I’d struggled and sweated over my
Master’s thesis through many a long night and finally submitted. I’d kept awake.
got on a plane back to the US and wrote the sermon for my best friend’s wedding
on the 11-hour plane ride from London to Los Angeles. I’d kept awake.
wrote my Best Man’s toast and a speech about brotherhood, and friendship for
the bachelor party, on the plane from LA to Eugene, Oregon. I kept awake.
friend who was getting married—picked me up at the airport and took me straight
to the bachelor party. I kept awake.
showed up at the house down by the river—a bonfire was lit, a few golf-balls
carelessly hit into the Willamette River. Drinks were poured. I gave my little
speech about bachelorhood, brotherhood, and continued friendship. I kept awake.
party was roaring, such a celebration. I began to talk to a friend who I hadn’t
seen in several years. We sat down on a couch…
I was woken up by someone vigorously knocking against my sternum,
“Dude,” he said, “I’m glad you woke
up. We’d talked to you, poured water on you—I even slapped you in the face a
couple’a times. I can’t believe you slept through Kevin’s bachelor party, man.
I can’t believe you couldn’t keep awake.”
that’s the bottom line for Matthew today—Keep
sometimes call the Gospel of Matthew the Church’s Book, or the Church’s Gospel,
because it is the only Gospel that explicitly mentions “The Church.” Matthew,
more than anyone other than Paul, wrestles with what Christian community looks
Matthew is also the most cynical and
critical, of Church-folk. He consistently points out that there will always be
those inside the church who are angels, and also those inside the church who
are devils. We’re a mixed body—the church is an admixture of these two groups,
and we’ll never be able to judge who among us is the angel and who is the
devil—that is for God alone.
He writes about ONE flock, filled
with both sheep and goats.
He writes about ONE field, filled
with both wheat and weeds.
He writes about ONE wedding party—10
bridesmaids—all 10 have lamps and all 10 are in the same place, but 5 are wise
and 5 are foolish.
In this case the only difference is
one set of bridesmaids are prepared and keep
Similarly, today Amos preaches frightening
words to those who rested firmly in their own righteousness.
He hears his people praying for the
Day of the LORD. The people remember back to the time of the Conquest of
Canaan, when the LORD God of Armies was on the march and smote those who stood
against His people.
The Day of the LORD when the weather,
and elements and the Cosmos itself, battled against the enemies of Israel.
The Day of the LORD when an
astronomical impossibility held the sun in place, so there would be daylight
and time enough for Joshua and his army to slaughter the Amorites.
Amos hears these words from these insiders—and says in effect:
“I see your religious acts, and I
have some bad news.
Most of it is pagan nonsense—your worship literally stinks (verse
Where, in form, you’ve managed to be
orthodox, I look beyond what you do in worship and into what you do in life.
I see you have built a dam to shut up
justice and made righteousness into an irrigation ditch.
Your public officials take bribes,
The little the poor have, is stripped
away from them,
The vulnerable immigrants—you hate
You think you’re God’s people—but you
didn’t keep awake, you’ve went off
into a dream world and are sleep-walking into disaster.
You are expecting me to bring light
so you can crush those you hate… it’s going to be darkness for you, those
enemies will crush you—one disaster after another.
As those of you in the Thursday
Afternoon Bible Study know, a very similar message is preached by Jeremiah—that
God has quit going to the Temple and won’t hear the people’s prayers, because
the people don’t hear God—they aren’t awake
to their multitudinous idolatries and injustices.
This is a theme throughout
scripture—that the religious insiders fall asleep, and manage to sleep-walk out
into the wilderness, and go from being God’s people, to being not God’s people.
In fact, that great Theologian of the
Church, St. Augustine, coined a phrase about this, “Many who seem outside the Church, are actually within it; many who seem within the Church, are actually outside it.”
Or to say it again with a different
translation, “Many whom God has, the Church does not have; Many whom the Church
has, God does not have.”
(Does that make sense? not all
outsiders are outsiders, not all insiders are insiders.)
And to this reality, we must again
shout, Keep Awake! Keep Awake! Keep
This refrain is almost like a police
Think about it,
When you’re going 45 in a 25 a police
siren is bad news.
But when someone breaks into your
house, nothing sounds better than that siren and those blue and red lights.
So too, keep awake has a dual edge—it has two sides.
Keep awake here
Church-folk, among Church-folk.
People far more pious than you have fallen asleep, and taken their position as
God’s people for granted, and gained God’s scorn. They’ve asked God to hail
down wrath upon His enemies, only to find they themselves are His enemy. Be
awake when you consider your religious practices, and the way you live in society.
Keep awake there
Church-folk, out among a whole host of peoples every day. Look around you and
see what God is doing, and not just here at Church, not just among Church-folk,
—it’s amazing what God is doing in
this, His world, among all kinds of
people who are his people, even when we don’t expect it.
Keep awake to
what God is doing, there is grace hanging everywhere—at this feast of the
bridegroom, this bachelor party for the Son of Man.
Two quick examples:
This last Wednesday a relative of one
of our Church members called me up offering a weeks worth of unopened meals, he
thought they could help someone. Because
of this non-Church member, a shut-in on Hospice Care won’t need to worry
about where her meals are coming from for this week. Keep awake.
That same day, I was going through a
fast-food drive-up, and after I paid for my meal, the cashier said, “could you
hold up a sec.”
I was dozing through life, and
assumed he’d forgotten napkins or something,
but then I looked up and he asked me
to pray for his father who is suffering with Scoliosis—and we prayed right
there in the Wendy’s Drive-through. Keep
Keep awake so
your heart does not grow cold, and your faith faint.
Keep awake so
you see your sisters and brothers when they come to you.
Keep Awake. A+A