Tola’s sermon preached on Aug. 7, 2022

Posted by on Sun, Aug 7, 2022 in Season after Pentecost, Sermons

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Aug. 7, 2022
Text to be posted soon.

Wow! Today’s readings and Gospel offer such a deep vein of precious ore from which to mine a sermon. The nature of faith, the nature of family, materialism, the timing of the rapture…

But for me, the thread that runs through both the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Gospel of Luke relates to worry.

Worry is a cousin to doubt. Doubt is a lot more serious, because it can get between us and God. But worry is something that sits with all of us most of the time.

Did I lock the door before I left? Is this the sort of parking lot where someone might steal my catalytic converter? What did my boss mean by that comment? Is my youngest ready for his finals?

I think our readings tell us that worry, like doubt, can be quenched by faith.

A clue: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This helps us at least get an idea *what* to worry about. If some unfortunate soul manages to remove my catalytic converter on my beloved Mustang while I’m in here giving this sermon, that’s really OK.

A car is just a thing. Things can be repaired. Or replaced. Or done without. I have six great years with that car, and many happy memories. No one can take those.

But what about the things that will always be treasures to us? Those who become parents know that they have signed up for a lifetime of worrying, only somewhat lessened when our kids become strong and capable.

The ultimate worry is death. For us, or those we love. If our faith is strong, we stand secure in expectation of a life eternal. But we can’t know when death will come for us. And we can’t know whether the people we love will go first, leaving us in grief and sorrow.

“The son of man is coming at an unexpected hour.” This is one of several verses in the New Testament that talk about the timing of the second coming of Christ, and to many modern ears they provide context to the fact that Christ did not return in the lifetime of the Apostles, but rather at least two thousand years (and counting) after that.

But… there’s another way to think about what Christ is saying here.

In the two thousand plus years since Christ gave us this good news, many people have stood before Christ. They just didn’t do it here on Earth. What if he’s talking as much about when *we* go to see *him*, as he is about when he comes for us?

Then “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit” means something very different! “Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert” means something very different! Then we hear to be ready, even eager, to join Christ when called.

The English poet and Anglican convert T.S. Eliot has a quote about faith that I adore, and I think it relates to being ready to join Christ. It’s from a poem called “O Light Invisible”:

“Our gaze is submarine, our eyes look upward
And see the light that fractures through unquiet water.
We see the light but see not whence it comes.
Light Invisible, we glorify Thee!”

My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2007, and was buried on Mother’s Day 2008. I was with her for the last two months of her life. I believe she saw some of that light invisible towards the end.

Pancreatic cancer damages your gut, and when your gut starts to go, two things happen: you lose your appetite, and you get anxious. You start to worry. And so my mother did, coming to rely on the anti-anxiety drug Lorazepam as even more important than anti-pain medications.

But in the last few weeks of life, as my mother’s gut shut down, she started sleeping more, and worrying less. She also started doing something I never quite understood: she would raise her arms up, and very calmly sweep them through a range of interlocking motions. As if she was conducting an orchestra, or a choir. She never explained why, and fairly shortly after that she stopped talking. But she kept up with the arm movements as long as she was able. Always with a sense of peace and perhaps even majesty.

What was she seeing? Where was she?

When the patient with a gut cancer stops drinking fluids, the final countdown begins. They sleep 16 hours a day, 20 hours a day, eventually 24 hours a day. A very wise hospice nurse told me at the beginning not to worry about being in the room with my mother when she died, because parents often look out for their kids until the very end. And so it was that one morning I popped out to the store for 20 minutes, and while there got a cell phone call from my Mother’s boyfriend telling me that she had stopped breathing.

I will tell you, I’m not afraid to go the way my mother did. It was peaceful and calm, and without pain or fear.

So I’m ready for that unexpected hour. I think all of us here are, whether we realize it or not. We’re here today. We’ve heard Christ’s message. We’ve built this church together. We’ve received the body and blood of Christ.

Whether one of us has a heart attack on the way home today, or gets a cancer diagnosis this week, or we hear the seven trumpets during next week’s sermon.

So don’t worry. We’re ready, in the way Christ commands us to be.

Amen.

© 2022 Tola Marts. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.