Sunday, November 29, 2015

Saddle Up Your Horses

Advent 1st Sunday - Yr C - 2015
Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center

“Started out this mornin’ in the usual way – chasin’ thoughts inside my head of all I had to do today.  Another time around the circle – try to make it better than the last.  I opened up the Bible and I read about me: Said I’d been a prisoner, and God’s grace had set me free.  And somewhere between the pages it hit me like a lightin’ bolt!  I saw a big frontier in front of me, and I heard somebody say, ‘Let’s go!!’”
Steven Curtis Chapman released this song, The Great Adventure, when I was a sophomore in college.  Little did I know when I first heard it how powerful it would become in my life.  Every major decision I’ve made has been powered by its wisdom: “Saddle up your horses, we’ve got a trail to blaze, through the wild blue yonder of God’s amazing grace!  We’ll follow our Leader into the glorious unknown – this is a life like no other!  This is the Great Adventure!
But life doesn’t always feel like a great adventure, does it?  Sometimes it feels like everything is crashing down on our heads, and we begin to wonder if Chicken Little didn’t have it right after all.  Financial hardship, career uncertainty, relationship problems in our marriages and our families, grief and loss, instability in the world, the threat of terrorism and religious extremism overseas and at home.  Sometimes it’s the unknown that is oppressive:  a looming medical diagnosis, a potentially life-changing decision that needs to be made, graduation looming just around the corner…
No – life doesn’t always feel like a great adventure – sometimes life doesn’t quite feel like anything at all.  We can get so caught up in all the things that we have to do, life so fades into pattern of ‘doing-it-over-and-over-again’ that we’re not really present to any of it.  Sometimes (whether we know it or not) we drown it all out; sometimes we use drugs or alcohol or sex, sometimes we use work or TV or even Church to numb ourselves to all that reality happening around us and go through our days and weeks and months and years mindlessly riding the carousel round and round without noticing any of it. 
The problem is…if life doesn’t feel like an adventure – if it feels like the sky is falling – or if it doesn’t feel like much of anything at all because we’ve numbed ourselves so perfectly to it – we’ll miss it – and we’ll miss Him.
‘There will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars…and nations will be perplexed and in dismay.  People will die of fright and be overwhelmed in anticipation of what is to come.’  It feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it – just like Jesus said in today’s Gospel.  And the anxieties of daily life and whatever form of drunkenness or carousing we use to lull ourselves into a stupor can leave our hearts drowsy – so drowsy perhaps that if we’re not careful we’ll miss it all and the coming of Jesus will catch us by surprise, like a trap!  …  … 
A trap?!?!?  Really?  A trap? Yes!  A trap! Because, you see, if we’re not ready – if we’re not prepared – if we’re not waiting for the coming of the Lord we’ll miss Him, just as sure as most of the world missed His coming that first Christmas – just as sure as most of the world missed Him during his earthly ministry.  And if we miss His coming, we can’t respond to His invitation, we can’t receive His healing, we can’t be caught up with Him in glory to spend eternity in the salvation He comes at Christmas to draw us into.
Every year we start again right here – Advent – literally, the coming – a time to make sure we’re making our hearts and our heads and our lives ready for the coming of the Lord!  And every year the plea is the same:  Pay attention or you’ll miss the boat!  That’s where living life as the Great Adventure comes in. 
Setting out on an adventure is different that living life as a mundane repetition of the same-old-stuff crushing us under anxiety or drowsing us into spiritual unconsciousness.  Setting out on an adventure requires us to stand up straight, square our shoulders, set our sights on where we’re heading, and step courageously into the future behind the One who has come to lead us there.  Setting out on an adventure requires us to sharpen our senses rather than letting them become dulled or drowning them into numbness.  Setting out on an adventure requires us to be vigilant – to have our eyes and our hearts open and looking for all the ways and places that Jesus is about to come to us…including right here on this altar today.
Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness – from drink or work or even church-work or Netflix or money or in filling our various appetites – or even getting lost in the mundane patterns of life and love and family – or even from the anxieties of every day life.  Instead, stand up and raise your head and be vigilant!  Jesus is coming!!!  Christians can’t live life as something to be endured as painlessly as possible – we’ll miss Jesus every step of the way if we do that.  No, Christians have to see in every twist and turn a big frontier in front of us listening for the One who comes to say, “Let’s go!”

Saddle up your horses, we’ve got a trail to blaze – through the wild blue yonder of God’s amazing grace.  We’ll follow our Leader into the glorious unknown.  This is a life like no other – this is the Great Adventure!

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