There’s a Wake-up Call service advertised on line; there are all kinds of electronic devices that can be programmed to break into sleep with a shrill sound or chosen music or message, and there is the old-fashioned alarm clock, all of which may have been set after Labor Day to serve as a wake-up call for school or work
Today we hear another “Wake-up Call” sounded through the words:
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.
the night is far gone, the day is near.
Our wake-up call to:“lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
“Wake up!” to the call to cast aside the foreboding sense of impending doom broadcast in the setting of talk shows and webpage postings that report :
- one more ISIS atrocity after another; one more beheading of an America correspondent;
- European countries wondering whether or not they need to ally themselves for a pending World War III;
- historians fearing that the Muslim scourge that broke out in the 1300’s is about to happen again and soon;
- rumblings of a nuclear war breaking out between India and Pakistan;
- at-home scandals of politicians taking bribes, shootings
raising suspicions of our ability to be a nation of justice and equality for all, and the looming question of a shrinking tax base that will not be able to provide unemployment and welfare payments.
It’s enough to turn some into a present-day Chicken Little crying out, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
“Wake up!” we hear today. “Wake up!” to put on “the armor of light,”
“Wake up!” to live in the light of the word “Salvation.”
“Wake up!” to being “saved” not only as individuals, but a whole community of people who have put on the armor of Christ’s new life.
“Wake up!” to be Christ’s body, animated by His life-breath to resist the darkness by doing His work, beginning among ourselves as we literally dress in the qualities Paul described in the letter we have been hearing read to us on past Sundays and today.
“Wake up!” to the call first heard by Christians living under the deadly darkness of the Roman Empire, which they resisted by becoming an underground church worshiping in the catacombs;
carried forward in Germany's Confessional Church that dared to speak out against Nazi atrocities;
and China’s Christians whose little house gatherings are a beacon of light piercing the darkness of
and the beams that radiate, yet are often overlooked, in notes and emails, drop-in visits, prayers and parcels, errands and a helping hand, bringing to light the Scriptural admonition “to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law (the Love) of Christ”;
all are like light, piercing the personal darkness of despair and loneliness and the world’s threats of doom;
all are simple ways Christians become Christ’s body, community, “church” to one another;
all are expressions of Christ’s Easter people living in a Good Friday world.
When the former President of Lancaster Seminary and later the President of the United Church of Christ, Dr. Robert V. Moss, was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that would cut short his life when he still had so much more to give, he confessed he had to change his belief in the quote “Each man must die his own death.”
The light-piercing expressions of prayers and love and the outpouring of celebrations of all he had meant to former students and the whole church, forced him to revise the quote and say, “No man dies his own death.”
He found himself walking through the deep valley caught up in the company of God’s Easter people, through them he found himself in Christ’s light piercing presence.
“Wake up!” the alarm that we hear Jesus calling us to protect by shunning and casting out anyone whose disruptive behavior threatens the light-bearing life and ministries of His community, the church. If that person persists in being disruptive, “Let such a one be to you as a tax collector or Gentile,” decrees Jesus.
The writer whose name is given to this Gospel account is Matthew, a former tax collector, until Jesus sought him out and extended the invitation that brought him in.
Paul, a Hebrew of the Hebrews would later do the same and make the world of the Gentiles his mission outpost to bring them into the light of Christ and become bearers of Christ’s life with his proclamation: “if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5: 17)
Next month we will celebrate the 160-year old story of Trinity Church, which, from its beginning vowed to never let dissension darken the life of this congregation.
Their shared commitment is the legacy they pass on to succeeding generations of members who pledge to nurture people into new life in Christ and maintain the light of Christ in the lives of His people in this place, believing this is what it is to be His church.
And, taking our queue from Jesus’ words preserved by a former tax collector name Matthew, a disruptive person is invited out only until he or she can be welcomed in as a light-bearing follower of Christ,
a homecoming that celebrates Jesus’ announcement: For where two or three are gathered in my name,
I am there among them.”
When Jesus said that He was adapting a long-standing striving of His people who thought if every Jew kept all the laws for two successive Sabbaths, God would establish His reign on earth.
Jesus altered their ambitious goal from two Sabbaths of a whole people living by every law – which by then had been enlarged from the 10 to 613 –
to two to three people who “lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light,”
the people marked with His name, the church that pierces the darkness with the light of His life!
“Wake us up, Jesus, to be a congregation that qualifies us to hear You say,
“I am there among them.”