The scouting movement is celebrating its centenary year and their motto “Be Prepared” is really the theme of this morning’s Gospel reading. But what are we to prepare for?
Has anyone here had the awful experience of being burgled?
(contributions and comment)
It’s horrible isn’t it? A feeling of violation and grief for the loss of things that can’t be replaced. I know too that some people here remember a time when houses could be left unlocked, Taunton was a safer place and children could play outside without supervision.
Am I right?
Now we protect ourselves and our homes in various ways. How?
Locks, bolts, padlocks, burglar alarms.
As Jesus says, we don’t know when a thief might come and break into our house so we make sure that we are protected the whole time.
A few years ago there was a spate of burglaries in our street and the next. It seemed like every day we heard about a break in nearby. Our neighbour had things taken from her downstairs living room at night while she was asleep upstairs.
Adrian and I were about to go on holiday for three weeks and were worried about leaving the house empty all that time while these burglaries were going on. So we took professional advice and had window guards fitted at the back of the house which was very vulnerable.
(holding window guard)
It’s not attractive, actually quite ugly but effective in preventing a break in.
We know we need to protect our homes and possessions and sometimes we go to great lengths to do so.
But there’s a problem:
If you remember last week we heard Jesus warning us against putting so much store by “things”. He said that what matters is being “rich towards God” rather than building bigger barns for ourselves. Sue talked about us not being “possessed by our possessions”.
And here’s the downside of all our locks and bolts, alarms and guards. They keep people out but they also feel a bit like a prison from the inside. This guard is keeping you out but I feel as if I’m trapped in a prison, behind bars, lock and key.
And sometimes we protect ourselves from others by putting up invisible but very strong barriers between us and other people – and God.
Like this window guard, an invisible barrier can separate me from you and you from me. I’m not open and free but trapped and restricted.
Today Jesus is saying to his disciples that they need to be alert and ready to receive and welcome God when he comes to them, as he surely will one day. Being alert and ready for an encounter with God is quite different from being alert and ready for a thief.
We need to bring the barriers down so that we are open to God and to each other. And the way Jesus talks about God it’s clear that he’s very different from a thief.
A thief breaks in, forces his way in.
God knocks on the door and waits for us to let him in.
A thief destroys or steals our treasured possessions and violates our home.
God honours us. Finding us open to receiving him he’s so delighted he treats us as if we were his guests.
He doesn’t destroy, he heals.
He wipes every tear from our eyes.
He heals our wounds and raises us to new life.
A thief cares nothing for us and runs away to avoid being caught.
God dwells with us and within us, helping us to grow in faith and to open more and more of ourselves to him.
I don’t think that in this life we can ever be completely ready and fully prepared. And I’m not sure that in this life we can ever be completely healed and made whole. But I do believe it’s all work in progress for which we all need guidance and support. Our service today might give us some ideas to guide and support us along the way.
“Make Way” – we’ve sung about welcoming the Lord into our lives and about his healing and comfort.
We’ve prayed that we might hear God’s word, behold his glory and learn to trust him.
We’ve openly acknowledged that we’ve got things wrong and made a mess but we’ve asked God to forgive us and help us to do better.
Later we’ll be praying for ourselves and others. When we do, listen and watch out for the words that suggest practical things we can do to bring God’s kingdom on earth and into our hearts. Why not read this service sheet each day throughout the coming week and pray God will speak to us through it. That in itself is being open and prepared for God.
God comes to free captives who are held in prison.
The question is,
Do we want to be freed from whatever our own particular prison is?
If so, let’s be ready, alert, waiting and willing to be open to God who seeks in love to free us, heal us and make us whole.