Sermon delivered by Joel Snider, pastor of First Baptist Church in Rome, Ga., on July 26, 2009.
We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God . . . We must not
assume that our schedule is our own to manage but allow it to be arranged by
Charlie Brown and Lucy are talking.
Lucy says, Think about this day, Charlie Brown. This could be the most important day of your life. When it begins, you really never know what is going to happen.
Next frame. Charlie Brown replies, You’re right, Lucy, and this very ordinary day could turn out to be the most important day of my life.
Then in the final frame, Charlie Brown says: But it probably won’t.
We hear a message like that in a hundred different places. It might be a little nugget of wisdom crossed-stitched and framed or on a refrigerator magnet, Today could be the first day of the rest of your life. You might go to hear a motivational speaker and they tell you, Expect something good to happen today. You might even hear a few preachers say, Expect a miracle today! We always have these aspirations that today is going to be the day. Today is going to be the day that it is really different. Today is going to be the day that things change for the better. There is nothing scientific in my observation. It is strictly my own sense of reading human experience.
I think in our minds we believe this. Somebody has to believe it or else who is buying all those lottery tickets? That is the whole premise behind the lottery. Someone thinks that today is going to be the right day. I am going to pick the right game numbers on the ticket at the convenience store and I am going to win some money. Today could be the day.
It is also the reason behind a lot of other things that we do, but I think in our hearts we just really are not too sure. We are much more like Charlie Brown. It probably won’t. I am going to buy this, but I probably won’t win. We decide we are going to do something because we think there is a chance that this is going to be it, but then there is this nagging voice that says, No, not today; not ever. It just isn’t going to change.
We come to the place where Jesus is talking to the disciples about last things. He does this a couple of different times in the Gospels In the 12th chapter of Luke, he tells the disciples that the time is coming. If you follow the whole flow of the 12th chapter, he has been talking to the crowds and he is saying to them, You need to choose to follow me. It seems a hard thing, and there is some reluctance for people to do what is necessary to follow Jesus. They are afraid of certain consequences, and Jesus basically says, The time is coming when all the consequences are going to be eternal so you better get over this because the real things that you have to fear are everlasting. They are not fearing what someone might do to you. You need to fear what might really happen in eternity.
He goes on to say, And it will happen at an hour you do not know. It never happens when people expect it. If people had expected the thief to break in, they would have been keeping watch, but it happens at an hour when no one is expecting it.
As long as I have been alive, every decade that I can remember, somebody has been predicting the return of Christ. As we got close to the millennium, it was going to happen when all those clocks ticked over on the computer to the year 2000. Everybody knew that somehow that was going to trigger calamity and the return of Jesus.
If you are not up on all the current fear, I believe it is the year 2012 that is now looking like the return of Jesus. There is a lot of information on the internet and books you can buy at the bookstore. I think they even have it narrowed down to the month and the date. Something is going to happen and Jesus is going to come back.
You can read the passage later in the Gospels where Jesus says, No one knows the hour and the day, and you even hear people say, You can’t know the hour, but you can know the year. Of course, that just misses Jesus’ point altogether. We don’t know.
If you think about Lucy and Charlie Brown when she said, This ordinary day could somehow turn out to be something special, it reminds me of a sign that I saw on a church that really did strike me. It said, Some ordinary day Jesus will return. I thought to myself, Why not? Why wouldn’t the last time Jesus comes be like most times when Jesus comes? Most of the times when Jesus comes into somebody’s life, it is not something that you can prepare for. It is not something that you can anticipate, but most times, Jesus comes and surprises people all the time. Why shouldn’t the last time be like most times?
Think about Moses. Moses was out in the Arabian peninsula somewhere tending sheep for his father-in-law, Jethro. I am not aware of anything in the Bible that said he got up one morning and there was a rainbow or cloud in the sky that had his name on it, or that he had gotten a special-delivery dove from God saying, If you see a burning bush today, be sure to turn aside and look at it. It was just an ordinary day of tending sheep.
James and John were mending nets by the Sea of Galilee. Had anybody given them warning that today was the day or were they just there in the warm, morning sunshine with the dry wind that came down out of the valley north of the lake? Were they just mending nets and talking about what the catch might be, and then looked over and there was Jesus? There he was, standing beside the boats, and he said, Come, and I will make you fishers of men. Come, follow me.
Look at the resurrection. Do you realize how that starts? It said, It was the first day of the week. For the Jewish people, they worship on the Sabbath. We worship on what we call the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week. It was the day of the week that Jesus was raised. It was the first day of the week. This was the day when all the pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover were going home. This was the day when the people who lived there had to go back to work. It was like it had been a three-day weekend. They all had to go back to work and they were all dreading it. These women got up early so they could get their duty done before they went to work that day or whatever it was they had to do. They went to prepare a dead body for burial. They were not expecting Jesus. They were not expecting resurrection.
