Wednesday, November 30th. Matthew 24:36-44

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Matthew 24:36-44


Our readings for this first week of Advent are heavy on the “get ready” theme.  So let’s play with that.


We begin again with the reminder that no one but the Father knows what the future holds.  The best we can do are educated guesses, tracking past trends, reading the signs, and arguing our points.  It is like the on-going debate over climate change. One group tells us the sky is falling and the next group tells us the books are cooked.


Who to believe?  Where to turn?


Matthew portrays Jesus re-telling a portion of the Noah story.  Everyone was eating and drinking, having a high old time, when suddenly the rains started falling and everyone – except Noah and his family and a boatload of animals – got deep sixed. 


But Matthew tells us that Jesus then puts a new twist on the story. Instead of preserving one family and dropping the rest, the future means – poof! – one of two workers in a field will disappear.  One of two women grinding meal will disappear. One field worker and one grinder in heaven…and the other two left scratching their heads, “Now where in the world did the other one go?  I swear they were just standing right over there.”


Now let’s get serious again.  These are serious stories.  I remember first hearing them as a child, especially as a young teenager at a fundamentalist-minded Bible camp where they were used to absolutely terrify us at the prospect of being left behind.  To this day, that fear is much more than skin deep. 


No way, for me at least, does the joyful prospect of being “taken” counter balance the fearsome prospect of being “left behind.” I don’t want anyone to be left behind. Love doesn’t leave people behind.  In fact, not only do I believe that the work of the church is about not leaving anyone else behind, I’m not the least bit interested in heaven if it turns out to be an exclusive club. But those are Management decisions.


Then Jesus uses the thief analogy.  This is another scare tactic.  If the owner of the house knew when the thief was coming, he would be ready.  Ready for what?  To joyfully welcome the thief or to pull out the 12 gauge? 


I know something about thievery; I live in a big city.  I have had my car broken into more than once.  I have had all my lawn equipment stolen out of my garage.  My wife had her house robbed, on Ash Wednesday no less, of virtually everything of value.  The thieves left behind a smashed in door, an utterly trashed house, and a family that didn’t sleep well for weeks.


Only the Father knows – that’s all we need to know.  And Jesus, though he is full of surprises, isn’t a thief.  But he clearly has a place in his heart for thieves.  To at least one he said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  And that’s all we need to know.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, our future, our lives, the whole creation, is in your hands.  Set us free from fears which bind us.  Break down the walls that divide us. Come to us, abide with us, that we might always be ready to be surprised by joy.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


2 Responses to “Wednesday, November 30th. Matthew 24:36-44”

  1. Bill Decker Says:

    Thank you very much for your insights. Your gifted devotions speak clearly to my heart and mind. Thanks especially for working with texts that some would dismiss as too difficult to handle.

  2. Paul A. Telthorster Says:

    Thanks for your devotions. I have needed them lately. Your last 2 closing prayers have helped me very much. Especially yesterday, Nov 29, 2011.

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