WHO KNOWS WHERE OR WHEN?
Last Weeks Sermon
Yesterday, I saw a post on Facebook.
It has almost nothing to do with this sermon, but I couldn’t resist repeating it.
The post showed a picture of televangelist Benny Hinn with the caption that Rev. Hinn had prophesied that Fidel Castro would die in the ‘90s. The comments noted that he was only one word off.
It wasn’t the 90’s but his 90’s. Prophecy is tricky.
A few years ago I attended a conference for teenagers who are the children of alcoholic parents.
There were 200 kids there, most of whom have lived in pretty terrible home situations; alcohol and drug abuse,
divorce, violence. Collectively they had suffered from neglect, emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse
but that wasn’t the only thing they had in common. All of them were trying to turn their own lives around
to take responsibility for their own actions and their own happiness by using a 12 Step program for spiritual development adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous. They were all trying to live by slogans like
Live and Let Live; Let Go and Let God and One Day At A Time.
The motel where we were staying in Joplin was hosting another youth conference at the same time.
A group of young people from the Missouri Assemblies of God were also staying there. The motel had set things up very well. I'm not sure I ever saw any of the AG kids although I assumed they looked a lot different from some of our kids. Some of our kids were poorly dressed and some were rebelliously dressed; earrings, punk hair
and so forth. But on Saturday afternoon, we did have one brief encounter with a part of the other group.
I was sitting with a number of other sponsors in the hall outside the meeting rooms while most of our kids were in a workshop about how to deal with grief. One young man had stepped out to get permission to go to the bathroom
and while he was talking to us, a gentleman we didn't know came down the hall heading for the exit at the far end.
Seeing this young man from the back, he apparently thought he was someone he knew. He patted him on the back and spoke in a familiar way and then the young man turned and the gentleman realized his mistake.
Meanwhile, us sponsors were eyeing this strange adult with some suspicion. What was this stranger doing; touching and speaking to one of our kids? One of our fragile kids.
Apparently our suspicion was written all over our faces (we tended to be very protective of these kids).
The fellow looked very embarrassed and uncomfortable. Perhaps to cover his mistake,
and perhaps to prove to us that he was a Christian and therefore not some pervert roaming through the motel.
he turned to us and said, "What if Jesus Christ came back tomorrow? Wouldn't that set the Devil on his ear?"
We sponsors all realized that he was probably one of the pastors with the AG youth conference and therefore probably not a pervert. So we all smiled and nodded and he went on, but as he moved out of earshot, the kid said,
"Man, he doesn't know anything about living One Day at a Time does he?" We all laughed,
but it got me thinking. You see, I don't think anticipating Christ's return and living one day at a time are mutually exclusive. In fact, I think the two go very well together because the first thought I had in response to the pastor's remark was: if Christ came back that minute, there certainly could be worse places for him to find me
than acting as a sponsor for troubled kids searching for a spiritual foundation.
And that made me think about why Jesus promised us we'd be surprised by his return.
I think that it was so we'd live each day as though it might be the last; so we'd live each day, one day at a time
constantly ready for his coming. In the secular world, Christmas is upon us and every few minutes someone will remind you of the 2,000 things you still have to do to get ready or of the fact that there are only 28 shopping days left (assuming you shop on Sundays). It's just about impossible not to get caught up in all that.
And it's just about impossible not to get a little frazzled thinking about where you need to be tomorrow
and what you need to get done before next Friday and what you need to remember to do week after next.
But here in the church, it isn't Christmas yet; It's Advent, the season in which we remind ourselves that Christ has come and is coming and will come again when we least expect it, here in the church, you are being reminded to live one day at a time. To live each day as though it may be the last. To live each moment fully awake,
fully aware of the opportunities for love and discipleship around you so that if Christ comes back tomorrow
the Devil will be the only one who is knocked on his ear. So that if Christ comes back tomorrow,
you won't be ashamed of how you spent today, pushing and shoving in a department store
or growling at your family for not doing their part or snapping at the kids or your spouse for how they put the icicles on the tree in silly bunches. You won’t be ashamed of just living half-asleep, unaware of
and ungrateful for all the miracles around you. If you live each day as though you really expect to see Jesus just around the next corner, you’ll live each day loving your neighbor, praising God and giving thanks in all circumstances and filled with joy and expectation of more good things and each day you may actually meet Jesus around that corner, possibly in disguise as a fellow shopper, a Salvation Army bell ringer, a neighbor, a friend,
even as a kid with multiple piercings and weird hair.
Because he is coming – you just don’t know where or when?