what is taking place all around us, and in those moments we don’t miss a thing. There are also times when we are a million miles away, and in those moments we find ourselves missing most everything that is going on. The difference? We stay attuned to those things about which we are passionate – those things which we’ve worked to understand – those things on which we focus.

I am coming to believe that we live in one of the busiest times in human history. One of the hardest things to do in ministry these days is to find a time when six people can get together. We are busy all the time. We run from meeting to sporting event to dinner engagement to bedtime. There are days when we never find time to sit down and catch our breath. We live, continually distracted by many things.

In this weekend’s Gospel lesson, Jesus reminds us that the day will come when the Son of Man will return to this world. At other places in scriptures he describes the “signs” that will precede this return (like the Gospel lesson from two weeks ago: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”). But in today’s text he says that it will come as a surprise. Even the angels of heaven and the Son of God don’t know the timing. It will be like the days of Noah, when people were preoccupied with eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. They were so distracted by the day-to-day activities of their lives, that they had no idea destruction was at hand until the waters started to rise.

There are many activities and commitments that vie for our attention these days. Which among them take hold of our hearts? Are they the ones that draw us away from God? Or are they the ones that draw us towards God? Are they the ones that we wish to be found pursuing if this turns out to be the last day we have to live on this earth?

Our God calls us to live lives that are shaped by love and mercy and kindness. Our God commands us to invite others into the promise of the Gospel. As we do so, we are drawn nearer to God. As we do so, we become more likely to recognize where Jesus is active in our world today. As we do so, we find ourselves best prepared for that last day, which each of us will eventually experience. May God grant us the grace and strength to stay watchful and attentive to what is most important: living as signs of God’s power and grace in this world; living as faithful followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What Biblical images do you recall about the end of time?
  2. What does it mean that neither the angels nor the Son will know when that time comes?
  3. Can an awareness of the eventual end of time be a positive factor in a believer’s discipleship?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What activities and commitments occupy my time, and my attention?
  2. Which of them draw me nearer to God?
  3. How can I intentionally shift the balance of my life, so that I am more often focused on what God has invited me to be about in this world?