How do we wake up?

Sermons

Preached by Fr. Paul Allick on Proper 27 Yr A (Sunday, November 12, 2017)

Amos 5:18-24; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

 

How do you wake up? Are you a slow methodical riser? Or do you jump right up and starting doing stuff?

 

I have always been a slow riser. I wake up very slowly and quietly. My little brother with whom I shared a room was a get up and go kid. He would jump out of bed, start talking and getting dressed. He’d be eating cereal before I was even pulling myself out of bed.

 

Once I did get up I was not ready to talk. I was not ready to wrestle. I was not ready for the dog to come into the house and jump on me. I was not ready yet.

 

Throughout the gospels Jesus warns us to either to stay awake or to wake up.

 

Today we hear the parable of the ten bridesmaids. One of the bridesmaids’ duties was to lead the bridegroom in a lighted procession to celebration banquet. They all dutifully gathered at the right spot. They waited and waited for him until they fell asleep. All of them fell asleep. It was how they woke up that mattered. Some woke up completely prepared for his arrival. Others realized that they hadn’t put enough oil in their lamps.

 

 

This is how the kingdom of God arrives, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Five of the bridesmaids were not ready to wake up and go. While they went for more oil the procession happened without them. When they get to the party they are locked out. The bridegroom doesn’t recognize them because they weren’t there for his procession.

 

What is the kingdom? What is the oil? How do we stay awake?

 

The kingdom of God is our new life with Jesus. It exists in our hearts, all around us and in the life to come. The kingdom is now and will be forever. The kingdom is a reality of love, reconciliation and truth-telling. It feels like a feast of good friends, food and drink.

 

The oil is the fuel we need to stay in touch with this new life. We Anglican Christians have the Holy Scriptures and the Book of Common Prayer. When we study and pray them we keep the lamps of our souls full of oil.

 

We stay awake when we pray. Our personal prayer disciplines are unique for each of us but however it happens it is crucial to our ability to stay awake. Informal prayer matters as well. To be in prayer as we walk through our day is to be awake to the presence of God and his kingdom among and within us.

 

We stay awake when we worship. We come together to confess and be absolved, to break open the Word and to receive Jesus’ reconciling love in the Holy Eucharist.

Like those bridesmaids, as much as we try we are bound to fall asleep once in a while.  

 

We fall asleep when we stop noticing God in our lives. When guilt or resentments separate us from others we fall asleep. We fall asleep when we try to wrench our lives back from God run them all on our own.

 

The devil loves it when we fall asleep. The devil will use the sedative of self-will and self-involvement to keep us asleep. The devil will use the distraction of busyness, anger or fear to keep us from refilling the oil in our lamps.

 

Sometimes systems fall asleep. Whole communities stop working toward meaning and start simply doing for the sake of doing.

 

This is what the prophet Amos is preaching to the people of the Northern Kingdom. They are experiencing peace and security. It quickly becomes complacency. The system gets stuck in a rut, a repeating loop and loses sight its purpose.

 

While all the religious rituals continue to be done, the people are not being affected by their meaning. The poor are forgotten and the people abuse each other and their neighbors. Through Amos the Lord declares, “Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Jesus has come to destroy the works of the devil to make us children of God and heirs of eternal life. We need to stay awake with him.  

 

We want to be awake to experience that glorious vision St. Paul describes to the congregation in Thessalonica, “The Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first…then we who are alive will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air…”

 

This is the resurrection of the body. The Catechism tells us that the resurrection of the body means that God will raise us from death in the fullness of our being, that we may live with Christ in the Communion of Saints.

 

Each of us keeps awake and keeps our lamps full in different ways. We do not judge each other’s personal spiritual practices. But we must remember that we do have a common way to keep awake and fill our lamps and that is to join here at every opportunity to share in worship and connecting with one another. The Mass is especially important to this.

 

If we want to stay awake with Jesus, our prayer life and our participation in the celebration of Holy Eucharist cannot simply be pieces of our lives; they must be our lives.