Monday, October 28, 2013


The text is set in the middle of Jesus’ Olivet discourse (sermon).  The Question and Answer session has the Pharisees and Sadducees trying to trip Jesus up, while the disciples were attempting to figure Jesus out.  Neither group was too successful because they failed to understand what Advent was all about.
Advent isn’t about setting dates and who’s in charge; Advent is about relationship – the kind of relationship that God wants to have with us. 
The disciples asked Jesus the kind of question Dad gets from the back seat of the car during the first twelve minutes of the trip to Grandma’s house – Are we there yet?  Jesus gave them the kind of answer you’d expect from a Jewish rabbi.  He tells them how to recognize being there, and how it will feel, and what you should do about it. 
This text, Christian believer, is Jesus’ Advent answer to you about what to do while you’re waiting for him to come back.

Certainty – God’s Timing is His Own

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  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, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.  Matthew 24:36-39 (NRSV)
The fact that God has not “let the cat out of the bag” about exactly when Jesus will return does not allow that there is an if about his return.  “So too will be the coming of the Son of Man” is not a question, but a statement of prophetic fact; Jesus IS coming again.
While serving in Jacksonville, Florida I drove every day up Main Street to our church.  Around 8th Street the Day Labor office was always surrounded by hopeful people at 7am.  They waited, but had nothing to do.
Husbands sometimes feel this way waiting for that special someone to get that last bit of pesky unruly hair in place.  Wives patiently wait while husbands work on getting around to taking out the garbage.  The waiting game!
This is so different from the picture Jesus paints.  In a later part of Jesus’ sermon he tells the parable of the talents.  A businessman going on a trip gathers his three employees and places the responsibility for his property in their hands.  The businessman calls for an accounting upon his return.  The first two employees have worked and made the boss’s investment pay off.  The third buried what he was supposed to use and sat on it until the boss returned.  Needless to say, the boss wasn’t amused!
The parable was a metaphor to describe how Jesus went away from the earth, but left his servants (you and me) to be stewards over his kingdom.  When he returns there will be an accounting of what we have done with what he placed in our hands. 
The parable isn’t about whether or not God loves us – that was settled at the cross.  But they are a measure of how much we love God, and if we desire to be obedient to his command. 
So, we should be busy, not lazy.  John and Charles Wesley should serve as our examples – even if we were not Methodists.  They worked tirelessly and with great sacrifice to extend the Kingdom of God.  Every area of their lives was devoted to Christ. 
Jesus is coming back; it will be in his own time, and we should be living our lives in the full light of an impending accountability.  Advent means “his appearing”.  His appearing means we must give account of the kind of steward we’ve been.  So…while you’re waiting get busy with your talents.

Sifting - God’s Purpose will Divide

Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.  Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.    Matthew 24:40-41 (NRSV)
God will divide the sheep from the goats.  The sheep are those who have accepted Christ – the goats are those who have rejected Christ.  Now, if Jesus is going to do the separating, we must not do that dividing now.  The very nature of judging is forbidden; it is not up to us who qualifies to go to heaven.  Jesus will sort that out on judgment day.
Now, if the judging or sifting is going to work out the purpose of God dividing the lost from the saved, what is our responsibility in the mean time?  Our job is to bring as many of the lost into the fold as we can.
Unfortunately the church is not as good at that as we should be; often that is because we don’t even try.  Many times, however, it is due to our miscommunication and selfishness.  Somehow as the family of God we must reclaim that understanding with compassion that two are going to be in the field…one taken and the other left….LOST! 
Do you recall the movie “Home Alone”?[1]  The main character is Kevin, an 8 year-old boy left alone at home by mistake.  He has to fend for himself while his parents desperately try to get home from a crowded London airport. 
Kevin, played by Macaulay Culkin, is afraid of his next door neighbor, a tall, older, bearded man who is suspected (by the neighborhood kids) of being a murderer.  The man is really only sad and alone, estranged from his only son and his granddaughter.  There’s a scene in the church, where the old man has come to see his granddaughter sing.  Kevin and the old man meet and talk.  In the end their talk leads to understanding, and both are helped.
There is so much that separates the human family.  Advent means Jesus is coming; the Bible word Parousia means presence.  That is at least part of the meaning of Advent…how Jesus came to be Emmanuel – God with us – so God could be in our understanding. 
We cannot be afraid to talk to one another.  No matter what the world is doing these days, believers in Jesus Christ must overcome our fears about sharing the gospel.  The sifting of judgment day demands that we spread the good news – souls are at stake.  While you’re waiting, share the Gospel with others.

Sending – God Defines our Mission

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.  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.  Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.     Matthew 24:42-44 (NRSV)
The two terms Keep Awake and Be Ready aren’t just synonymous they are complementary; to do one is to do the other.
What do the phrases imply?
1.      Something to guard and therefore something to lose if we are careless.
2.      We have a responsibility to prepare for his coming, and help others prepare.
Matthew 26:46 is not in today’s reading, but it sums up exactly what our challenge is in meeting the responsibility of being God’s obedient children.  It tells us that the wicked go to eternal punishment and the righteous to eternal life
It is not a game, but the words should ring loudly in our ears about the Lord’s coming…
Ready or not…Here HE comes!

[1] 1990 Twentieth Century Fox©

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