Isaiah 2, 1-5 + Psalm 122 + Romans 13, 11-14 + Matthew 24, 37-44
November 27, 2016 at St Peter and St William Churches in Naples, FL
Did you get that first line of this Gospel Proclamation today? “As it was in the days of Noah” it read. Jesus presumes that everyone knows how it was in the days of Noah. Knowing that is essential to knowing what Jesus is talking about. What is described there is people eating and drinking marrying and being given in marriage. That seems like normal behavior. Yet what it also says is that the earth was corrupt and full of lawlessness. Again, not meaning to sound cynical, but nothing much has changed: normal stuff! What is absent in the days of Noah is any obvious attention to God. What is missing is a relationship with God that would make a difference in the way things are. What it says is that Noah found favor with God, and what Noah did that no one else would do was listen to God. He did what God asked. He did what made no sense to anyone. He built a big boat. He risked the ridicule of everyone to do what God asked of him. So, that’s the way it was in the days of Noah, people just going about their lives with no thought of nor any attention to God. Yet there was one person who was listening and obedient to God, and because of that obedience and willingness to take a risk, there was salvation. There is a connection here that I hope you put together between Noah and Jesus.
Notice how Jesus describes life at his time: two men were in the field; two women were grinding at the mill. They are doing the ordinary things of life. The difference between them is that one of them is awake. We could add two people were sitting in a church, one will be taken and the other will be left. Which one will you will it be is the question Jesus would like us to consider. He urges us to stay awake, which means a lot more than not sleeping through this sermon. The two in the field or at the mill may not sleeping; but they may not really be awake – totally awake. This disposition, attitude, or wakefulness is a spiritual awakening. We have to be spiritually awake, alive, and alert, which means living in the awareness that God is among us or that God is with us, Emanuel! That ancient Hebrew word is a proclamation more than a wish. On the lips of believers, it proclaims that God has come.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, and what is the third acclamation? Christ will come again. “Again” is the word that gives this focus. He comes “again” because he has already come. For those who are awake, aware, and attentive, this is the guiding principal behind everything we do, every choice we make, and every way we respond to events and challenges of this life. Two men in the field: one is taken, the other left behind. Which one do you want to be? The one left behind is working that field because he thinks that’s all there is. The one taken has been doing that work for the praise of God in whose presence he lives. Two women at the mill: one is taken the other left behind. The one taken grinds that grain and makes that bread conscious at every moment that it’s all a gift from God, and all the effort of that work is a song or a prayer of gratitude because she is spiritually awake and never forgets why she has the grain to bring to that mill.
How shall it be for us who hear this Gospel and are urged to wake up, listen to God’s Word, and live with full attention in the conviction that Christ has died, that Christ is risen, and that Christ will come again? If you’re folding clothes out of the dryer, every fold is a litany of thanks that you have something extra to clean and fold. If you hit a ball into the rough, instead of what you might say, a smile breaks out because you are standing there with the time and the resources to play that game not because God has blessed you with riches, but because you have a little more time to think about what it’s all for. You sit in traffic and become impatient because someone else is slow ahead of you, and if you are spiritually awake, you might recognize that this little extra time is not being taken from you, but given to you so that you might wake up and look around. It is better to be the one taken while in grateful prayer and reflection than the one who is filling a barn with things they will never see, need, or use.
This day in the life of our faith and our church is ultimately about time. A sense of urgency comes from Isaiah. A timely reminder from Paul about the salvation we have already found in the light of Christ. All of this confirmed by Luke who urges us to live spiritually awake, alive, and prepared for not at any moment, but in every moment, God is with us.