Are You Ready?

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Advent 1
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 2: 1-4 and Matthew 24: 36-44
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
Matthew 24: 42 (NIV)

MY NEW PHONE

I finally broke down a couple of weeks ago and got a new cell phone. The clerk, of course, had to look up my contact to see where we stood. The first words out of his mouth were, “You’ve had this plan for sixty months.” I’m thinking, “Yeah, so?”

And then he says, “Nobody has a plan for sixty months. Do you have the same phone too?” I admitted that I did. I think he was in awe.

And then he says, “Your current plan only has 200 minutes of talk and fifty megs of data every month.” And I thought, “Yeah I know. And I’ve only gone over the limit twice in the past five years.”

“So,” he says, “why are you getting a new phone now?” I was honest. I said, “Because my phone is so old that some of the apps I like don’t work anymore and the battery isn’t holding a charge very well.” And that was all true. If the apps still worked and the battery wasn’t worn out, I’d be quite happy to have the same phone.

The reason, of course, is that at heart I’m a Luddite. “What’s a Luddite?” you might ask. That’s a good question. The term Luddite first surfaced in early 19th century England during the Industrial Revolution. Bands of Englishmen would roam around the countryside smashing the new-fangled industrial machinery because they believe it threatened their jobs and way of life. I confess that I have some sympathy with that philosophy.

The truth is that I’m not a fan of new technology. It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with technology. I just don’t see the need to rush out an buy the newest stuff when the old stuff still works. And I like the old stuff. I know how it works. I know what to expect. I’m comfortable with it.

And when it comes to phones, when I grew up, we had a phone in the kitchen – one phone in the house for everyone. And that same phone was in the house when I moved out twenty years later. That doesn’t happen today.

But here’s the thing that even Luddites like me need to realize. There comes a time when we have to move on. You can’t keep doing the same things over and over and over again if they don’t work. And nothing in the world was going to make my old phone work any better. No techie fairie was going to wave a magic wand over my old Samsung Core and upgrade the software to make it compatible with newer apps or replace the battery.

It made absolutely no sense for me live in the past. I had to prepare for the future and so that’s what I did. I upgraded to a new Samsung A10. I’m getting used to it. There are somethings that I don’t like. It’s way bigger than my last phone and I find that a little awkward. But it seems that bigger seems to be better these days.

But there are some things that I really like. The camera is way better – all three of them. It’s much faster when I’m using WiFi or data. And I do like having more data. My new plan has 2 gigs of data every month. To put that into perspective, with my old fifty meg plan I didn’t use 2 gigs of data cumulatively on my phone in the last five years. So this is like data heaven and I’m thinking that maybe the $5 more a month is worth it. But the jury is still out because at heart I’m still a Luddite.

But at least now I can handle whatever the next generation of phone technology brings. I am now so ready for this.

NO ONE KNOWS WHEN

It’s important to be ready. That’s what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 24. The context of the story is that Jesus is telling his disciples about end of the age when God will transform the earth into a world where peace will reign and justice will flow like a mighty river. He began with these words in Matthew 24:36 (NIV):

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

The first thing that Jesus says is that no one knows that day or the hour. No one knows when God will do this. The angels don’t know. Not even Jesus the Son knows. Only the Father knows and he isn’t telling anyone else.

But what day are we talking about? It’s called various things in the Bible. Sometimes it’s called the Day of the Lord. Sometimes it’s called the end of the age. The most common name is the Second Coming. We believe, as Christians, that Jesus died and rose again. We also believe the he ascended to heaven where he now sits at the right side of our Heavenly Father. Furthermore, we believe that at the end of time he will come again to initiate that reign of justice and peace that God has promised.

Part of Advent is preparing for his second coming. We sometimes miss that piece. We’re really good at preparing for his first coming – we call it Christmas. That’s why we do all the Christmasy things like decorate our homes and bake shortbreads and buy Christmas presents. It’s all to prepare for the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem. But the second coming is equally important. We need to prepare for that too.

Jesus tells us that we don’t know when that will be. But about the day or the hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Jesus is clear. We don’t know when it will happen. There are lots of people who try to guess. They look for signs and wonders and they go on and on about Jesus coming back soon. But what does the Bible say? It says that no one knows. And we need to stop trying to guess because people have been guessing for the past 1,900 years and all of them have been wrong.

