14 Pentecost (Year A)
St. John’s, West Seneca
Sept. 6, 2020
Grace to you and Peace from God our Father and the LORD Jesus Christ. Amen.
My alarm clock. This clock uses an LED light that gradually brightens the room up to 30 mins before the alarm time. Additionally, you can choose that light in a variety of colors. It has nature sounds or the standard FM radio. I think mine is set for 20 minutes of lighting my morning, and blue is the shade for now.
The claim of this clock is that this is a more relaxing way - using light, then sound -to awaken in the morning, to be eased into your day, with none of that sudden, blaring sound that so many alarms have. It seems to work, but I am such a morning person that I generally wake before the alarm.
I bring up alarms because today, Paul counsels us that now is the time to wake from sleep. In this case, not physical sleep. In the ancient world, "sleep" was often used as a metaphor for spiritual inattentiveness. What Paul describes here is a spiritual sleep. Paul argues that the dawn has already broken, "the night is far gone, the day is near" and "salvation is nearer to us than when we became believers".
The salvation that Paul reminds us of is right now, in the present, as God is bringing us into a saving relationship with Christ at this moment. There is a future component as we all know well -- when the entire creation will be made whole once again.
Back to my alarm clock. Once that alarm goes off, what is one of the first things you do when you get up in the morning? I know I have my ritual. Most of us get dressed, go for that cup of coffee, grab the car keys, and if you are not a morning person, some of that is done in a blur.
Today’s readings and gospel are about living in community. And where better to start than at home, first thing in the morning. Paul says that in order to live in community, we need to have our spiritual ducks in a row.
For the apostle Paul, what was most important was the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul followed directly what Christ revealed to him. As A.N. Wilson, a biographer of Paul, said, that to Paul Christ was “not so much the man [the disciples] remembered (though of course he was that) but a presence of divine love in the hearts of believers.”
The presence of divine love. That is what we have in Christ’s resurrection. That spark of divine love is to be a new ritual where the light has broken in and exposed the chaos and hypocrisy. Put aside those things and put on something new. Enough with the wild parties, and arguing, gossiping and jealousy, the spreading of lies. These things will not be suitable in the light of Christ's new creation.
The problem is too many of us are spiritually inattentive that we are unable to do that. My theory is that we hit our snooze buttons way too often. You know what I am talking about. That handy snooze button gives you a few more minutes before you have to get up and face the day.
Except…Tapping the snooze button actually makes you sleepier. Now I used to think those few extra minutes were good for me. That may not be the case and in fact, doing that may make you more tired throughout the day. By hitting that button once, twice, you could lose productivity and be less alert as the day goes one.
The medical director of a Sleep Disorders Center in Arizona says this: "When you hit the snooze button repeatedly, you're doing two negative things to yourself…"First, you're fragmenting what little extra sleep you're getting so it is of poor quality. Second, you're starting to put yourself through a new sleep cycle that you aren't giving yourself enough time to finish. This can result in persistent grogginess throughout the day." “Scientists have identified the culprit behind this stupor that's brought on by a too-brief slumber: sleep inertia. The National Sleep Foundation defines this state as "the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that can come from awakening from a deep sleep." It slows down your decision-making abilities, impairs your memory and hurts your general performance once you do get out of bed. Even worse, coffee and a cold shower can't combat it: It can take up to an hour and a half to shake off sleep-inertia grogginess.” That snooze button throws off you circadian cycle and messes you’re your brain. Again, this doctor says that “banishing the button” isn’t necessarily the answer. If you have the urge to sleep longer, it is probably part of a larger problem. --Erinn Bucklan, "Is the snooze button bad for you?" cnn.com, February 7, 2014. Retrieved June 4, 2016. What we have is spiritual inertia, that often begins when we hit the spiritual “snooze” button.
We do put off the spiritual aspect of our lives far too often. That is why we get caught up in Paul’s list of sins. And those sins lead to a ritual, one that makes it difficult to see things as they really are. And, we are so busy doing and planning that we forget that we are spiritual creatures whose souls need that which only God can give. As I wrote in one of my devotions last week: we need to simply be.
It strikes me that we should take Paul’s advice and "put on the armor of light.” In other words, we need to rise each day and take on the troubles of the world that too little attention keeps us from doing. Just as you have a ritual for your body, create one for your spirit. It doesn’t need to be elaborate. A bit of confession and prayer does wonders. We should begin each day remembering that we have been baptized, which was what Martin Luther did in times of distress. “I was baptized,” was Luther’s way of meeting the problems of the day. When we start the day remembering our baptism, confessing our sin and asking that God help us to reflect the light of Christ wherever we go, we can then rid ourselves of that inertia that keeps us from being who God wants us to be. It will take time, but once in place, we can take on the day wide awake, ready to “live honorably.”
This is now, and it is time to wake up, time to get to work, be attentive to what is at hand. We had more violence this past week, close to home. Too much darkness, and my fear is that we will be overcome by spiritual inertia. Too often I hear the lament of “what can I do?”
First, as John F. Kennedy said, “we are not here to curse the darkness.” As Christians, we are the children of a new day and the inheritors of Christ’s light. And as the saying goes, there are two ways of spreading light, be the candle or be the mirror that reflects it.
Christian love does not blame one person, but only asks what needs to be done. Christian love does look backward and ask why did he not just stop, or why don’t those protestors go home? Christian love does not blame the victim. Christian love finds the way so that life is sustained. Matthew Fox – a New Testament scholar – has written what he calls his “95 Theses for the Third Millennium”. Catching my eye was this one: “A wise test of right action is this: What is the effect of this action on people seven generations from today? Following that – “Is what I am doing, is what we are doing, beautiful or not?” That is the question of the spiritually aware person who lives in the light.
We cannot allow spiritual inertia to allow us to make excuses. So, where you see sin and the pain it causes, seek to heal and do not fan the flames.
Call out racism for what it is. Call our sexism for what it is. Call out bullying for what it is. Call out those who support supposed Christians who are condemning others while reveling about to their own set of rules. Test the spirit and ask yourself if what you are doing or saying is beautiful in God’s eyes. Ask if it is good for the community. And we all have to stop tapping the snooze button on our spiritual clocks.
Paul begins by reminding us that love is the fulfillment of the law, because love does no wrong to a neighbor. And so let us love, that we are able to wake to a new day with energy enough to meet whatever. With Christ at the center, each day is giving you the opportunity to be His light. No more snooze button. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria