"We Live In Readiness For Christ's Coming"
By Rev. James A. Splitt
Sermon August 9, 1998    
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16   Luke 12:32-40

Anxiety, worry, apprehension ... that state of uneasiness ... is a universal human condition that causes much suffering.  Faced with uncertainty, the unknowns can haunt us.  When we don't have the answers about our future we are prone to fall into that pit of despair unless .... we have cultivated within us a spiritual state of READINESS FOR CHRIST'S COMING!

Being unprepared also causes much suffering.  We are always faced with challenges in our life.  When we are not prepared for them, some kind of loss is involved.  We lose time, we lose our place, we lose out.  When we're not alert and awake, challenges overpower and defeat us ... unless we have cultivated within us a spiritual state of READINESS FOR CHRIST'S COMING!

There are two stories in the Gospel text that tell how to cultivate a spiritual state of READINESS FOR CHRIST'S COMING.  In those two stories Christ tells us to FEAR NOT and STAY AWAKE!  The first story tells us to put our treasure where our heart is.  When we do that we have nothing to fear.  The second story tells us to stay alert and awake, ready to receive the Son of God.  When we do that we are certain never to lose out.

These two stories can stand apart, but when read and understood together, they can have a powerful impact on how we choose to live lives as God's stewards.  Our Christian stewardship is a proactive, conscientious, and deliberate way of choosing life.  When we face our life awake and unafraid we open the door to being responsible stewards of our God given life.
How can we face life more awake, less afraid (anxious) and develop patterns of responsible stewardship for our God given life?

Think in terms of living in a state of readiness for Christ's coming.  All of us have probably encountered some religious individual who stopped us on the street, in a mall, at the airport, .... and asked,  "ARE YOU SAVED?"  It's such an easy question to answer.  "Of course, I am!  I was saved the moment Jesus died on the Cross."  But the question that needs to be asked, the question that is not so easy to answer is "ARE YOU READY?"  While I know for certain that I am saved, I'm not so sure I'm ready.  I'm not so sure that I'm ready and alert.  And I'm not so sure that I totally free of my anxieties and worries.  And I'm not so sure that I put my treasures where my heart is.

The first command is to FEAR NOT.  Jesus wants us to be totally comfortable, content with a life where we are not consumed by material wealth.  Jesus wants us to be free enough in our minds to know that our greatest reward is the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus wants us to be free of our possessiveness so that we can fully enjoy the kingdom of God.  Possessiveness is born out of our anxiety, our fears, our uncertainty.  Those who do not have enough to live on, ... to feed, shelter, or clothe themselves ... naturally are anxious about how they will live.  Those who have opportunities to develop a better life than they now enjoy worry about how they will get ahead.  Those who have all they need and more and anxious about maintaining and protecting their wealth.

What do we have to do to let go of our materialistic fears?  As God's stewards we are called to a life where sharing takes precedence, where caring is the power of Christian hope.  God intends for us to share the resources of our creation.  But we live in a society where we are not secure without fences and locks.  The tragic bombing of the two embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are prime examples of our vulnerability to those who wish to destroy human security.  The greed of the world breeds terrorism.  Our readiness to receive Christ's coming depends on how willing and ready we are to share what we have and care about our neighbor.  To end the cycle of fear in our lives, we have to receive the kingdom of God and live resurrected in Christ.

We must learn to act boldly to live in such a way that we allow our treasures to be kept close to our heart.  At our Stewardship Committee meeting this past week we shared an idea that every member family of our church have a personal mission project.  Every member family is to choose, participate and practice some generous act of serving, caring, sharing ministry. 

First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas has a day they call "Make a Difference Day."  More than 350 people from this congregation becoming involved in mission projects throughout the city.  "Summer Joys" in a ministry of Clairmont Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Georgia.  It is a ministry for school aged children from Nicholas House, a transitional shelter to homeless families.  The women of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama makes quilts for each child in the Presbyterian Home.  Each child has their own personalized quilt made in a ministry of caring and sharing God's love.  Being in a state of readiness for Christ's coming, means we are living with our heart and it means being watchful for the presence of Christ in every situation we encounter.

The second command Jesus gave was STAY AWAKE!  Be watchful!  Jesus shares an interesting story to illustrate this point.  We are to ready like the servants who wait for the return of the bridegroom.  "Gird your Loins, let your lamps be lit," instructs Christ.  Be ready for action, aprons on, the lamps filled with oil, prepared in readiness for the master's arrival. 

It was the Jewish custom for the bridegroom to go to the home of the bride for the wedding before returning home.  Depending on the length of the festivities it may be a while before the master brings home the bride for a feast with household staff.  Those asleep miss out on the homecoming party.  Following the wedding the master puts on a feast for the servants.  It's a heavenly event, so stay awake and ready.

The parable has a clear meaning.  Servants need to be devoted their tasks, refusing to let distractions, fatigue, or delay divert them from their duties.  God expects complete devotion.  We are to pay attention to the gift we have received from God ... the kingdom of heaven (from the first part of this text) and realize our responsibility as stewards to this wonderful gift.  We are accountable to God for our moral and obedient conduct as stewards of the kingdom of God.

Have you ever forgot an appointment?  Have you ever invited people over for
dinner and forgot they were coming?  Have you ever rehearsed and rehearsed excuses for not doing homework, forgetting a birthday or anniversary, being late for work, getting a ticket for speeding?  What are the consequences of falling asleep on the jobs of everyday life?  With regret and embarrassment, we acknowledge failure and loss.

The instructions of Jesus to FEAR NOT and STAY AWAKE help us to put an end to the suffering in our life that comes from worry and neglect.  FEAR NOT and STAY AWAKE because we have been given the kingdom of God and because Jesus is coming to feast with us in this kingdom! 

We have possibilities and opportunities to enjoy God's kingdom, but not
alone, in partnership with others.  Hopeful and alert, the hope of each
Christian steward is to live in readiness for Christ's coming.  Amen!