Sermon September 6, 2020

“A Time to Wake Up”

Romans 13:8-14

            Did you hear the story about the man who was in bed on Sunday morning, and his wife was trying to get him to go to church.  “Honey its time to get up, you are going to be late for church.”

            “No, I don’t want to go,” he said, “Nobody hardly talks to me, everyone sleeps through the sermon, and the music is too loud.” 

            His wife answered, “Now those are not good reason for staying home.  We don’t go to church to impress others, and the organist can not help it if she is a little hard of hearing. You have to go.

            Give me three good reasons why I should go.  

            Because you will feel better about the week if you go, worship of God is important, and besides that you’re the minister.

            Think for a moment –are you a morning person or an evening person.  Some wake up before the sunrise, and they are ready for the day –minds alert and thinking; ready to get matters in order.   They would not get anything done if there was not a morning to do it in.

            On the other hand, you have others that would argue with Ben Franklin’s early to bed; early to rise saying.  The mornings are OK, but waking up is a task itself.  You have to get up find a paper and read the obituary just to make sure your name is not there. If you clear that hurdle, the day should go fairly well.  When everyone else is going to bed; the evening person has no problems with staying up. 

            But often the activities of the night are less honorable.  More than not that is when people get into trouble.  Usually it is later in the night that you find people drinking too much and then driving their automobiles. That is one of the reasons I always counseled my children not to drive when it is dark.   It is the night that often brings out the thief and the robber.  How many scenes of looting and rioting have we seen on TV recently happening under the cover of night?

A few years ago I visited New York City. At nighttime not only did the stores close, but they pulled steal doors down over the front of their shops, and most of the doors had graffiti on them.  It made a stark contrast from the quaint and inviting store fronts to what looked like gang territory.  

Times have not changed.   In our text today I always get the impression that the Apostle Paul is comparing the activities of the night with the actions of an ill-disciplined soldier in Rome’s service.  In Rome it would not have been unusual to have seen an off duty soldier in the alleys of the town practicing the sins of this old world –drunkenness, debauchery, wanton activities with little thought towards what tomorrow may bring? 

There is a difference between how the day is to be lived and the activities of the night.

Paul warned against the power and persuasiveness of “the works of darkness” in today’s text, and even offered some examples. We can put together the six dark works Paul cites into three “couplets.”

First “drunken revelry” — that is, conscience-less craziness without culpability, the state of being “drunk and disorderly” without regard for ensuing physical or emotional damages.

Second, “licentious debauchery” — that is, intimacy without emotion, physicality without spirituality, eros without theos.

Third, “in your face” argumentativeness — that is, self-absorbed, one-sided combativeness.

These all sound like very bad behaviors. What we don’t immediately see is that they all stem from a common poisoned perspective. Each of those “works of darkness” demonstrate an exclusively “objective” relationship with the world, with “another,” with “the neighbor.” Each of those behaviors are totally self-absorbed — uninvolved and unconcerned with how such behavior might genuinely and hurtfully affect another unique, individual person.

Contrary to such a life the apostle directs us foremost and out of great necessity to “Love one another. Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This means we are called not to love our neighbor “like” we love ourselves, but to love our neighbor as if the neighbor WAS ourselves.  The objectivity of life that causes us to think of people and events as things is to give way to the subjective concern of others –that we might even dare to care about the needs of others as if there concerns should be our concerns.  What happens to another requires from us a compassionate, empathetic, and caring response, because their world is indeed our world.  Their life is not our life, but it has relevance to ours.

In Philippians 2:3 the apostle wrote, “3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

            In Bavaria Germany there is a most famous passion play in the municipality of Oberammergau  (O ber  – a mer – gow).  The most famous actor who played the role of Jesus Christ was named Anton Lang (1875–1938). In the 1922 production a visitor sought out Lang, who was on break, and asked if he could have a picture taken of him standing by the cross Lang carried up the Via Dolorosa. Lang agreed. But when the tourist tried to lift the cross to his shoulder, so his wife could take a picture of him holding it, he could barely budge it from the floor.

“I don’t understand,” he said to the actor. “I thought it would be hollow. Why do you carry such a heavy cross?”

Mr. Lang’s reply helps explain why this play draws people from all over the world to this little Bavarian village every decade. Lang said, “If I did not feel the weight of His cross, I could not play the part.”

Christ took on himself the full weight of the sin that was ours.  From this His light shines through to you and I and reminds us that today we are equally called to live in love and concern for one another.  Unlike the darkness from which we have come we are reminded today God calls us to practice love and concern for those around us, and this is different than the shadows of the night that the world lives in.  There must be a fundamental shift, empowered by the Spirit, in how we see ourselves and how we think of others. 

I saw a video on the internet of people out in the streets.  It showed three or four police in the midst of the fray, and one of the police officers was struck in the head with a brick.  He went down surrounded by a group of people who were laughing about it, calling the police names, and filming this fallen officer.  They other police officers of course went to aid the one who had been injured.  I couldn’t help but think that this is the other side of the coin that the media usually shows of police acting in some forceful or violent way. 

I think that the unrest in our nation is a result of the works of darkness that Paul was speaking about.  It is a result of the sin that causes us to objectify people, and not concern ourselves with others.  It is not an us or them problem, but it is a problem of every human that choices to live a separate individual existence without caring about the pain of the other.  As we draw closer to this upcoming election we must ask ourselves of those we vote for which is more able to demonstrate God’s direction to live in truth and love for others.

Paul tells “Besides this, you know what time it is…”  here he is speaking about the right moment that is God’s moment and not simply about an hour in a day.  The Greek word used for time is Kyros and it means time, as in season or opportunity.  Now is the time, the season, the opportunity to wake from sleep and embrace the day that God is bringing forth; laying aside the works of the night.

Now is the time to live as children of the light. As the sun cracks over the horizon and shatters the nights hold on our land, driving away even the presence of distant stars from our sight, so shall we overcome the present darkness by living according to the power that God has given us.

 Like a good parent then the apostle Paul writes, “…it is full time now for you to wake from sleep for salvation is near…the night is far gone and the day is at hand…!  Paul says children wake up!

 Now if I ask you if you are a morning person or an evening person, considering the Apostle Paul’s interpretation, how should you reply?  Of course, we all need to be morning people.  

Wake up!  Let us get out of the bed of sin, complacency, and self-destruction, and prepare ourselves for the coming day.    As we consider the eternal horizon we may be in a predawn darkness, but it belies the closeness of God’s day that is coming, and when that day comes we need to be ready, because once the darkness is trampled under foot it shall never come again.  Our eternal place will be established.

Today the morning is upon us.  Today is God’s moment to live according to the love of God that has been shown and given to us through Christ Jesus our Lord; therefore let us live for the day.    Amen.

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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