On Friday it was one of those in between temperature days. I was traveling along and adjusting the climate control in the car and I was attempting to adjust both the driver and passenger controls at once to get the temperature adjusted quicker. Alissa is gone this week and so I can have the temperature a little cooler and the fan a little stronger. It occured to me through this how interesting it is that our car companies have decided that we are so broken we cannot possibly be expected to agree on a temperature with one other person whom we usually are close to for a short time period. Secondly, our car companies have decided that we simply cannot be expected to exist in a temperature a couple of degrees off of our ideal for any amount of time.
So with this in mind we the people of the dual zone climate control, have before us arguably the most intimidating Gospel lessons we could possibly have. We have before us one of the most studied, analyzed, focused on texts. Jesus is speaking directly about judgement day. The day that everyone who has ever lived will be called to give an account of their sin in the midst of the violent destruction of the world and everything as we know it. Wow.
Its just before midnight on October 22 1844. A hillside just outside New York. It’s a balmy evening and an enormous crowd numbering upwards of 100 000 men, women and children are gathered. All around is the low buzz of whispered voices as men exchange stories of how they have sold their homes, given up their jobs or abandoned their farms to be here. An almost tangible air of expectation hangs over the gathering.
Standing at the top of the hill is a lone figure – his name is William Miller – and most of the eyes in the crowd are trained on him. He is their leader; he is the man who has spent years studying the prophecies in the Book of Daniel and has predicted the second coming of Christ at midnight on this day. You can just see the excitement, can’t you? Everyone pulls out their pocket watch, because the wristwatch was not invented yet. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Nothing.
Needless to say midnight comes and goes and slowly, sadly, certainly reluctantly, the crowd begins to drift away. Some, who have wagered their entire livelihoods on the truth of Miller’s words, hesitate a little longer looking skywards expecting at any moment that they will see, in Jesus’ own words, the “Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”
It happens every so often. Someone decides they have cracked a secret code of the Bible or world events and the time comes and goes. It’s always surprising how quickly these people are to ignore these verses before us. Not even Jesus knows when the Father will send him back. It’s almost as if, if someone decides that the time is X then every other time is suddenly more likely.
So if it’s going to be that bad what can we do to get ready? Jesus tells us to be ready to always be ready! Ok, when it comes to being ready for and surviving through something difficult, Well we’re not all that tough of a people. I know how to get ready for camping or sports but the stars falling out of the sky? I’m helpless. Well what about the main point that this is when the living and the dead are judged? Well maybe I can be ready for that? Then I remember the past week. I didn’t put God first. I didn't get out of bed this morning as chipper as I could have. I could have been kinder to my parents and authorities. I could have been more proactive at helping the people around me. I guess I’m not ready for that part either.
Well what now? If it’s going to be catastrophically difficult, and we can’t know when, and even if we could there’s nothing we can do to be ready and yet Jesus is telling us to be ready, then all hope obviously logically lost, right?
When all hope in ourselves is lost we stand here at the end of the church year and We hear the echoes of the year ahead. “Prepare the way of the Lord.” “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree… and Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” “I am the way and the truth and the life” “why do you look for the living among the dead” “when the Son sets you free, you are free indeed”
It’s there we see what Jesus is saying through all of this difficult Gospel lesson to you. Here we see that he is reminding us that every single thing we could possibly do to ready ourselves has been done for us in him and that with faith in him, when we stand on the last day and the stars are falling out of the sky, we will inherit the crown of life and enter into the fathers house of many rooms. We’re ready. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which certinally surpassess all understanding keep your hearts and minds focused on the king and his kingdom. Amen.