"Stay awake" / Mark 13.24-37, Jude 20-25 / Pr. Lucas Albrecht / Sunday November 25th 2018: Season of Pentecost - Last Sunday of the Church Year / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Text: Mark 13. 24-37, Jude 20-25
Theme: “Stay awake”
Intr – Have you been sleeping well lately? How would you rate the overall quality of your sleep? When the night comes, is it a pleasant thing to think about crashing on your bed, or is it the beginning of that anxiety of fighting with your pillow and mattress?
If the truism of a needed 8 hours of sleep period per day still holds true, and if we follow it, at the end of our lives we will have spent at least 1/3 of it in the bed. Not in vigil, not with eyes wide open, not alert. That much of our lives will have been spent with eyes wide shut, with our metabolism running low, in an unconscious drift into the labyrinths of our dreams.
I know some people who love to sleep. They are close friends with their beds, and would gladly and easily use well over their assigned 8 hours of sleep every night. I also know people on the other end of the spectrum. I have a relative who once told me the only reason she sleeps it’s because she has to. If she would be allowed to choose, if her body didn’t need any sleep she would gladly stay awake permanently. The idea behind her assertion is that she feels like to sleep is a waste of time. She’d rather use all that time to read more, to learn more, to do more.
Now looks like that relative of mine has got it right, right? When we look to the Gospel for today, we hear Jesus saying: “Stay awake. Be on guard, keep awake.” It looks like our Saviour doesn’t like sleepy heads. He has a glaring dissonance with having your eyes shut to enjoy our rest. Is that true?
Of course Jesus is not talking about physical rest. He is warning about spiritual somnolence; spiritual overdose of eyes wide shut to things that matter, while we keep awake to what should be put out to rest. For The Day will surely come. As sure as Saskatchewan winter always dips below minus 20 He will return to our Earth to welcome Christians into the heavenly places, while the ones who feel asleep for the reality of the Word would be send to the place where suffering and pain will keep them well awake for an eternity of torment.
How do we get prepared for this? How can we not be caught sleeping?
The first and most important answer is given by the Saviour Himself: “He will send out the angels and gather his elect”. By faith in Christ we are elect to life everlasting. We are called into faith, kept in faith; we are sustained in it by His Holy Spirit. That’s what we confess in the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed. In Christ, we are kept awake for what matters.
Interestingly enough, when it comes to our physical needs we have to sleep for the mind to rest. If you don't, your mind gets overwhelmed and it will start shutting down; lack of sleep could cause health problems. When it comes to our spiritual needs though, we have to be wide awake for the mind and the heart to rest. Being full awake in Christ means we will have rest for our souls and we will stay away from spiritual health problems.
When it comes to the end of times, and the necessity of being on guard, we have plain, straight forward teachings from the Word of God:
_There will be an end;
_There will be salvation and condemnation;
_There will be life everlasting;
_There is salvation for all;
Stay awake, be on guard. Be in Christ.
When we think of the end of times, and the dangers and perils to our faith it’ll bring, it is worthwhile to reflect also in what Jude has to tell us about the last days in his epistle. When warning about the dangers of the ones who try to derail us from Christ he also asks us to “keep yourselves in the love of God”. What are the dangers lurking in the midst of the people of God according to Jude?
“– So... how did the conversation go?
-Well, he was really thankful about our invitation, but he doesn’t want to participate in our congregation. The reason, he says, is because we are grumblers, malcontents, following our own sinful desires; we are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. We are inward looking people who hardly have an outlook trying to reach new people with the gentle, simple and faithful way of the first Christians.
-Oh, wow… So then you gave him the answer he deserved, right?
-No, I didn’t.
-Oh, you didn’t? And why is that?
-Because he was right.”
It wouldn’t be any joy to hear something about that about any type of group or gathering, let alone about a Christian Congregation. That’s what Jude is talking about. Of course it was not about an entire congregation, but about people inside of one of them, with a spirit that was not from the Word, much distant from what Christ had taught them.
This description could fit a XXI century congregation too. The love of the World looms around us, our families, our congregations, trying to draw us away from the love of God. If things like that infiltrate a Christian Congregation, its foundation becomes compromised. It would mean that we have fallen asleep, we have lost track of the Word; we are in the path of eternal failure.
I’m not talking about using what the world and our culture have than are good means to convey the immutable truth of the Gospel. We have many examples even inside our temple (microphone, piano, projector, screen, electric light…) showing that whenever something is a good means to the end of proclaiming Christ they are welcome in the Church work. What we always need to be on watch for is that the foundation, the principles, the goals, the truth of the Gospel do not be put under jeopardy. The Word is always relevant and truthful. But we can by our acts out of our sinful nature obscure it or be a hindrance to its proclamation.
Jude lets us know the reality of the Kingdom: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty dominion and authority, before all time and now and forevermore. Amen”. We are grounded in Christ. He keeps us awake. He defeated death and gave us life. He gives us Mercy, LOVE and SALVATION. Now we may be open and able to welcome even those people mentioned by Jude, with their errors, questions - which doesn’t mean we need to agree with their errors. “to show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”
In Christ we are on guard, we are awake with our eyes wide open to receive the word, with our hearts wide open to be nurture by his Sacrament. Here we could retrieve that reasoning from my family member from the physical need applying in the spiritual warfare context. She says she doesn’t like to sleep because that looks like a waste of time. She’d rather be awake to learn, to enjoy, to live. How blessed are we when we are wide awake to learn, to live, to enjoy life with Christ, learning from His Word and trusting in His promises, keeping our eyes in His Will. Walking with Him we know we won’t fall asleep, we will endure to the end of our journey.
Cc – Do you like to sleep? Have you been sleeping well lately? I hope the answer is yes when it comes to resting your body to be prepared to the daily struggle of life. I hope the answer would be no when it comes to your walk of faith. How excellent is that when we love to be wide awake, on guard, in the Lord, waiting for that Day that will come. The Day when Christ will call to life again those who sleep in their death, and together with the ones who are alive will take us to His eternal Home. The place where beds are supposedly not needed, since we are bound to sing praises and serve Him tirelessly, endlessly. Joyfully. Amen.
 When we understand that we are kept awake by the Lord himself we understand that we can depart from this world as elect, saved, redeemed, joyful enjoyers of the pleasures forevermore even if we are sleeping. The play of words and meanings here bears the truth that if you are in faith in Christ, even if you die while sleeping, in coma, in a deep mental illness…you are still awake. You are kept awake by the Word of God so that you can receive the glorious blessings of life everlasting.