After the Sermon: Staying Ready for the Future Luke 12: 35-40

First Day of SchoolDid you ever find a child in bed, sleeping in their clothes?  They might be sleeping in their uniform, new duds, or a dance recital outfit.  My parents had a child who woke them up before the break of dawn on his first day of 1st grade, dressed and ready.  I won’t mention any names, but he has always been part nerd and loved school.  What can a 54 year old guy say 48 years later other than I wanted to be ready for school.

A convent outside Florence is called the Sisters of Poor Clare.  The founding abbess was Clare, a privileged young woman who was moved by the work of St Francis of Assisi.  Like him, she renounced her wealth, and started a contemplative order of nuns who would pray for the souls of the world.  The Poor Clares took vows of poverty and were sequestered behind cloister walls for their entire lives.  Uniquely, the sisters slept in their clothes; thinking if death comes in the night, they would be ready to enter the next life, parading to meet the bridegroom, Jesus by candlelight.Sleeping in Clothes

Methodists don’t have monasteries or convents.  We create times of being spiritually attentive for a day apart, a retreat or a season.  New Monasticism is movement among Protestants that is growing.  It seeks to be more alert to spiritual matters, trying not to segment or fraction the sacred and secular; as a way to stay ready for the future.  I’ve taken a real interest in that work. None of us take the Bible literally here and sleep in our clothes.  

Jesus uses the metaphor of the bridegroom, suggesting we’re Christ’s betrothed.  The parable contends sleeping in our clothes prepares us for the bridegroom’s coming, a way to stay ready for the future.  Spiritually sleeping in our clothes means we’re so in love with the bridegroom that we spend our days drawing closer to our lover, Jesus.  We want to know him because we expect to encounter his presence anytime in the near future.

So, the master does return from the wedding banquet, but only when it’s time; the future is always on time.  He’s doesn’t wait for the slaves to put the house in order; just as God doesn’t ask us to clean up our act before Christ comes.  We’re to be alert and ready, not neat and perfect.  We’re in love with the one coming, we’re eager to receive Christ when he arrives.  

God loves firstGod has never waited for us to love God first.  God’s works on a heavenly schedule, it begins by God loving us first; and we love in response to God’s love.  Aching to be with someone who loves us is akin to the feelings the  love the servants had waiting for their Master.  The reward of love is being in the presence of the one we love and who loves us. 

This is what causes sparks to fly between lovers.  Terri decided it had been to long since we had a date night.  I made the reservations and even bought a new sport coat.  We headed to dinner and sat down.  When our waiter asked what we wanted to order we said not yet.  We finally ordered 45 minutes later after simply visiting with each other.  We rose from the table three hours later; enjoying being in the presence of the one who loves us.

The servants sleep in clothes because they live with a sense of expectancy that the master who will return loves them deeply; they want to be ready for that future day.  So, they anticipate the day when they could be together again and return the love they feel for their Master.  Love offered craves for love to be returned; love received longs to give back love.  Take a moment and ask yourself, is this the way I feel about God who loved me first?  This could change our attitudes about staying ready for our own future.Lovers at Dinner

The reason we marry is to share the wonder of a love between two people.  We would never stand for a marriage that was only about responsibilities, vows, and duties.  Loved shared gives significance to the obligations of dirty dishes, towels, car pools and bills.  We love sharing life with each other because our love longs to be present with the other.  We must be careful not to make our relationship with Christ all-too-formal; reducing it to fulfilling Christian duties.  Imagining Jesus as a bridegroom can spark our anticipation of a future day of encountering the one who loves us. 

The reason we say yes to the bridegroom Jesus is we want to consummate our relationship with him; giving all our love.  This makes faith in Christ more than taking care of our sins, dealing with our difficulties, and getting us to heaven when we die.  All of that is true, but the bigger truth is that our love of Christ makes an erotic union with God possible.  This imagery foresees “Someone” is in our lives whose sole purpose is to enlarge God’s love in our lives.  The grace filled moments we experience in anticipation of the future, serve as hints of a love we will know fully one day.

Bride waitingThe part of this text that causes us to misconstrue the meaning of the parable is when Jesus says he is returning like a thief in the night.  Terri and I have different ideas about security.  In fact, she says I have no idea about security.  She locks doors without thinking, never leaving a door open or a car unlocked.  I’m vulnerable most of the time.  

Our sense about Jesus coming as a thief shouldn’t be influenced by our ideas of security.  He doesn’t say he’s coming as an actual thief; he’s coming LIKE a thief.  Jesus speaks of the bridegroom arriving for the bride at an unexpected time.  It’s not speaking of a stern master coming to check on slaves.  Though unexpected, we look forward to it; knowing our lover will arrive to shape our future.  We want to be ready whenever it may be.Theif in the Night

The reason we fixate on the negative aspects of the parable is we think he’s only talking to those who aren’t ready.  No one wants to get caught off guard, not being alert for God’s unexpected arrival in their life.  So, we should consider what needs to be different in our lives, so we don’t feel like a spouse caught in the embrace of another; spiritually undressed.  These words are only partially meant for those who aren’t ready.  The parable’s primarily audience is those who long for the arrival of the Master, as unexpected as it may be.  The parable asks us to stay ready for our future. 

Let me make some suggestions how we can do that.  Practice a new discipline that leads to growth.  Volunteer to work with children for a day, week or all year, Kelly will be thrilled.  Perhaps offer to work in community service or at mission site.  Simply love someone today who can’t do anything for you.  This afternoon, clean out closets of clothes someone else should be wearing.  Some of us may want to redirect a windfall in order to make an extra gift.  If anyone needs assistance, ask God and others for help.  Don’t ask unless you are ready to get ready  

Spread LoveStaying ready for the future also means releasing the things of the past, which prevent us from being open for our future.  We can be consumed if we hold to tightly to things we think make us feel secure.  The sooner we realize we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by letting them go, the more ready we will be for God to show up in our lives and our church. 

Karl Barth tells of riding a street car in his home city of Basel, Switzerland. He took a seat next to a tourist, and the two men started chatting.  “Are you new to the city?” Barth inquired.  “Yes,” said the tourist.”  “Is there anything you would particularly like to see in the city?” asked Barth.  “Yes,” said the tourist, “I would like to meet the famous Swiss theologian, Karl Barth.”  “Do you know him?”  Barth answered, “As a matter of fact, I do.  I give him a shave every morning.”  The tourist got off at the next stop delighted; he went back to his hotel and told everyone, “I met Karl Barth’s barber today.” Karl Barth

After Jesus’ resurrection, his disciples often failed to recognize him.  They didn’t have a cognition problem; they had a recognition problem.  It’s still our problem today. We have trouble recognizing when and where God shows up among us, perhaps consumed with needless future speculations.  

Staying ready for the future means we believe we could be sitting next to Christ at any time.  We prepare with the hope our relationship with Christ will reveal to us a deeper dimension of God’s love; causing us to fall more deeply in love with Christ.  This causes us to sink ourselves deeper into the depth of love God feels toward us.  Let us ready ourselves for our future; preparing ourselves for the bridegroom’s combing who may arrive at any time to show us the love of God in so many different ways. 

 

Are you Ready

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Published in: on July 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

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