Live Life Like It Matters

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       BarnSwallow

Peder Stenslie
Matthew 24:36-44 

Jesus wants us to remember what living is.  God created us to grow in health, strength and wisdom so that we become fit and able to bear responsibility, to overcome obstacles and to share our strength with others.  The love which God has for us is to live in us… like light in a dark room.  We were created that we might know life as a gift from God, and that we, in turn, might serve life as God has directed us to do.

 

  In the summer, if I’m lucky, I’ll get a pair of Barn Swallows nesting right next to my bedroom window.  For many weeks then, at about 5 in the morning, one of the swallows will start singing its crazy song of warbles, rattles and gurgles.  The swallow will sit on a perch just one foot from our open window.  Its song sounds so bold and happy and purposeful that I find it impossible to be annoyed.  I just lay there looking at him with a smile on my face.  The bird is like a living alarm telling me, “Get up; get up!  A new day has begun. The time for sleeping is over.” 

We begin this season of Advent by hearing calls to “wake-up,” “keep awake,” and “be ready.” 

Our bulletin bears the words: “Keep Awake.”

Our opening hymn heralded the call:  “Awake, awake and greet the new morn….”

Our 2nd lesson from Paul’s letter to the Romans reads:  “Now is the moment for you to wake from sleep….  The night is far gone, the day is near.” 

And today’s Gospel lesson has Jesus warning his disciples to “keep awake…” and “be ready.”

This call (or warning) is heard frequently in the teachings of Jesus.  It often follows someone asking anxious questions about the future.  For example, prior to Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, the disciples privately prodded Jesus:  “Tell us… what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”

While his disciples are speculating about future events they cannot control; Jesus redirects them to focus on their lives now.  “Keep awake,” he says, “for you do not know on what day* your Lord is coming.”  “Be ready!”

As always, Jesus is interested in our lives… here… on earth… in this world.  And he wants our attention to be here too.  Here and now is where we should live. 

Be ready… be awake and alert… these commands of Jesus are spoken to us… and they mean simply:  “People, wake up… and live like living matters.”

When Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he knew the world would end tomorrow, he replied, “I would plant a tree.”

That odd answer expresses precisely the point of today’s parable, because being awake, being ready means understanding the purpose of our lives.  It means knowing what we were created to do. We are to be serving life.

We have no other task than to live the life we’ve been given like it matters.  That means making sure that our creator’s love, grace and mercy are active in us; changing us, shaping us, guiding us so that we grow and are able to feed, strengthen and serve the life around us.

It is easy, especially in our busy and affluent society, to be like the owner of the house who falls asleep and lets his house be broken into. There are so many bright and flashy distractions… there are so many things to own, so many tasks to do, so many enticing activities to pursue… we can easily lose our way.  We can become so transfixed by the distractions of our busy world that we forget what it means to really live.  We fall asleep. 

Jesus wants us to remember what living is.  God created us to grow in health, strength and wisdom so that we become fit and able to bear responsibility, to overcome obstacles and to share our strength with others.  The love which God has for us is to live in us… like light in a dark room.  We were created that we might know life as a gift from God, and that we, in turn, might serve life as God has directed us to do.

During the season of Advent we are called to be ready to receive the gifts that God — who is in our midst — has come to deliver.

Our first hymn today was a hymn of anticipation and joy.  It begins with the words:  “Awake, awake and greet the new morn…” a call to be ready for God and life in our midst.

The final verse is all about living life like it matters:  “Rejoice, rejoice take heart in the night, though dark the winter and cheerless, the rising sun shall crown you with light, be strong and loving and fearless.  Love be our song and love our prayer and love our endless story; may God fill every day we share and bring us at last into glory.” 

We need to be reminded from time to time that it is a wonderful thing to be alive.  It is a glorious thing to awaken to life in our midst.  That’s why I’m very grateful for the singing Barn Swallow outside my window. 

On summer mornings, after lying in bed for awhile, enjoying the swallow’s call to greet the new day, I obediently get up and go outside in order to open myself to the wonder of life around me.  I take time to absorb the glory of the early morning sun, take in the freshness of the air, hear the chorus of beautiful birdsong… see the prairie, trees and flowers.

And as I take in the wonders of creation around me, I can feel the life of God on the move.  I know that life is good… and I’m grateful to be reminded of that fact.

And that is what the season of Advent does for us.  In today’s Gospel lesson and during this season of advent, Christ says to us, “Wake up.  Be ready.  Start living like living matters; because I am in your midst.  With grace and power, I am coming to fill your life with strength and blessing.  So be ready to receive what I am bringing.”  

Only a fool would sleep through that. 

Amen.