The Message, November 27: "Stay Awake!" Matthew 24:36-44

The Message, November 27: "Stay Awake!" Matthew 24:36-44

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
November 27, 2022


“Stay Awake!”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Matthew 24:36-44

            Did you all enjoy your post-dinner naps on Thursday … or whenever you celebrated Thanksgiving? Have you actually woken up from those tryptophan-induced naps?

            Let me ask … are you nappers in general? Do you enjoy a good nap?

            I will tell you that I am not a napper. I never have been. My wife, Renee, is a napper. She comes from a family of nappers. (And let me be clear. I am saying NAPPER, not RAPPER. A family of rappers would be very different.) Spending time with nappers can be tricky if one is not a napper. When Renee and I would visit her family, they would all settle in for their respective afternoon naps, and I would be wondering what I should do. Her dad napped with the remote control for the television in his hand, so changing the channel was out of the question. So, generally, I would head to the front porch with a book and a glass of iced tea.

            Of course, the topic of naps has come up in conversation with Renee. She says that I DO nap. I beg to differ. I do not nap, I doze off. There is a difference. Napping implies intentionality, whereas dozing off just happens. One does not plan to doze off. I sometimes doze off when I am watching television, and then miss the end of the movie or the game. Why would I plan that?

            Our passage this morning suits me just fine. Jesus’ call to stay awake is perfect for me. I am happy to comply. I do enjoy sleeping. I like it very much. But I have found over the course of my life that I do not require much sleep. I do not know if I qualify as a “super sleeper,” but I do know that I typically stay up late and then get up early.

            We begin the season of Advent with this call by Jesus to stay awake. ‘Stay awake, for we know not when the Son of Man will come.’

            Of course, we know that Jesus was actually referring to that time when the Son of Man would come AGAIN. He was speaking of the RETURN of the Son of Man. It has always struck me as being a bit odd that we speak of the RETURN of the Son of Man as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it strikes you as odd, as well. Why are we anticipating the return as we prepare to celebrate the FIRST coming?

            Maybe it is because the world did not do a great job welcoming him the first time. Maybe we are hoping for a “do over.”

            Consider the evidence. We have about two thousand years of evidence … that is a significant sample size … that indicates that we have not done a great job of accepting, welcoming and following the Way of Jesus Christ.

            Look at the wars and atrocities that have been committed in his name.

            Look at the ways that his name has been used to preach hate by those who profess to follow his way.

            Look at the venom that has been hurled at the LGBTQ+ and trans communities, and the immigrant communities.

            Look at the ways that we fail to share our resources

            Look at the ways that we fail to care for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, the ways that we fail to care for the least among us.

            Look at the ways in which greed and avarice have shaped our politics, policies, our institutions, and so much of our culture.

            Is this the Way of Love? Is this the Way of God? Is this the Way that Jesus taught?

            Jesus must be straining, struggling. “Please, God … please let me go back and tell them again! Please let me go back and show them the way!!”

            And the reality is that we need the Light of Jesus Christ. We need the Hope of Jesus Christ. The world needs to do better. The world needs to BE better.

            We need the Return of Jesus Christ, but only God knows when that will happen. Only God knows.

            Of course, we know that people have tried to calculate when that day will come. The hubris and arrogance of that is mind boggling. A foolish endeavor indeed, with embarrassing, disastrous, and dangerous results. They missed the point. There is no way for us to know. Even JESUS does not know when it will occur.

            Historically, there have been those who try to disprove Jesus, or disprove God, by citing the fact that the Son of Man has not returned yet. They say, “See! He did not return when he said that he would! He did not return within that first generation! How could you believe such foolishness!!!”

            Again … Jesus said it himself. The angels do not know the date. He himself does not know.

            We cannot know. So, what are we to do? Stay awake. Do not doze off.

            Have you ever had one of those nightmare dreams in which you sleep through an exam? But then you wake with a start and realize that the exam is not until tomorrow, so you still have time to cram.

            I remember when I was in school, and there were certain classmates that would always ask, “Excuse me, professor, is this going to be on the exam?” “Is that going to be on the exam?” I had one professor that literally wrote out the notes for her lectures on the blackboard, and still people asked, “Is this going to be on the test?”

            God does not want us to cram for the exam. God does not say to the world, “The Son of Man will return on June 25, 2023.” Because God knows that some people will wait until June 20 to start cramming!

            And just like those classmates of mine, we do not ask God, “Wil this be on the exam?” It is ALL on the exam.

            Love God. On the exam.
            Love your neighbor as yourself. On the exam.
            Pray without ceasing. On the exam.
            Be generous. On the exam.
            Be faithful. On the exam.
            Seek peace. On the exam.

            Stay awake. Do not doze off. Live as if the Son of Man will return today because it is all on the exam.

            The Coming of the Son of Man is not a day to feared. It is not an event that should fill us with dread. It is something to be anticipated. It is something for which we look forward with hope and excitement.

            Across the generations, we have misinterpreted what this passage means. The phrase, “to be taken” or “taken away” does not refer to something like the Rapture when people are lifted up into heaven. Instead, the phrase is normally translated to mean “to be received.” It means to be received into the sacred community. It means to be welcomed into the Messiah’s Kingdom. We long for the day when we are received into the sacred community. We look forward to it with hope, excitement and joy.

            It is odd that Jesus uses the image of a burglar breaking into one’s home in the middle of the night. But we do know that most burglars do not call ahead of time and ask, “Would it be convenient if I broke into your home tomorrow evening?”

            Stay awake, for we know not the time.
            Stay awake and live as if it might be today.
            The Son of Man has already come. We know that. That is why we are gathered here today. May the world do a better job living as if we knew that it was so. It is ALL on the exam.



Congregational Church