So, why is it important to be prepared, to be ready? Jesus uses an Old Testament analogy to make his point. In Matthew 24:37-39a (NIV) he says this:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.

What Jesus is referring to is what happened during Noah’s day in the lead up to the flood, how even on the day before the flood happened people were just going about their business, eating, drinking, getting married, whatever. While Noah was building the ark and all of his neighbours were making fun of him for it, they were doing nothing to get ready for what was going to happen.

You might ask if there was anything that they could have done. Clearly, the answer is yes. They could have built their own arks just as Noah did. But they didn’t so when the flood waters came, they were not ready and by then it was just too late. The waters came, covered the land and that was it. But that’s what happens when you’re not ready. Sometimes the flood waters come and take you away.

COUSIN LOUIS

Jesus goes on to say this in Matthew 24:39b-41 (NIV):

That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

What he’s saying is simply this. Do you understand what happened to the people in Noah’s day who were not ready? The same thing will happen to you if you refuse to prepare for the coming of Jesus, the Son of Man. Those who are ready will go to be with him. Those who are not ready with be left in the field. The implication is clear. We need to be ready for the day when Jesus comes again to bring in the peace, to bring in that justice and to inaugurate his kingdom of love and mercy and compassion.

But how can we be ready for it when he has already told us that we don’t know when he’s coming? It really is easy, isn’t it? Think about it. Supposed that your long lost cousin Louis found you on Facebook and decided that he was going to come for a visit. You thought that was a great idea because you haven’t seen cousin Louis in thirty years. So you say, “I’d love to have you visit Louis. When are you coming?”

And Louis says, “I’m not sure yet, but I’ll be in your area in January and when I get there, I’ll knock on your door.” And you ask if he could maybe more specific because you like to have the house clean and food prepared and the fresh sheets in the guest room when company comes over. But Louis really can’t be any more specific. He’ll get there when he gets there.

So how would you be with cousin Louis? I don’t know about you but I can’t say that our house is always in the best shape. Right now, we have all of the Christmas decorations in the dining room spread out all over the table and chairs. There’s stuff on the floor too waiting to be hung up. If cousin Louis came over today, he’d find a pretty messy house. And it’s not even so much about Christmas decorations. I’d like to say that our dishes are always done and put away but they’re not. I’d like to say that we pick up the dog hair every day but we don’t. There’s often some dust on the piano and yesterday’s mail may still be in the fruit bowl on the island in the kitchen.

Do you know why that is? It’s because we live in our house and sometimes it looks a little bit messy. It’s called life. I used to have a rock by the front door and on that rock was written, “An immaculate home is the sign of a misspent childhood.” I think there’s some truth there. I don’t want to spend so much time cleaning my house that I forget to enjoy life. But I do like to keep it to the point where it’s at least presentable who someone drops over unexpectedly… like cousin Louis.

There is, of course, one way to be ready for cousin Louis when he does arrive. That’s by always being ready. If you’re always ready that it doesn’t matter when he comes, you are prepared to greet him with open arms.

Jesus doesn’t care if your house is clean. He doesn’t really care if you’ve done the vacuuming or put the dishes away or dealt with the mail. What he really cares about is what is in your heart. Is your heart ready to receive him? Is there room there in your heart for him? That’s what he wants to know.

THE THRONE OF YOUR HEART

I remember a student minister who came to my home church in Hamilton when I was in my mid-twenties. Some of you know him too. His name is David Duncan and David used to minister at Epworth United Church in Kingsville about twenty years ago. David and I became good friends during that time and taught me this illustration. He said, “Think of your heart as a throne room. And in that throne room there is a throne. It’s this little throne inside your heart. The big question is this: who is sitting on that throne? Because the person sitting on that throne is the person who controls your life.”

If you want to ready for Jesus when he returns at the end of the age, you’d better be able to answer that question. Who is sitting on the throne of your heart?

I’m not saying that other things can’t be important. In fact other things need to be important. The Bible illustrates this in Revelation 4:2-5a (NIV). This is how John describes his vision:

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder.

 What John is describing is the throne of heaven – Jesus’ throne – that is surrounded by twenty-four other thrones on which the elders sit. These thrones are important too. After all, they are thrones and the elders sitting on them have crowns on their heads which says that these are important people. But they are lesser thrones then the one which is in the centre upon which sits the one whose appearance is like jasper and ruby. Again, this is Jesus and as important as the twenty-four elders might be, they are subservient to him.

