Ready: Matthew 24:36-44
# TheComing is the Podcast for November 27, 2016. Does the Second Coming promise that finally those who rigged any system, did any evil, will get theirs? Is God a god of justice and not just a God of Love? Listen to this podcast to find out.: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Justice #Advent #GetWhatIsComingToThem #Holy #Holiness #Judgment #Repentance #Community #Evangelism #CinderellaMan #FighttheGoodFight #Matthew #GospelofMatthew #Hope #SecondComing
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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 11/27/2016 The 1st Sunday of Advent.
Please pause this audio and read Isaiah 2:1-5 and Matthew 24:23-36.
In the movie, “The Cinderella Man,” which takes place in the depression era 1930s, Russel Crowe plays James Braddock, a boxer whose life mirrored the history of the United States from the 1920s to the 1940s. He had success, broke his hand and fell into hard times during the Depression of the 1930s, and then he had a revival of his career.
What I want to talk about is a scene in particular when things are really bad. Braddock has sold his home, let go of the nanny for his children, sold off everything that he could possibly sell to make ends meet, and his family is living in the basement single room apartment of a tenement. When Braddock gets home one day after looking for work, his son is in trouble, and his other children tell dad that the oldest child had stolen something. The child stole a sausage from the butcher.
So, Braddock takes his son back to the butcher, returns the sausage, and has the boy deliver an apology. In the discussion afterward, Braddock finds out that his son is worried that the family is going to have to be broken up because another friend of his was sent away from his family that could not feed him. The sausage was a sign of desperation to keep the family together. It was a noble intent and a horrible means.
The movie depicts Braddock as a man who would rather starve than have his son be dishonest. Of course, we have no idea if Braddock would do such a thing, but this is the ideal for which we strive. Christians are people who choose to do the honorable thing, the holy thing, over the expedient thing, even if it means that we have to settle for less right now.
I say, “Right now,” because we are a people who believe in the Second Coming. We Christians are a people of hope. We believe that when the Lord comes a second time, the heavens and the Earth will be renewed. The prophet Isaiah says that the day is coming when, “The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains.” This is language we interpret to mean that there is a day when God will reign for everyone, his justice will be exacted, his mercy will be extended, and there will be no more stealing, no more corruption, no more competition and lust for power. The “swords will be turned to plowshares” and “the spears to pruning hooks.”
The human psychology, because we are a people of scarcity and pessimism, we get cut and bleed, we grow hungry and search for food, the human psychology tends to dwell on the negative aspect of hearing that there will be a flood, a kidnapper, and a thief. We focus on the concrete of the parable from Christ. The human mind freaks out thinking if there is a judgment, then I will come out on the wrong end.
In some ways, this is healthy because it will keep us striving to live as Romans 13 speaks today, about living the life of holiness. It ain’t easy to be a holy person. One is constantly tempted to cut corners, do something illegal or immoral because there is big money in illegality and lack of ethics. That is, unless they serve you with a warrant for allegedly rigging towing contracts as a Sheriff, or go to jail for rigging the energy market, although rigging the mortgage market doesn’t seem to put people in jail. Yet, for those of us who await the Second Coming, we should not have the worry of the doom of our unethical behavior.
Although we are faced with one being swept away by the flood and another standing, or one being kidnapped and another remaining, or a thief coming in the middle of the night, the point is twofold: be ready by resisting the temptation to steal a sausage because you are hungry in the midst of the Great Depression. Secondly, there will be a judgment and there will be some who are taken away and some who will remain for the renewal of the heavens and the earth. The ones who remain evil will get their just desserts.
1 John 4 tells us that this should be a day of confidence for us. Revelation 14 tells us that those who love God will have his name “written on their foreheads” at the judgment. Of course, this is the oil of chrism which is anointing our heads at baptism and confirmation. We ought to have confidence because those who seek to do God’s will are in. That is not a good deed issue, that is a desire of the heart issue. Good deeds flow from those who desire God, but it is not indicative.
We have no idea who will be in or out by looking at their good deeds because some do good deeds to give the appearance that they are good. Some do good deeds to try to convince themselves that they are good. Many gang operators, strip club owners, gossipers, adulterers, liars, and racketeers do good to cover their bad behavior. Yet, for those who are attempting to love God and neighbor concurrently, these are the ones who have nothing to worry about. In fact, it should be a time of relief.
Don’t we want those who unrepentantly rigged the system and abuse others to get theirs? Don’t we want those who are unrepentantly evil or mean to others get what they deserve? Although we pray that they would repent in this life so they wouldn’t face judgment, isn’t it a relief to know that no amount of hiding or putting up appearances will fool God? There is a difference between wanting others to come to repentance and being thankful that all the evil junk we have to deal with will be gone.
The word ‘’Advent” means ‘coming.’ The Scripture readings we get from Advent mean that someone and something are coming. Evil people will get what is coming to them. Lovers of God will get what we don’t deserve. So, way before we celebrate the baby in the manger, we have to come to terms with our confidence. We have to fight the good fight.
That means that we have to be a community of faith that turns our swords to plowshares, spears to pruning hooks, and puts on Christ. It means we have to fight the battle to be genuine in the midst liars, cheats, and charlatans. It means we have to deal openly and honestly with those who are crooked. We have to take the chance to speak unashamedly and publicly with others about our faith in Jesus Christ. We do so in the hope that they, too, will be with us in the celebration and relief at the Second Coming. It is not enough for us to just save ourselves. That is a selfish faith which acts like we are embarrassed to follow Christ.
We have to do our part to save the evil in the world. Yet, if they choose to continue in evil, we have to walk away. Our tribe centers around Jesus Christ. We are faithful to him. It is his rules that apply. Although we are ultimately called to love and mercy, we are also called to holy living. That seems to get harder and harder, one battle after another in this war of life v. death.
So whether it is facing hunger, like James Braddock’s son, or facing sexual lust, or unethical opportunity, or lying, or denying Christ or a member of our faith community, or any other immorality, we simply cannot do it. That would lack character, loyalty to God and one another, and send a signal that we are people who are just as hypocritical as the world.
So, we must be ready. We must live as being constantly ready for our reality to come true. We must confess, repent, turn and go the direction of the Cross in preparation for the unexpected coming of our Lord. We sacrifice in testimony to his Sacrifice. We rejoice in the lack of complication that a holy life brings. We stand confident in our unambiguous existence. We live differently than the world.
One time, long ago, I put random times of day and dates on pieces of paper in the bulletins at my church. In generating the same type of anticipation this passage creates, I told people that the time in the bulletin was their time, the time that Christ would come to get them. I asked them to think of what they would have to do to be ready. Today I ask the same thing. To be a part of the community of life, what do you need to change to be confident, expectant, holy, and ready? Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2016.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian