Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
I am delighted today to welcome Sam MacKenzie and Claire Parkinson to our 10 a.m. service. Claire is a member of Nativity with her parents Susan and John Parkinson. Claire has a summer job doing Energy Efficiency audits of homes. Helping us figure out where we can save energy. She and Sam will talk about the program that have for families here. And they’ll be available after service, if you’d like to sign up for this free service.
I knew last week that they were coming, and then I read today’s Scripture: “"Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.”
Bible study is funny like this—somehow the passage that we read seems always to have a relationship to what we’re working on. I have to help us think about keeping our lamps off—making our homes more energy efficient, even though the Bible says keep your lamps lit.
The key here is that this passage is about being alert and ready for God. It is about knowing God’s presence with us here, right now, at every moment alert to God. It is about knowing that God has provided for God’s people in the past, God will provide for us in the future—but we are God’s people here and now.
Our Hebrew Bible text reminds us of the story of Abram who is old and has only a slave’s child as an heir. But God promises Abram descendents as many as the stars in the sky. And Sarah who is too old to have children bears him many children. Like the parable of the servants who must be ready for the master’s return, Abram is reminded that he must put his thoughts not on what is impossible in human terms, but instead he must put his trust and his hope in God.
It seems to me that we have a distinction here in these passages between living in fear of what might not happen, and hope in what God can provide. Living in fear for a future full of perils could lead to despair today. But living in the hope that God will provide can give us a purpose and pleasure right now.
Being ready, like the servants are ready for the master’s return, or keeping your house prepared so that you’ll know when the Son of Man returns, this state of readiness for God is both a state of mind and practice.
There’s a popular phrase that emphasizes a Buddhist sense of mindfulness: “Be Here Now.” What does “be here now” mean—it means, don’t live in fear of the future, don’t live in the regrets of the past. Live in the present, appreciate what is now and know that your work today is what helps bring the future you hope for. Be Here Now, is not about forgetting the past. But it is about focusing on what is most important today. Today we can act. Today we can appreciate what is. Today we can prepare for the future we hope hope for. If we have made mistakes in the past, today we can act to correct those mistakes. If we have a fear about something in the future, today we can act to bring the future we hope for.
And this brings me back to Sam and Claire’s work on energy efficiency. We know that our atmosphere is being destroyed, that glaciers are melting, that there are more and more extreme weather events. We have experienced Hurricane Sandy, extreme fires in California, drought that affects the crops in the Central Valley. We know that fossil fuels are being depleted. It is getting harder to extract fuels from the earth and we are considering hydrolic fracturing and oil sands as new technologies—even though these have other significant consequences for our environment. A fear of climate change, a fear of fracking or other extraction technologies could leave me powerless today. I read the articles that tell me that we are too late to save our planet—it is warming at such rapid speed that there is no way to stop the catastrophic future that awaits.
But the lesson today is that fear about the future is the wrong way. Like Abram who was afraid that he would not have an heir, my fear that the planet will be destroyed is answered by God’s hope and promises. Fear that the thief will come rob the house, is answered by the preparation that I do today to protect the house. If I know that there is danger, I must act today to prevent that danger.
And I have to remember that this doesn’t mean hoarding (that was the lesson of the past two weeks). I am not supposed to store up manna, or build a bigger barn for the future. Preparation today is about living into God’s hope—giving up my human stuff with the faith that God has provided and will provide everything we need in the future. “Be here now”, “keep your lamps lit”—this is about what motivates us, what our state of mind is as we go about our daily business.
When we think about our limited energy resources, we need to be motivated by the hope that the Kingdom of God is one in which there is enough for every person, every creature. That vision of the future is one that we must live into today. What are the actions that we can take today to create that future? Conservation of our resources is one important way to live into that hope. If we use less energy by getting efficient appliances, or checking to make sure our houses don’t have leaking window seals, or changing light bulbs so that the use less power—all of these things that we do today hopeful things that we can do to live into the Kingdom of God in our own houses. Instead of living in fear that energy will become so scarce that we won’t be able to afford to heat our homes in the future, we prepare our homes so that we will need less energy this month. Instead of worrying about whether solar or wind power will ever be able to be produced at a price that will compete with fossil fuels, we can focus on using less energy so that our savings combined with new technologies will help us create a sustainable energy future.
It might seem sometimes that our actions today are insignificant. Does my changing a lightbulb really make any difference? That question suggests that what matters is whether or not we can change the future—that’s a fear based question. The better question is, am I alert today, am I prepared, ready, engaged, living as God wants me to live. Changing the lightbulb is the way of being prepared, staying alert. It is the hopeful way of Abram, it is the way that we appreciate what God has done for us, given us and it is the way that we make ourselves ready—keeping the right lamp lit so that God’s Kingdom will be realized here on earth.