Seward United Methodist Church
Saturday, January 22, 2022
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Be Prepared

2nd Peter 3:8-15a

 Advent calls us to be watchful and ready, prepared for what will happen someday:  God will break into the midst of our lives.  One way or the other, that is going to happen.  Even if Christ does not return during our life on earth, one day we are going to die and go to him.  One way or another, our life will be interrupted by God’s presence.  

 It’s foolish not to be prepared.  But just because it’s foolish to be unprepared, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to stay watchful.  I think here of our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.  Earlier in the season, they proved to everyone that they were a good team by soundly beating Indianapolis and Baltimore, two good teams, in back-to-back games.  But then they went out the next week and blew it against the New York Jets and almost did the same thing against Tennessee, two very bad teams.  I’m sure that a lot of hard work and preparation went into those two games against good teams, but somehow they just weren’t ready for the two bad teams.  

 Or maybe, it’s like living in Florida.  If you live in Florida, you know you’re going to get hit by a hurricane sometime.  So it’s foolish not to be ready with emergency food and water and batteries and all that stuff.  But if you go 5 years or 10 years or 15 years without a hurricane, it’s easy to get lackadaisical about your preparation.

 It’s easy to say, “Be ready today; be ready every day.”  But it’s hard to do it.  Especially when there are so many voices telling us otherwise.  Our culture doesn’t tell us to live in preparation for our encounter with the Living God.  Our culture says, get some more money, buy some more stuff, and you’ll be happy.  Or it says, “Go out there and enjoy yourself, and you’ll be satisfied.”  Or maybe it even says, “There’s no point to any of it.  Life is meaningless.  You may as well drown out all the noise.  Turn up the TV.  Go to the movies.  Drink that bottle.  Put that needle in your arm.”  All those voices are out there.

 And none of them are new.  In the second letter of Peter, he was also dealing with the “scoffers” in the first century who basically said the very same things.  They said, “Nothing is going to happen, so eat, drink, and be merry.”  Ignore all this God talk.  Real freedom is found in doing whatever you want, not in some made-up God.”  Or they said, “There’s nothing to all this spiritual stuff.  This life is all there is, so there’s no ‘point’ to it.”  As I was reading for this message, I came across the epitaph written on a grave marker in the first century.  It read, “I was nothing; I am nothing.  I am not even aware of it.  It does not concern me.”  What a hopeless statement!  But it could still be said by many in our world today.   The scoffers said,

“Jesus promised to come back, did he?  Well, then, where is he? Nothing has changed, and nothing ever will.  This world will just keep on going like this.”  All of this could still be said today.  I’m sure much of it is said today!  

 It’s easy for us to look down on the scoffers of the world, but we should remember that we are capable of the same thing.  We all tend to scoff to one degree or another when God’s promises don’t come about in our timing or in the way we think they should.  

 Peter reminds us that time is not the same for God as for us.  A thousand years for God are like a day, and a day is like a thousand years.  That’s from Psalm 90.  Time is not the same for God.  After all, how could an eternal God who has always existed think of “a long time” in the same way that we do with our 75 year average life expectancy?  

 God is not slow.  He is patient.  God’s patience is his mercy in action.  He doesn’t punish us when we fall away, but he gives us time to return to him.  The same idea is seen in numerous Old Testament passages, like Ezekiel 33, where God says, “I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people.  I only want them to turn from their wicked ways and live!”  God is patient.  His patience is not because he is unable to bring about his ultimate purpose for creation. And he is not indifferent to the situation of the world.  

 As Romans 9:22 says, God has the right to judge, but he also has the right to be patient.  His motive is our reconciliation to him.  He does not wish to see anyone perish.  His hope is that each and every person will turn away from sin and turn to him and be restored to a right relationship with him.  

 But God’s patience should not be treated with contempt.  It should not be taken for granted.  One day God will act, and it may well be that long before he acts, we will die and go to him.  Our death may be quite unexpected, and Christ’s return most certainly will be.

 Peter uses some very vivid language to describe the day of Christ’s return.  He speaks of the heavens passing away with a great roar.  The Greek word there indicates the sound of something passing quickly through air.  It makes me think of those passages in Revelation 8 that speak of a mountain of fire being thrown into the sea and a star falling from the sky.  He also speaks of “the elements” dissolving in fire, a symbol of purification.  In antiquity, the elements were earth, air, water, and fire.  Of course, today, we understand elements to be hydrogen, helium, lithium, and so on.  That could be understood to point to some kind of nuclear holocaust.  

 Does that mean that the world as we know will end in a meteor strike or a nuclear holocaust?  Not necessarily.  We could be mistaken about those.  But it is interesting that they are ways that modern scientists think each of those could be the end of the world as we know it.  

 The real question is not “How will it end?”  Anxious curiosity is not the proper response to the return of Christ.  The right question is, “If this is what will happen, what should we do now?”  Eschatology, the study of the “end times,” should be a motivational subject, it should move us toward God.  

 Verse 10 says everything on earth will be exposed or laid bare.  All our actions will be exposed before God on the day of judgment.  So we should live in such way as not to be embarrassed.  We can hide our actions from other people, but not from God.

 Verse 11 says, since this world will all melt away, we should live holy and godly lives.  Holy means dedicated to God and cut off from everything evil.  Godly means full of piety, full of devotion to God.  It’s a word of worship and spiritual growth.  

 Verse 12 says we should hurry the day along.  We hurry the day by praying for and proclaiming God’s good news to those who do not know it.  

 The new world will be a world of right relationship with God.  So we should live rightly before him now.  We should strive in every way to be pure and blameless and at peace with God.  

 The honest truth is that it is not easy to live a watchful life.  But it is simple.  It’s not complicated, even if it is hard to do.  We should love God and grow in our loving devotion to him daily.  We should love each other and seek to live at peace with each other.   We should do what is right.  And we should share God’s love with his world.  Those things are simple.  They’re just not easy.  But if we do those things daily, then we will be living a watchful life.  

 Every moment of our lives is an opportunity.  None of them should be treated lightly.  However many days you have till Christ returns or until you die and go to his presence, don’t waste any of them.  Use them.  Use every moment of your life to live for God, and you won’t be found lacking when he “breaks into” your existence.

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