It seems to me that more times than not, it happens unexpectedly. We think we know how the day is going to be. We think we know how we have everything plotted out on our “to do list” or our DayTimer or whatever we use to keep up with our calendar. Then, unexpectedly, God breaks in and something happens. I have heard people describe these as “God moments.”
There is a true story told that happened during the Balkan War. A family had been caught in the crossfire between two sides and a child was wounded. It looked like the child was going to die. A taxi cab driver stopped, picked them up, drove between the warring factions, and took them to a hospital. They ran in with the child. One of the parents turned around to thank the man for what was a tremendous act of heroism and he was not there. They went back out to the front steps, and the cab was not there. How could that be? Not much time had passed. They asked other people, Did you see the man who brought us up in the cab? Did you see which way the cab went? Everybody said, We didn’t see a cab. That family became convinced that some angel of God and saved their child in that moment.
You don’t have to be in a war. There can be other moments. There is a great story about a family funeral. It had been a tremendous tragedy. The family was there at the graveside. Everyone was weeping and their hearts were broken. There was a three-old little girl there. All she knew was that something had taken place and something was now different for the person that they had come to place in the ground. As everybody was weeping and walking away from the grave, she started singing as happily and enthusiastically as she could, Happy birthday to you. In her experience, when people gathered together, it was for a birthday party. The whole family stopped, and they realized that this was sort of a birthday. This was a day of moving on, and it was a God moment. It was a moment where, in their sorrow and sadness, they received this word through a little girl. It just started off as an ordinary day, a day that no one would anticipate that God would act in a way that would reach out and grab them by the heart.
That is the way Jesus comes most days, just ordinary days. He says, Be ready for the last day. I think the way to be ready for that is to be ready for every day. You never know when God may want to say something. You never know when God may want to use you or me, and all of a sudden it is one of those God moments. We woke up this morning, took a shower, and washed our hair just like always, and did not expect it to be any different.
The text in Luke 12:35-40 is about being prepared. How would you be prepared for these ordinary days? One, very simply, you would need the conviction that God is alive and at work in the world. There are a lot of bestsellers by atheists trying to explain why there is no God. You can have all kinds of explanations but it is hard to explain timing. It is hard to explain the impulse in the heart. Certain things happen and there is no doubt in our minds that it is God, so we just start off with the assumption that God is doing things.
If you do not know me well, this may come as a surprise to you. I am a Type A personality. I have my “to do list.” I am checking it off and getting the task done. I think a lot of people are like that. A lot of you are no-nonsense kind of people. We are not pretending to be monks who happen to go to work as attorneys, physicians or business owners. We have things we have to do. Would it be possible, even in the life that you live, to pray each day, God, take me where you would have me go. God, show me what you would have me see, and put people in my path that you would have me meet. Put me in the path of people that you might be able to use me to minister to them.
You can be a pretty common sense kind of person, can’t you? You don’t have to be someone that others view as a fanatic. Can’t you just be an average person and pray a prayer like that and think that God might direct your path every day? In the prayer, we are opening up our hearts to the leadership and expectation that it might happen.
The only other thing I would say is you really do have to be open to interruptions. I have no doubt that God can speak through spreadsheets, iPhones, stock tickers, personal calendars, and all that kind of stuff but sometimes we are so focused that we are not paying attention. Have you ever almost run over someone who is crossing the street because they are talking on their cell phone? Have you ever almost been run over while you were on your cell phone? We get so focused on the things we are thinking about that sometimes it is very easy to walk right by whatever it is God wants us to see that day. Sometimes we have to be open for the interruption. You just never know…it might be God.
When Christ comes, be ready. But get ready by being ready for how Christ wants to act in your life on an ordinary day. If you are ready every day for the way that God might want to come in and say something , for the way that God might want to tell you about something new or give you a blessing you had not anticipated before, then I think you will be ready for the last day.
Maybe today, maybe this afternoon, maybe tomorrow, at an hour we do not know, in a way that we cannot predict, God is going to say something to me, to you, or somebody in our family. God might call us to a task that would change our lives. God might teach us something that becomes the greatest blessing we have ever known.
If you wake up one day and hear trumpets, and the birds are all around your window and you think, This is really going to be a special day, would you please call me? I would like to know about that. But my guess is that it will just be some ordinary day when Jesus will be at work in you, and it will be a day that will change you.
Joel Snider is a coach for the Center for Healthy Churches.