The readiness is all
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November 9, Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27):
To listen to earlier homilies click here
Draft text of the homily, please do not cite without permission.
“There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all.” (Hamlet V.2)
We’ve entered a period of the year when time begins to fold over on itself.
We are anticipating the end.
The last days.
Not in that Left Behind sort of way, but in the full and hopeful expectation that all will be revealed and all will be redeemed by God.
It’s part of why we have photos and mementos of our loved ones over in the resting chapel—as a reminder that we and they are drawing closer together. That the veil between us continues to grow thinner.
Because Pentecost is a moveable date (always 50 days after Easter) but Christmas is a fixed date (always December 25), these weeks after All Saints day begin to acquire multiple names in church calendars
Today and the next couple of Sundays continue to count up from Pentecost, and also begin to count down to Advent.
Today is the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost and the 3rd Sunday before Advent.
Next week the Advent of God coming to be among us again will be even closer.
The first Advent and the Second Coming fold over on one another.
There’s an old story that I heard somewhere that in many communities these weeks leading up to Advent and then Advent itself is treated not like the annual celebration of Jesus’ birthday, but more like the Second Coming.
The preparations are made as if the bridegroom is coming…
As if Christ was returning for the last time.
Christmas is then joyous because everyone is so glad that God decided to show up as a baby again.
There is this sense that we get in all of our readings.
The end is near.
Winter is coming.
Are we preparing for a baby or for the bridegroom?
For Jesus in these passages, his end is coming. His death is close. And as the end draws near the parables get more and more alarming.
Flannery O’Connor (one of my favorite writers) known for her depiction of over the top, grotesque characters, as well as for her deep Christian faith, was forthright in her explanation of why she wrote in the disturbing way she did.
“to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures,” she said. (Mystery and Manners, p. 34).
Jesus is drawing us some large startling pictures.
And like an Flannery O’Connor story we can get caught up in the details and miss the big picture.
In her novel, Wise Blood, O’Connor paints a beautiful picture of both God’s ever renewing and ever-revealing reality and our tragic inability to see it:
“The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky.” (Wise Blood, p. 37)
God’s work goes on. And no one is paying attention to the sky.
What are we to make of this story so that we don’t miss the sky?
What became clear to me this week is that the only real difference between the wise and the foolish is that wise are prepared to wait, and the foolish are not.
Other than that they all behave in very similar ways. They all fall asleep. They all wake with expectancy. But the wise are prepared to wait.
Time folds over in another way…
Last week we heard the beatitudes, the core teachings of the sermon on the mount.
Now we are hearing a parallel sermon on a different mount.
This time it’s the Mount of Olives and those gathered are not “the crowds” but the disciples.
On that other mountain, Jesus inspired all of his followers (us) to see the marginalized as blessed—as an intricate, irreplaceable part of the circle.
He encouraged us to let our light shine, so that everyone may see our good works…catch a glimpse of the kingdom…the glory of God…the good news…
and now this mountain, he’s reminding his disciples that perhaps the most important part of letting your light shine is being prepared to wait…
Knowing how to sustain yourself over the long haul.
On that other mountain he warned the crowds “Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord,” will enter, but only those who do the will of my Father.”
Practicing mercy every once in a while is nice.
Being a peacemaker occasionally is a nice ego boost.
Feeding the hungry and being an advocate for those who thirst for justice is valiant and valuable work.
It’s energizing doing it once or twice.
Doing it over and over and over again can get pretty wearing. We need to prepare. We need to sustain ourselves? We need to make sure our lamps are able to be replenished.
We need practices that sustain us through even the longest, darkest nights. Prayer. Exercise. Singing. Receiving Communion. Fellowship. Tithing.
We need communities that we support, and that will support us even (and maybe especially) when we’re not fully aware of that support. Who continue to support us even when we are feeling that we don’t want that kind of support, or don’t need it.
What are your sustaining practices?
Which of your jars is running frighteningly low?
What communities are you attached to…are you supporting…are you allowing to support you?
How are you paying attention to the sky…to God?
Now is a really good time to take stock.
To do some reflection.
Winter is coming.
The bridegroom is on his way, (and maybe it will be a baby again…we’ll have to wait and see)
The readinesss is all.