Staying Awake

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Does the busyness of your daily life push your spiritual life into hibernation? John Weems explored the reminder in the Gospel of Luke that since thee followers of Jesus had stayed awake “they saw his glory.” How do we avoid overuse of the spiritual snooze bar?

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This Week’s Sermon Was Drawn From the Following Scripture

Luke 9:28-36

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.


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Have you had any experience with sleepwalking or talking?

My family tells me that on one occasion, I woke them up at three o’clock in the morning, repeatedly saying, “I need the keys. I need the keys.”

According to my dad, I was six-years-old and demanding the keys to go open the bowling center my family owned and operated. While I am grateful to my parents for teaching me how to work hard and interact with a broad array of personalities, the business dominated our lives. We reached a point of going through the motions—waking up, opening the business, closing the business and apparently, sleep-working.

What about you?

Do you sometimes feel like you are going through the motions of life, going from appointment to appointment, class to class, activity to activity?

When someone asks you how you are doing, is “busy,” or some synonym part of your common response?

I must confess that I am guilty of all of the above.

Last week when I visited one of our Calvary people in the hospital, she was very apologetic that she had ended up hospitalized and required a visit.

“You must be so busy,” she said.

There is a lot going on in my life and yours and we can’t always visit at the exact moment we would like, but making time for God and one another cannot be optional.

Busyness is laziness.

Pastor and scholar Eugene Peterson puts it this way: “Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. It is essentially laziness.”

The late monk and writer Thomas Merton wrote, “Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity when activity is not demanded of me.”

While Jesus accomplished a great deal in his short time on earth, he consistently modeled the importance of taking time away to pray, reflect, and commune with God. When biblical figure Martha was frustrated that she was stuck doing all of the work, Jesus didn’t tell her that her busyness would earn her an extra room in a mansion in heaven. Rather, he said quite the opposite, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Martha worked very hard, but apparently at the expense of the one thing—a relationship with the Living God.

In today’s Scripture lesson from Luke, Jesus provides a glimpse of what following him looks like. In the verses just before today’s reading, Jesus described how he would endure suffering, and foreshadowed the resurrection. The communities that shared the stories of Jesus after the very first Easter and wrote them down around 80 years later, were looking for that same hope of the resurrection for themselves. According to biblical scholar Dr. Sharon H. Ringe, many literally expected that the bodies of all who believed in Jesus would rise.[1] Perhaps they were so fixated on a vision of the end times, they missed the actions of Jesus right in front of them. Maybe they were spiritually sleepwalking.

When would Jesus appear?

I invite you to open a Bible or look up Luke 9:29-32 on your phone. Jesus has just climbed a hill with disciples Peter, John and James. As they prayed, “the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white,” Moses and Elijah appeared in what we celebrate as the “transfiguration.” The same Moses who God called to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt, and Elijah who was widely anticipated as the prophet who would appear in the end times.

For Star Wars fans, I envision this scene kind of like the end of Return of the Jedi, when the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda appear alongside the redeemed Anakin Skywalker after he shed the darkness of Darth Vader.

For Peter and the disciples, this had to be overwhelming. They had given up their routines of life. They were exhausted. Let us read Luke 9:32 together: “Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.”

“ . . . Since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory . . .”

This isn’t the only time Scripture commends, even begs us to stay awake.

In his final time in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded with his disciples to stay awake. He did not condemn them for falling asleep, but made it clear that there are times when Jesus, Emmanuel, God with Us, calls us to stand with him.

Will we wake up and listen, or will we hit the spiritual snooze bar?

The alarm clock industry knows that many of us have a problem. The old Sky Mall catalogue featured numerous clocks that forced us to get up—some of the clocks promised to fly or roll around the room to make us give chase, get aggravated, and apparently wake up.

What will we do once we are awake?

Will we go through the motions, or will we seek to follow Jesus each day?

Will we assume that we have to hit our magic financial number before at least exploring what we think God might really be calling us to do?

Jesus and the disciples didn’t stay up on that mountaintop forever.

As the story continues in Luke 9, they come down the mountain and meet a great crowd with very real needs.

When we come to the top of this hill to worship at Jackson and Fillmore, we are ideally recharged and filled with the light of Christ through word, prayer, and the community that reminds us we are not alone.

Will we emerge from Calvary Presbyterian Church alert and ready to remind the world of Christ’s glory through word and action?

Every week I am hearing more and more stories of what happens when people in this community stay spiritually awake. A middle school student shared with me that when she sees a person sitting on the sidewalk, she always makes a point to make eye contact and say hello.

When she does that, Christ’s light appears!

One young man came straight from the bus station to Calvary     on his first day in this city. Many of you went out of your way to greet him and pray with him and connect him with housing resources.

When you do that, Christ’s light appears!

How will we emerge from Calvary Presbyterian Church alert and ready to remind the world of Christ’s glory through word and action?

[1] Sharon H. Ringe, in David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor, general editors, Feasting On the Word., Year C, vol. 1, Advent through Transfiguration (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 453-57.

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