If there are a phrase that summarizes our readings, it might be,
“Be sober and alert.”
Neither the letter from Saint Paul, nor the Lord himself,
says it quite that way – but that’s the message.
“Strengthen your hearts,” Saint Paul says.
Don’t become “drowsy” from “carousing and drunkenness,”
Jesus says – “be vigilant.”
There are two good reasons that people need to remain sober:
first, so they can act quickly;
and second, so they make good judgments.
If you are an airline pilot, or a fire fighter, or a doctor,
and you are on call, you are required to remain sober,
for obvious reasons.
You have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Not in six hours, but right now.
And, of course, when we’ve had something to drink,
even if we’re not intoxicated, it will still affect us.
That’s why people like to drink: it’s relaxing,
and it can add to good cheer.
And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.
Jesus blessed a newly married couple and their guests
with a very large quantity of very fine wine at their wedding in Cana.
If we do like to have a drink of beer or whisky or wine,
we learn soon enough that there is a line.
Beyond that line, and we aren’t just merry; we become stupid.
Enough bad things happen when adults shoot past that line;
when kids do it, it is often catastrophic.
That is why adults don’t want kids drinking.
Not to keep you from sharing the fun, but to keep you from disaster.
As I say, most of us learn to respect that line,
and to avoid getting too close to it.
The sobriety Jesus talks about in the Gospel
is about more than drinking.
Every few weeks or months, I think about quitting Facebook.
If I am not careful, I get drawn into some really dumb things.
Maybe it’s harmless fun; maybe it’s an argument.
It’s all a huge time-waster; yet it’s strangely attractive.
Same with the Internet in general.
I have a theory. And I have absolutely zero proof for this theory.
But here it is. When the Lord comes at the end of time,
it won’t happen on the Internet.
While Jesus is coming in the clouds,
millions of people will be glued to the Internet, unaware,
as they argue over whose kitten video is better!
Stay sober and alert, Jesus tells us.
This isn’t just about the final coming of Jesus at the end of time.
The same advice applies to whether we are vigilant
for the moments of truth that come in our lives all the time.
When my father was alive, there were many nights
we watched TV together. Nothing wrong with that.
But if I could go back in time, do you know what I’d do?
I’d turn off the TV, and ask my dad questions
it’s too late for me to ask now, because he’s gone.
Be vigilant: life is happening now. God’s grace is happening now.
Are you awake to it?
If God is acting, if God is talking, how do we know?
How do we see it, or hear it?
Well, for one, don’t let the TV, the Internet, video games,
and all the small stuff become too important.
God IS talking to us; but usually in a quiet voice.
It takes turning things off,
and sitting or walking in the silence, to hear him.
And, if you’re wondering where to look for God,
consider what Jesus told us to do so many times.
What did he hope to find us doing, when he returned?
Feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and the forgotten.
There are families in our community
who have suffered painful losses recently. Reach out to them.
There are soup kitchens in Sidney and Piqua
that would love to have some additional volunteers.
Would you like to serve Jesus a meal?
You will find him at those soup kitchens.
In our Symbolon series of videos we’re looking at together,
this week we’re looking at the story of salvation.
God created us, humanity was wrecked by sin, and God acts to save us.
That work of salvation happened at the Cross,
and it will be completed at the end of time.
But what happens in the meantime?
God is working every day for the salvation of souls:
mine, ours, and those of everyone we know.
And he is asking each of us to do our part.
Like participants in a battle,
we seldom see how our own part even matters.
So much of what’s going on around us is confusing and disheartening.
Most of our tasks are unglamorous and tedious.
Last week, I heard second-hand
about someone I’ve known a long time who was in the hospital.
That person and I had been close, but we’d been at odds many times.
There was a lot of hurt – and I wasn’t sure if I would go visit.
I told myself, maybe it wouldn’t even be welcome.
I can always go later.
But I knew that was wrong. I did go. In fact, my visit was welcome.
There were apologies and tears. I am glad I went.
Did it change the big picture? I cannot know that.
But one thing I do know is that Jesus wanted me to make that visit.
And that’s not a special communication just for me;
it’s what he told every one of us to do.
Reach out to the lost; forgive, not seven times,
but seventy times seven times.
Be vigilant. Be ready. If we’re not too caught up in our own stuff,
our own issues, our own hurt and doubts and agendas,
we will be ready to go and do what the Lord asks, at a moment’s notice.