Keep Awake (Sermon) November 30, 2014

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
Mrs. Emily Cardwell
November 30, 2014
First Sunday of Advent, Year B

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. Amen.

Good Morning! Thank you Mother Rebecca, for allowing me to reflect on today’s readings and thank you to all of you here at St. John’s for being part of my discernment journey (whether you knew it or not!) as this is my first sermon.  My son said it should be a homily, because a homily is defined as being shorter than a sermon.  So, here is my first homily.

There are for most of us many firsts in our lives that we won’t soon forget. A first kiss, our first car, first boyfriend or girlfriend. My first job after college, I was hired as a 4-H Agent. My first day, was taking about 40 kids- that I’d just met that morning, to 4-H Camp for a week.  It was also my birthday.  Talk about feeling overwhelmed and unprepared! Yet this was work that I was assigned and all of the parents were expecting me to keep their kids safe that week.  In our Gospel, the slaves are assigned their work by the master and they are expected to do the work – but they aren’t sure when the master will return.  Jesus draws all of us in with his ending of this Scripture: “What I say to you, I say to all: Keep Awake.”

Keep Awake.  What does Jesus mean by keeping awake? And how do we know what work is assigned to us by God? (God being our master.) And are these works above and beyond our daily/usual tasks in life? Are we really important enough to have work assigned by God, let alone “gifts” that St. Paul mentions to us in the Epistle?  You might have noticed that I like questions.  We are made to think. So, please let me share a defining question proposed by a Baptist preacher that changed my thinking about what it means to keep awake – as a Christian.

The preacher began by saying, “It’s wonderful to see all of you here at Chapel Union Baptist Church. You are being faithful to our Lord and sharing in his fellowship. It’s a wonderful way to begin your Sunday.”  Talk about feeling good about myself! I was in total agreement with him- I should have known better! He continued: “Do you think that you will truly come to know God and his Son, Jesus Christ, by spending one hour per week in church on Sunday?” And here is THE question that changed my thinking: “Would you know your spouse, if you only spent one hour per week with them?  To this question, I add would you know your partner, fiancée, your child if you only spent one hour per week with them?

We know of course, that the answer is a resounding NO!

Jobs aside, because people need to support themselves and their families – what is the rest of our time tied up with? And have we included God in our time? Now if you have always included God in your time, this is where your nap can and should begin – you have been staying awake very well!…but if you are anything like my husband or my kids or me, maybe I can challenge you, because I hadn’t included God in my weekday – only his allotted hour time slot on Sunday. It was a revelation for me. I spent more time at Kroger, grocery shopping than I did with God…and more time picking out paint and supplies and landscaping plants, at Home Depot than I did with God.  I professed to believe in God, and I truly did, but what a lousy way to show it! I was certainly not going to be voted God’s number one fan.

Our time and what we choose to do with it, is eaten up by so many things – important and not so important, and I think this is one of the things Jesus was telling us to keep awake about. What we spend the majority of our time with becomes the most important to us.

And of course an added problem with our time is that we don’t always get things done that we hoped to do – or needed to do – and we get stressed out. So then we use more time to try and forget about what we didn’t do.  We find ways to soothe and calm ourselves, to relax – or take our mind off things with whatever vice seems to work best.

Yet, how often, when those stressful moments arrive, do we pause and turn to God for peace and to settle our hearts and minds? Those of us with even a tiny knowledge of Scripture know that we are repeatedly told to rest in God, trust in God, give all of our cares to God because he cares for us!   So again, how well do we know God and Jesus? Because if we know someone well, and trust them, and are spending our time with them, they will be the first one that we go to when we struggle –  as well as whom we want to celebrate good things with.

But again, time is involved as well as effort and interest. How much of our time are we willing to part with and how interested are we in growing closer to God and Jesus? Setting aside time for God is giving ourselves back to God, for His use and purpose, especially when it’s done outside of church where no one is watching, where our attendance isn’t noted.

And there are so many simple ways to honor God and keep awake throughout the week. Whether by praying, reading Scripture, listening to Christian music, saying Grace before meals, having a regular evening devotion, sitting silently somewhere in contemplation.  These all have a common factor in that they allow us our individual time with God. We are called to fellowship and church is perfect for that, as well as Bible studies and EFM, but our alone time with God I believe, is when we truly begin to grow in our knowledge and love for God and Jesus Christ. We begin to learn more about our Creator and what Jesus is calling us to do – for we are called.

Our Epistle tells us: “God is faithful, by Him you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We are called. And we are given gifts. This is a promise. The calling part we usually get – we’re called to be children of God, God’s chosen people. The gifts part however, can be so foreign to our thinking that we ignore it altogether!

Sometimes we get lucky and others point out our gifts to us – gifts we may not have recognized. But for those of us who may struggle to know our gift(s) what can we do? We should simply ask our Creator. Prayerfully ask God what you’re good at, what you’re made for, how you can help Christ’s church here on earth and He will give you an answer.  And it might be with a few gentle nudges that at first might actually scare you, then slowly reassure you and then maybe inspire you to proceed with wherever God is pointing. This all takes time.  Being awake.

I can speak from experience here: I didn’t have any idea what my gift might be, but I trusted the promise that I had a gift. So I prayed, “Dear God, I believe there is something I am called to do, or that I will have a heart for, would you please help me to know it?” And I got my nudges over the next few weeks and months… all pointing to prison ministry. What?! God, are you sure? That sounds rather scary…and what do I know about prisoners? A few more gentle nudges changed to a growing acceptance and then excitement about the idea. Now it’s a ministry I’ve been involved with for over three years.  I love it! I enjoy it! I have a heart for it – that I never knew about, until I asked.

I want to know my Creator and Messiah personally before I leave this earth. Our Gospel tell us, that the day and the hour is unknown. Jesus’ words are true and he tells us they will never pass away. So let us follow our assigned works or find out what they are, and then we will be excited and expectant for our master when he comes. This Sunday is the beginning of Advent and Advent in Latin means “coming.” Jesus comes to us as the perfect gift from God. Let’s be awake to receive this incredible gift and invite God and His beautiful Son to transform us into what we are created to be.



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