Monday, December 6, 2010

Watching in Prayer: Awake & Alert

Sermon at Resurrection Anglican Fellowship
Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010
Rev. Philip Eberhart
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This morning is New Year’s Day in the Church Calendar – the first Sunday of Advent! Advent is the season when we turn our attention to view the wonder of Christ’s coming among us – both His Promised return and His arrival, as we will celebrate next month, as a Babe in Bethlehem.

This morning our readings urge us to be awake and alert for the signs of His Second coming. Advent is a time of “preparation” – a time of awakening. Awakening to the signs around us and the “immanence” of His return… Advent is a call to stay awake, as Jesus warned in the gospel… be ready!

It was amazing this morning as I was up early typing out my thoughts for this sermon, here came my daughter, Kiri, who has slept all week till noon or later. She had an 8:10 flight this morning back to Omaha and a drive then to Iowa State. She was up at 4:45, an hour before her ride was scheduled and she was packed and ready to go. Readiness is in our heart and mind and it translates into the actions of our body.

What does it mean for us to be prepared for the return of the Lord Jesus?

If we look at Paul’s writings, throughout we see what scholars call an “immanent eschatology.” In words that normal people use, that means, he believed that Jesus could come back any time and that it was going to be sooner , rather than later!! We can see this feeling in his lines from Romans in this morning’s NT lesson. He also gives us some clues as to just what being “awake” might mean.

Here in Advent 2010, when we hear the words “our salvation is closer now; the night is far spent, the day is near…” we might respond, “DUH!!” These words were originally penned in the mid first century – how can we not, twenty centuries later be “closer now!” Closer indeed!!

Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Gospels of the signs to look for: As it was in the days of Noah: “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage… and they knew nothing!” Life was a big party. It was a marriage feast, oblivious to the conquering army banging down the door!! Like today, their “eat, drink and be merry” lifestyles had overtaken good sense. They were asleep at the wheel going a 100 miles an hour!!

So what is Paul’s prescription here this morning … to the Romans in the first century and to us in the 21st century?

“It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep!!”

LET US THEN…

Lay Aside the Works of Darkness and Put on the Armor of Light;

This is an active choice of our hearts and minds: A choice to live according to the directives of the Living God. Earlier in this same letter, Paul goes into great lengths to explain what is encapsulated here in just a few words. Almost three chapters, from 6 to the end of 8, explain the struggle we have with our flesh and the key role that our mind and heart have in this process:

RO 6:17 “…though you were slaves to sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves to righteousness”

RO 8: 5-6 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

Paul speaks of these two “Mindsets” as things that we can take off and put on, like a coat. That is in fact his metaphor for how we appropriate the work of and the character of Jesus Christ into our lives; PUT ON CHRIST! Just as matter-of-factly as if he were pointing to a new suit, Paul points us to the clothing of righteousness throughout his writings, as well as here in Romans.

But as he sums up here in Romans he goes into some little detail:

LET US LIVE HONORABLY (as in the day,):
Paul delineates just what honorably means here as well:

Not in reveling and drunkenness;
Not in debauchery and licentiousness,
Not in quarreling and jealousy.

In other words, not like it was in the days of Noah!!

INSTEAD, PUT ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST~
There it is.

Paul tells the Colossians, (3:12ff) “since God chose you to be the holy people whom He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.”

He goes on: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… Let the Words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. … whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus…”

This is what it means to be “awake” my friends.

Be awake to the times that we live in, to be sure – but not awake with fear, as if the thief is about to break in. No! Awake with anticipation – alive with the hope of His return. Awake with perception, discerning the times that we live in; awake to opportunity, having our eyes open to the movement of God in our midst and in the world, as he prepares us for an end times revival, the likes of which we have never seen.

And this morning I want to echo the words of Paul:

SALVATION IS NEARER TO US NOW THAN WHEN WE FIRST BECAME BELIEVERS!

STAY AWAKE IN PRAYER, IN YOUR READING OF GOD’S WORD, IN ACTIVE APPROPRIATION OF IT TO YOUR LIFE IN LIVING APPLICATION.

THE TIME IS SOON COMING WHEN WE ARE GOING TO BE CALLED ON TO BE THE LIGHT THAT WE ARE: THE LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS OF AN EVER DARKENING WORLD.

AND AS THE DARK GETS DARKER, EVEN A SMALL LIGHT IS BRIGHT!!

AMEN!

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