Matthew 24:36-44

The Necessity for Watchfulness

36 “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.

This has been simply an amazing week.  I needed a week like this.  I’m not sure what your week has been like, but my hope and prayer that as you come into this time, this morning, that you are able to be thankful…and that you are wide awake to the possibilities that surround you.

Our Gospel lesson this morning is from Matthew.  Jesus is preparing his disciples, his followers, and those that are listening to him, that the time is coming, and maybe even already upon us, that the Son of Man, would be present with them.

During Jesus’ day, there was much anxiety.  Israel was an occupied land by the Roman Empire.  They were on edge from the whims of the most powerful force in the world at the time.  What’s more, the Roman Empire had enriched and empowered narcissistic rulers in Israel.  Things were on edge.  Yet, within that, persons were sensing that things were changing.  Their hope was for the Son of Man, the messiah to return soon and be a political ruler that would make things right.

What Jesus was saying is so much more.  The Greek phrase in this passage for the visitation or coming of the Son of Man, is “Parousia”.  It translates as the coming of the King, but it also translates as the Presence of God.  This is a theme throughout scripture, that the Kingdom of God is coming and we’ve talked quite a bit in the past about the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are phrases that tell us that God’s Presence is with us, coming to us, in our midst and even in us.  

Now, Jesus wasn’t a political ruler…no, Jesus wasn’t interested in simply seeking earthly power or making things great for a few folks or through some sense of cultural collective ego that was looking for an external savior to drop from the heavens.  Jesus was about something much more, much deeper…Jesus was about bringing all of humanity together.  Not making everyone the same, actually celebrating our human diversity, while also bringing unity and a deep sense of communal love and connection.  Jesus, in his humanity, showed us how to love and how to work towards reconciliation and inclusion in his life.  After his death and resurrection, Jesus continues on to represent all of humanity.  Our passage this morning gave our spiritual fathers and mothers a couple of hundred years later a sense of our understanding of God’s Trinitarian nature.  In the first verse it talks about the Father knowing the time that the son of Man will be with us, that phrase denotes relationship between the father, and the son, and bears witness to that relational dynamic of three creating, redeeming, and sustaining through relationship and that Relationship’s flow in and through our lives.  

It also goes on to say that we don’t know when calamities or hardship fall upon us, we do live in anxious times.  Every election cycle that we have had in the past six or seven years has been evidence of that anxiety.  Which, is really more about a shift in culture than an election.  People are fearful in times of change and we can all become susceptible to extremes.  Regardless of who you voted for, and we all know this, there has been a deep sense of change happening all around us for years.  Yet, the fear of the unknown is real.  

The way of dealing with change in a productive way is the path of awareness.  We are called to be awake, to be sober to the realities around us and to be interested or curious without judgment as things unfold.  Discernment yes, but not judgment.   To cultivate a sense that God is coming to us and that God has come to us…that the Kingdom of God is here and we celebrate Advent, the coming of God’s physical presence through Jesus and God’s commitment to us throughout history in Jesus’ representation of humanity.  

There can be moments in our lives, whether through life events in our families or neighborhoods, or even national elections that remind us of the divisiveness and walls between us…but, we have also have moments like today that remind us that we are called to be together.

In this mornings passage, Noah is referenced.  He goes into the ark, into the storm, and after 40 days, the waters receded and Noah was reborn.  Life wasn’t perfect for Noah after this “rebirth”, he was messy, read the story.  But faith held him and he took a risk and he lived into a new era with a deeper sense of Presence.  

In our baptism, which is more than a one time symbolic event, we also arise out of the waters, symbolizing our old lives being shed and being awakened to the deeper reality of God’s Presence, of God’s Kingdom in our midst and in us, to each other, and to the world through Jesus’ actions on our behalf and the relational flow from our 3 in 1 God.  

May we stay awake and aware to the realities of this world and in our lives, that we do face dark times in this world, as well as our own lives, we do experience anxiety and grief…we are not alone…we can overcome that which divides us and move towards real friendship with God and each other.  Yes, it is hard work, this work of awareness, of living in God’s Kingdom presence following the model of Jesus as we work out the practices of reconciliation and inclusion….of allowing ourselves to emerge and to grow towards an ever deepening maturity.  

As we close this morning, there is a great quote from a Hispanic theologian, Miguel Diaz, “As beloved triune community, God ‘dances’ to birth human communities torn by suffering, hatred, and division.”

As we celebrate many of the things of this past week, and all the weeks that preceded it and will come after this moment, may we know that life is filled with paradox, but life is also amazing and wonderful and filled with possibility and imagination.  That anxiety and fear are no match for love and grace.  And, may we enter into the dance of God, and be awake even in the face of things we may not understand or predict.  

Friends, keep your eyes and ears open, stay awake, be aware, and live in faith even as the night comes..and dance in God’s Presence that has come, is coming, and is here now.  

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