You may have other important things in your life. You have your family to look after. You have your job or the volunteer organizations that you support. You have your pets and your farms. And of course you have your ministry in the church. All of those things are important but in a world of competing priorities, one thing has to be most important. But if you want to be ready, none of them can sit on the throne of your heart. Advent tells us that being ready means that that throne, that tiny little throne sitting there in the middle of your chest is reserved for Jesus.

You might think that is pretty selfish of God, to insist that Jesus be the most important thing in your life. But, actually, it’s not the least bit selfish. It’s actually pretty smart. That’s because, in my experience, when I put Jesus first, everything else in my life gets better. I become a better father, a better husband, a better friend and I think a better pastor too. Putting Jesus first does not mean that the rest of your priorities get shortchanged. It actually means that they improve. And if you’re not sure about that, try it out. Put Jesus first in everything and see how much the rest of your life improves as well.

ALWAYS BE READY

Jesus ends his talk with the disciples by saying this in Matthew 24:42-44 (NIV):

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

The meaning of this is simple and we’ve already more or less said it. When does the thief to break in and steal? It could happen at any time, day or night, next year, next week or even this afternoon. So when does the owner of the house have to be ready for that thief? He has to be ready all the time.

So too, it is with Jesus. We know when he came the first time. We celebrate it at Christmas when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. That’s already past history. But he will come again. When that will be we don’t know so we need to ready for him all the time. How do you know when you are ready? Ask yourself a simple question. Do you remember that throne in your heart? Who sits on it? If the answer is Jesus, then you can be assured that you are ready.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

God of Grace and Glory, we approach this first Sunday in Advent with hope and anticipation. We remember the birth of your Son, Jesus, in Bethlehem. We celebrate that he is born in our hearts each day. We look toward the day when he will come again to defeat the powers of darkness and inaugurate a new light which will shine upon Creation with peace and justice.

Enable us, O God of Light, to put aside the sinful natures that tempt us. Lead us to your path and strengthen us against the calls to fall away. Encourage us to walk the road of your making.

We pray for our nation as we enter the Advent Christmas season. It is at time of good will but we are probably as divided as at any time in the past few decades. Bring us together, O God, in a common purpose for the common good of all.

Our prayers are also lifted for the people of our sister church in Wheatley who have lost two of their long time supports. Bless the church and the families of Al Ascott and Murray Owen as they mourn the deaths of these two faithful men. Thank you for their faith and their contribution to the ministry of Jesus.

We pray for Canadian troops around the world. Strengthen them and keep them safe against those who would like to rule through tyranny and injustice. We also keep in mind our other soldiers, sailors and air men who are seeking to preserve the peace, sometimes at the cost of their lives.

We lift up in prayer the sick of this congregation and community. We think especially of Mary and Jacqui. May your Spirit so rest upon them that they may find rest, peace and healing.

As we approach Christmas, we pray for those who find this season to be a difficult time of year. Heal their wounds. Calm their fear. Reassure their spirits and hold them in your love. Grant us your peace. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

December 1, 2019 / Advent 1

SCRIPTURE

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

CALL TO WORSHIP

We come with hope and expectation!

We come with the hope of new life and freedom!

We come with hope to meet our God!

PRAYER OF APPROACH

God of Expectation, Creation groans in the presence of your holiness. All the earth is filled with hope at the sound of your coming. We eagerly await the arrival of the Messiah who brings peace and reconciliation to the world and to our relationships. Come to us now. Come to us in our need. Come to us in our pain and bless us with an overwhelming sense of your Spirit. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

God of Hope, humanity shudders in the presence of your holiness. Despite your promises of peace, we continue to live in separation and suffering. We blame you for our problems when most of our difficulties are the product of our own sinfulness and poor choices. Forgive us for turning away from your blessings. Forgive us for ignoring the demands of the Christ. Cleanse us that we may be born again in your holy love. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

Creation groans under the weight of sin but God offers relief. We look with hope to the one who was born in a stable in Bethlehem. Hear the Good News. In Christ, we have our salvation and reconciliation with God. Our sins are forgiven.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

We thank you, God of Creation, for giving us your Son. Enable us to give our lives back to you. We give now these tokens of your blessings in the hope that all that we have may be used for your name. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

In faith, we walk from darkness into light. God is our light and salvation and there is no need to fear. Let us go forward with courage and confidence to do the work of Christ.

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