Saturday, November 30, 2013

Be ready!

After two weeks with others preaching for our stewardship program, I'm back.

Isaiah 2:1–5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11–14; Matthew 24:36–44

Some days I wish we had the capability of showing images during worship, but we don’t. You’ll just have to use your imagination as I paint some pictures for your mind.
Near the end of his life, Jesus is in Jerusalem, challenging the leaders, publicly condemning their unjust practices. Late in the day, he gathers the disciples in the olive grove on the hill opposite the temple in Jerusalem. He has been talking a lot lately about the destruction of the temple, and about a time when he will leave them. He also assures them that he will return to them.
Like all of us, the disciples are puzzled, confused. They want to know the facts; they ask Jesus when all this will happen. But, Jesus says, he doesn’t know. No one knows, only God knows. In the meantime, his followers should be ready.
Paul urges the Roman believers to be ready for the new world. We hear his words as good advice for us today. Be ready to put on the Lord Jesus Christ as our armor; be ready to follow Jesus wherever he leads us; be ready to see him again. Be ready.
Once a week, on his show, Steve Harvey honors a hero, someone who has made a real difference in the lives of others. This week, the hero was California Highway Patrol Sergeant Kevin Briggs, who is nicknamed the Guardian of the Golden Gate. He sees a lot of desperate people as he drives over the bridge, and he has learned to always be ready. Since 1994,Sgt Briggs has saved more than 200 people, convincing them to not jump from the bridge. His compassionate listening skills help the desperate folks realize that someone does care about them, that there is a reason they are alive, and that the pain they are feeling will not last forever. Sgt Briggs helps them develop a plan for tomorrow, and stops them from ending their lives. Be ready to save a life.
The Prophet Isaiah imagined a day when swords would be recast as plows, and spears reshaped into pruning hooks. Today’s weapons are different, bombs and bullets and drones have replaced swords and spears and boulders, but the goal of ending war remains.
Civil Wars ravaged the country of Liberia from 1989-2003. Jonathan Worlobah found a new use for the used bullet shells that littered his country. He reshaped them into crosses. Crafting and selling the bullet crosses provided an income for himself and his family, and gave hope to those who work to restore order to his country. Be ready to change swords into plowshares.
John T Young turns parts of decommissioned nuclear submarines into art. A friend of his told him the navy was trying to get rid of some material that was impossible to recycle. John looked at the pieces and knew instantly what to do with them. The horizontal fins – like tails on a submarine – look like dorsal fins of orca whales when planted in the ground. Together, the dozen or so fins looks like a whole pod of whales. Be ready to have a new vision.
Hazel is a patient at Children’s Hospital enduring 18 months of treatment for a cancer in her belly. One day, she wrote on her window – or had someone write – “send pizza, room 4112”. Someone saw the message, and sent pizza. They also took a picture and posted it on the internet, so lots of people saw the message. Suddenly, there was so much pizza, Hazel and her roommate shared it with all the kids on the floor. Finally, Hazel’s mother had to call the pizza shops and tell them to stop sending pizza. Be ready to send pizza to sick little girls.
Jeff was a chef in a restaurant with $40 entrees. He was earning over $100,000 a year when he went through a divorce. In the process of reshaping his life, he realized that he was empty spiritually. When he saw an advertisement for a job as a cook at the local Salvation Army soup kitchen, he applied. Now, he earns about $30,000 a year. Using donated food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and his own creative skills he has reduced the cost of meals to about $.60. He has also revived his faith in Jesus. Be ready to change your life.  
Tony Rohr had worked for Pizza Hut for 10 years. Until a few days ago, he was a manager at his store. When his boss told him the Pizza Hut would be open on Thanksgiving Day, Tony resisted. It wouldn’t be the boss who had to work; it would be the lowest paid employees who had to give up their time off. In a conversation with his boss, Tony was asked to resign, and refused. His boss fired him. Be ready to stand up for what is right. Be ready to stand up for the poorest folks.
A group of folks who love video games meets together about twice a year. They bring their own laptops and play games, eat, and party for several days. They met in Portland, Oregon about a week before Thanksgiving, and were given the instructions to bring non-perishable food to share with the hungry. Their gifts totaled about 37,500 pounds. Be ready to feed the hungry.
100,000 homes is a movement to get the chronically poor and medically challenged off the streets and into safe, inexpensive housing. The Housing First program has shown that when homeless people are given a place to live, most of the other problems disappear. Yes, there are exceptions, and yes, it doesn’t work for everyone, but the movement is proving it works for most folks. Together with other goals: know who is homeless, and improve local systems, the goal is to get 100,000 people off the streets.
These are just facts and numbers and ideals until we see the video of photos – faces, names, and locations of people who used to be homeless. Ed: Skid Row. Fey: Santa Monica. Cato: San Diego. James: Phoenix. 100,000 Homes sees the homeless as individuals with potential, not as throw-away people who should be shunned. Be ready to see the people behind the statistics. Be ready to give homes to those without a place to live.    
Be ready, Jesus and Paul say. Be ready to see Jesus in each other, and in our neighbors, including the ones we don’t like. Be ready to be Jesus’s hands, feet, and heart. Be ready to make a difference. Be ready, because it is through us that Jesus has indeed already returned.
Let all God’s people say, “Amen!”