When I read over the words of the Gospel reading today from Matthew, I thought of an old Henry Fonda movie I recently saw. The movie is called Fail Safe, it’s the story of a nuclear alert gone wrong. A flight crew aboard a U.S. bomber group of B-58 Hustlers if memory serves me correct. They think that the Soviets had launched an attack on the United States. Only it turns out that no attack had been launched, it was a drill. Unfortunately they are unable to get word that it was such, despite the efforts both the President (Henry Fonda), and the Soviet military.
At the end of the movie, the bomber crew destroyed Moscow, and the Soviets in order to save face are forced to launch their own attack on New York City. While we never see the actual attack on New York, we are witness to its final moments. Men and women going work, children playing in the park, a couple getting married in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the hustle and bustle of Time Square. Then in an instant it is all gone, nothing but blackness.
This is the same kind of image that Jesus paints for us, when the Day of the Rapture comes. You see on the day it started raining those thousands of years ago, for the people of Uruk and the rest of the world it was no different than any other day. No warning, portents of doom, unless you call a guy building a huge ship hundreds a miles away from a major deep water port a clue, even at that he had been working on it for two hundred years what was another day?
People were went on with their lives, as Jesus said, people were laughing, playing and getting married they suspected nothing. That is the way it is with most of us.
When Paul was writing to the Romans, he was trying to wake them out of their everyday routines. He wanted to impress upon them the sense of urgency. He wanted them to understand that at any moment, Christ could come. As I have said before, Paul really thought Jesus was coming back at any moment. He wanted to be sure that all the believers in that community were ready. He didn’t want this community to find themselves being left behind.
However here we are two thousand years later, and Jesus still hasn’t returned. Does this mean he won’t? No of course not. Does this mean we need to let ourselves relax? No.
Why? Because even though the rapture hasn’t happened, life happens. Men and women still get married, children still play in the park, and people go to work. However, one part of life most people don’t think about until it comes upon us is death.
Our perception of death kind of reminds me of a child’s perception of Christmas. Most kids and some husbands don’t think about Christmas until the final few weeks before the holiday. Its then that kids begin to butter up their parents by being good.
This happens with some people, with death too. Some people know they are on the brink. They begin to tidy up their loose ends, and get their lives “right with God.”
Unfortunately, for most people the time and day of our death is not a known factor. Most people do not have the opportunity to “tidy up or make our lives right before God” at the last moment.
So like the Rapture, one moment life is going along merrily and the next we find ourselves in the presence of Jesus. One moment we are saying to ourselves, “well I always have to tomorrow to do this. I can wait till tomorrow to apologize”, and in the next moment that chance has past us by never to come again.
This is what Jesus is reminding us of as well, the burglar. Even though Jesus is referring to his own Second Coming in the parable, the thief could also be Satan. For when a church or a person becomes “comfortable” in their walk with God that’s when it is most open to an attack.
This does not mean we can sit back and wait for His return. We are still to be working away in the “fields”. We still have a crop to tend to until the master returns and harvest it.
However, in all of this we do have hope. We are blessed in the hope that one day all of the ills of this world will pass away. We are blessed with the hope that when our faith is safe and secure in Jesus Christ, all our worries of the end are taken care of, however our role our commission to bring the Kingdom to others. In that we are to be always ready, always vigilant and most importantly on guard.
You see if we are not on guard, we miss the opportunities that God puts before us. We miss the Advent so to speak. Why? Because like the rapture, like death, we don’t know the day or the hour when God will call upon us. We may not have time to prepare a nice little scripture or all the other things we do to get ready for a visit. No, the visit may come to us when we least expect it.
It may come in the middle of the night, with a frantic knock at the door. It may come on that day when your running late and you do not feel like stopping. (God has a funny sense of humor about that)
For instance, Luann and I were coming home from our family’s Thanksgiving on last Friday evening. We were half way between Rockwell City and Lytton, it was dark and we spotted a car on the side of the road. As we were driving up on the car I could see it was on fire and two young men were frantically beating out the flames that we roaring from under the hood.
I reached down and dialed my cell phone to call 911 and turn the van around. Luann wanted me to be careful and not put us in the ditch. I got the dispatcher and was talking to her when one of the young men ran up to the van. It was a young man whom Luann and I knew. We know that he has had some issues in his life and has made some bad choices along the way.
He asked me nervously if I had an extinguisher, I said sorry I don’t but I had just called the dispatcher and fire trucks were on their way. He said thanks and went back to his car.
Later that evening, Brittani received a phone message from this young man thanking us for what we did. He also said he was surprised and grateful for what we did.
You see in that moment, that young man had experienced briefly a piece of the Kingdom. In that brief moment, Luann, Brittani, and I had been called by God to bring that vision to another. It wasn’t something that was planned, it just happened. In that moment a life was touched, not with shouts of acclamation but more like a thief in the night. God gives us all moments in which we can reach out to others and give them a glimpse of God’s love. As we journey into this season of Advent, I pray that we will all be consistently reminded of what Jesus did in order to show us a glimpse of God’s love. Let us take every opportunity we can to pass this love onto others. Amen.