The Rev. Adele K. Langworthy, preaching
November 27, 2016
There Jane sat, waiting by the phone to hear it ring and have a voice at the other end saying, “I’m almost home mom. Turn on the front light.” It had seemed like it had been an eternity since Jane had seen her daughter, Iris. Iris had been away at school and hadn’t made it home over the summer because of a summer job opportunity. Nearly 12 months had past since Jane packed up New Year’s left-overs for her daughter’s drive back to school.
When Jane knew for sure that her daughter would be home for the holidays, she began her preparations. Jane cleaned her daughter’s room—dusting everything so it sparkled. She washed her linens so they would smell fresh and inviting. She had cleaned her windows and vacuumed the carpet, so all would be ready for her arrival. The final touch was an iris in a bud vase on her vanity. It had taken some work to have a fresh iris for her daughter’s room, but she knew she just had to have it there to greet her. As far as the rest of the house, decorations were hung, presents were wrapped, favorite holiday food had been prepared; and Tom, Iris’s dad, had gone over to a neighbor’s to secure firewood for the fireplace.
Tom and Jane knew approximately when Iris would be arriving. The house had been readied and now, filled with eager anticipation, there was nothing more to do than wait.
My guess is that most of us have eagerly waited for the arrival of someone special at some point in time in our lives. We have done something to get ready to receive them—whether it was to put out milk and cookies for Santa or ready our house, as did Tom and Jane.
What would happen if you learned that Jesus was coming to your home? How would you respond? What do you think you would need to do? Doug Mendenhall shares the following parable to help us pause and reflect:
Jesus called the other day to say he was passing through and [wondered if] he could spend a day or two with us.
I said, “Sure. Love to see you. When will you hit town?”
I mean, it’s Jesus, you know, and it’s not every day you get the chance to visit with him. … That’s when Jesus told me he was actually at a convenience store out by the interstate.
I must have gotten that Bambi-in-headlights look, because my wife hissed, “What is it? What’s wrong? Who is that?”
So I covered the receiver and told her Jesus was going to arrive in eight minutes, and she ran out of the room and started giving guidance to the kids—in that effective way that Marine drill instructors give guidance to recruits. …
My mind was already racing with what needed to be done in the next eight—no seven—minutes so Jesus wouldn’t think we were reprobate loser slobs.
I turned off the TV in the den, which was blaring some weird scary movie I’d been half watching. But I could still hear screams from our bedroom, so I turned off the reality show it was tuned to. Plus, I turned off the kids’ set out on the sun porch, because I didn’t want to have to explain Jon & Kate Plus Eight to Jesus, either, six minutes from now.
My wife had already thinned out the magazines that had been accumulating on the coffee table. She put Christianity
Today on top for a good first impression. Five minutes to go.
I looked out the front window, but the yard actually looked great thanks to my long, hard work, so I let it go. What could I improve in four minutes anyway?
I did notice the mail had come, so I ran out to grab it. Mostly it was Netflix envelopes and a bunch of catalogs tied into recent purchases, so I stuffed it back in the box. Jesus doesn’t need to get the wrong idea—three minutes from now—about how much on-line shopping we do.
I ran back in and picked up a bunch of shoes left by the door. Tried to stuff them in the front closet, but it was overflowing with heavy coats and work coats and snow coats and pretty coats and raincoats and extra coats. We live in the South; why’d we buy so many coats? I squeezed the shoes in with two minutes to go.
I plumped up sofa pillows, my wife tossed dishes into the sink, I scolded the kids, and she shooed the dog. With one minute left I realized something important: Getting ready for a visit from Jesus is not an eight-minute job.
Then the doorbell rang.”
It certainly isn’t an eight-minute job to get our lives ready to welcome Jesus. And we aren’t going to get a call verifying Jesus’ arrival time.
What we do know from scripture is that Jesus is coming again. His coming in the night over 2,000 year ago was his first pass through on earth. He promised he’d be back, but he just didn’t know when.
When Noah built his ark, he and his family followed God’s lead. They prepared for the coming storm in the calm of the weather. In the words of William Barclay, “the rest of mankind were lost in their eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage, and were caught completely unawares, and were therefore swept away.” There is a message in this for us.
We need to be living our lives, in the here and now, as if the ‘soon to come’ was arriving. We need to be alert and prepared.
The house we need to have ready to receive Jesus upon his return is our heart. When he comes, we won’t have time for our heart to have a deep clean, not even an 8 minute pick-up. What does that mean and how do we get there? We are all broken and imperfect. Will we ever be ready?
I’d like to suggest 3 steps to get us ready to ready our houses (our hearts) to welcome Jesus upon his return. The list is not exhaustive, but working on it will make ready our houses for Jesus that he might know he is has been expected.
- Remove the Clutter
Clutter can fill our time and space. It may come in the form of emails, Facebook posts, moments of ‘drama’, stacks of papers or possessions, to name but a few. For instance to remove the clutter when it comes to emails may mean simply unsubscribing to an email sender that you no longer have use of. This in turn will limit your incoming emails and save you some time. The time saving opens the door to having more time to ready your heart for Jesus’ return.
Dusting off a little knick-knack or small item, can then lead to dusting off two or three and before you know it you’ve tackled the entire room, and one room leads to two and then your entire house. Look around and see what is dusty in your heart. Perhaps you used to find joy in the little things, but the responsibilities of life have weighed you down and you can no longer find joy in much of anything. Perhaps you have been living beyond your means and you need to readjust your living situation. Begin small and have fun dusting. Take it on as a challenge. For instance if you have been living beyond your means, as a start can you decide to make coffee at home and take it in your own mug rather than stopping by the local coffee shop? No house is ever perfectly dust-free, but we can do our best to clean up our heart to greet Jesus at his arrival.
- Take out the trash.
Trash needs to be removed. If it is not, it begins to smell and can even attract bugs. Our life trash comes in many forms such as deceit, lying, cheating, resentment, pornography, gossip, laziness, and greed. Each of these forms of trash attract other forms of trash and the trash mounts up. God helps us with our trash removal. He is there to help carry it out. For example, He gives you courage to tell the truth even when you get in trouble for having lied; he offers forgiveness to the repentant heart.
We are one day closer to Christ’s final return than we were yesterday. Let us get ready by removing clutter, dusting and getting rid of our trash to ready our house to receive Jesus when he comes.
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