Summary: We are promised "no more night": no more blind thrashing about, unable to see where our lives are going; no more mistrust; no more incompleteness. Sermon for Remembrance Day, when we celebrate members who have passed away in the previous year.
Several Saturday nights ago I just was not satisfied with my preaching preparation. Somehow the message had not quite gelled, and I knew there were many improvements I needed to make before Sunday morning. But by then it was late, after a busy weekend, and I decided, hey, so what, it’ll be all right. Let me wrap this up, watch a little TV, and go to bed. I’ll fix it in the morning. I turned in about midnight.
But once I got to bed, I tossed and I turned, I squirmed and I fidgeted. Muffled grumbles came from somebody on the other side of the bed. Down on the floor just beyond my feet the dog growled. Obviously my restlessness was disturbing everyone else around me. I got up and drank some juice, then came back to bed. More tossing, more turning, more restlessness. I just could not get to sleep! Now let me inform you that not getting any sleep is not a good thing for pastors on Saturday nights. Pastors don’t get your privilege of rolling over in bed on Sunday morning and declaring that nobody down at that church cares whether I come or not! Pastors need to be alert and focused on Sunday. Got to get some sleep!
Well, the harder I tried to sleep the more my eyes stayed wide open. The more anxious I became about not sleeping, the more clear it became that I was not going to sleep. Actually, I did sleep just a little, but the next thing I knew it was three o’clock, and, awake again, I became aware of why this was happening: my mind was still working on that sermon. My brain was buzzing through the Bible, trying to get it together. There was to be no such thing as rest as long as there was a task not yet finished. No such thing as sleep as long as there was work yet to do.
In other words, if you have work to do, important work, there will be no more night for you. If you have important work yet to do, God’s work, the night is not a night of rest but a night of toil and restlessness until it is done. The night is long when the task is not finished.
By the way, I did get up, I did rewrite the sermon, and I did get through that Sunday. I will leave it to you to guess which Sunday that was!
If you have important work to do, God’s work, the night does not mean rest. It means anxious labor, restlessness, and feverish labor, until the night is over and the work is done.
That simple observation helps me understand why John speaks of the heavenly city as one in which there is no more night. There is no more night because earthly labors are finally complete, and the air is cleared of anxiety. No more night because that terrible incompleteness, that awful dissatisfaction that we feel, nearly every day of our mortal lives, is finally resolved. No more night. No more anxiety. No more struggling to do the impossible. No more battling with the limitations of the flesh. No more night.
Let’s work with that image, and see what we can find out about what it is going to mean to live eternally in the place of God’s eternal day. And let’s see if those we remember today might serve as guides from our restlessness into their rest, from our incompleteness into their wholeness.