Rev’d Jonathan Gale
At St. Joseph’s
Isaiah 2: 1 – 5
The Future House of God
2The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3 Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
Judgement Pronounced on Arrogance
5 O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!
Romans 13: 11 – 14
An Urgent Appeal
11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; 13let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
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. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day* your Lord is coming. 43But 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. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
May I express my appreciation to you all and to Monsignor David in particular, for the privilege it is to share God’s Word with you this morning. Hopefully I don’t put anyone to sleep.
Which reminds me of something.
Falling asleep anywhere, other than in bed, has its hazards. It can be dangerous.
When I was a student we used to have an annual event we called Rag, to collect money for charity. Companies used to lend us their big trucks and we would decorate them all Friday night and then parade on them in a long line through the city on the Saturday. We referred to them as “floats.” I’m not sure why. You could hardly see that it was a truck by the time we had finished with it. It looked like a moving stage with actors who collected all the money people threw at it as we drove very slowly past.
That particular year, we church people were building our float next door to some rather drunk young men who eventually needed a hand to finish putting their float together.
One of these boys was a great big young man called Ham and he had passed out drunk and was lying sleep behind the truck they were using as their float. At about 3.30am we were all very tired and I noticed that someone had begun to reverse their truck. I just happened to be standing near Ham and watched as the huge back wheels of the truck reversed towards his head. I grabbed his feet and pulled him clear just in time. It was as though it was happening in a dream. It made me wonder what Ham’s purpose in life was and what would have happened had I not been watching.
The Bible is full of warnings to keep watch.
42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day* your Lord is coming says Jesus in the Gospel reading.
you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep says St Paul in the reading from the Epistle.
Back to our charity float. My friend Pete and I put Ham into Pete’s little powder blue VW and took him back to his bed in the men’s residence. After that we got dressed up in preparation for the Rag Parade.
You see, if you were one of the lucky ones who was selected to be on the float on Saturday, you had to put on clothes to represent the theme of the float. That year the theme was The Countries of the World, so each float represented a different country. Ours was Holland and we dressed up in traditional Dutch clothing.
God has a bit to say about the kind of character we develop in life and often it is referred to in terms of clothing.
put on the armour of light says St Paul, and a few lines later,
put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
Why would we keep watch and dress appropriately?
Each of the four Sundays of Advent has a theme and normally this particular Sunday is the day of Hope. Christian hope is of course a very solid thing. It’s not like, “I hope I win Lotto!” There’s nothing certain about that at all.
The risen Jesus is the centre of our hope and he is a solid as anything. That is one of the reasons we celebrate the Eucharist with bread. We take in the body of Christ. It is substantial.
Yes, you say, I know that but is there more than that? Yes, there is! We hope for the return of Christ which is exactly what both St Paul and Jesus are talking about in today’s readings from the Scriptures.
It is also what Isaiah is talking about – the future when God reigns solidly among us.
When I was a teenager, (and my family has never let me forget this), I overslept one Saturday morning and wandered through to the dining room, sat down at my place and said. “If I sit here will my breakfast come to me?” Well, you can imagine how funny they found that! I missed out on breakfast, didn’t I?
One thing we do not want to do is wake up and wander through, to discover that Jesus has come and we were asleep when it happened.
I don’t know about you but when I was a teenager I had nightmares about not having cool clothes. I went to posh schools but I did not come from a wealthy family. That was great because at boarding school we all wore the same uniform. But then at the end of year 8, just before we were going to go secondary school, the school organised a dance with the local school, St Anne’s Diocesan Prep School. I had no clothes! I had to borrow from other boys and I felt like a scarecrow!
You can’t function well if you are not dressed for the job. You are a misfit – literally. I was trying to dance and hold my pants up at the same time. Not cool!
You don’t want to find that Jesus arrives and you have not put on Christ – you have not developed the character of Jesus. You won’t fit well – life will be a struggle.
It would be a bit sad if someone missed a race at the Olympics, wouldn’t it? It would also be sad if he got there on time but had not trained.
But when you are ready and fit – that’s when you can perform with joy.
So I say to you this morning:
- Keep awake – maintain a focus on the things of God. Don’t be lulled into the sleep of worldliness.
- Cloth yourself with Christ – stay close to the Lord and allow your character to be moulded by him.
Because when you do, you will do far more than something like save the life of a young drunk man or collect money for charity. You will find yourself at the heart of what God is doing, a God who has great plans for the planet he has created; and there is no better place to be. That is surely our purpose in life!
God bless you.