As you drive south of Lexington, you will more than likely see signs made by Evangelist Dewey Cooper that say: “Jesus is coming, Are you Ready?” I have always wondered if those signs have had any positive effect. Has anyone come to know Jesus because of one of those signs? Has anyone gone to church for the first time or the first time in a long time because of one of those signs? Has anyone said, “you know I am not ready for Jesus, I need to get my life in order, I am going to call Pastor Dewey.” I am not making fun of the signs, as my husband wisely says, those signs are “not part of the problem.” I just wonder if the time and energy making those signs might be better spent doing something else. But signs and bumper stickers like those make for good thought and discussion. I have through the years seen many interesting bumper stickers and I thought I would share my top five with you.
The top five of my favorite bumper stickers on this topic are:
Number 5 – “Even so, Come Lord Jesus.”
Number 4 – ”Got Jesus? It’s hell without him.”
Number 3 – “Honk if you love Jesus, text if you are ready to meet him.”
Number 2 – “After the rapture, can I have your car?”
Number 1 – “Jesus is coming, everyone look busy.”
We see bumper stickers and billboards about Jesus’ return, but rarely do we give it any real thought. In today’s passage Jesus says: “Be dressed for action! Have your lamps lit! Be ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks.” We are to be on our toes in watchful waiting.
When the kids were little and we were expecting guests to arrive Sarah would always ask, “when will they be here?” The food would be ready, the house would be clean and Sarah would watch out the window or in good weather go outside to wait. I would go about my business but Sarah would anxiously await their arrival with listening ears and keen eyes. If they were late, she would come find me several times asking if they should be here by now. Watchful waiting.
It is hard to wait. Our world does not cultivate good waiting. Our culture teaches impatience, not patience; self-indulgence not self-control; panic not serenity. How many of us have been irritated when our fast food was not fast or our cappuccino not ready at the window? We have the world at our fingertips and we want it all right now. Television shows always highlight meals and work-outs that can be completed in under 30 minutes. There are even meditations you can do for 10 or even 5 minutes a day. We want the shortest route, the fastest internet, the quickest meals, speedy work-outs and rapid meditation. We hurry our children and ourselves through the day. Watchful waiting? Seriously, who has time for that?
And much of church activity gives the impression that Jesus said “keep busy” until I come again. “Jesus is coming, look busy.” In the church, we are in a constant state of busy – planning for this and that, moving this here and that there, talking and typing, going to meetings, writing, – there is much happening at church.
At church we are good at keeping people busy but not so good at teaching and nurturing “watchful waiting.” The church needs to be better at cultivating awareness. We need to do a better job at helping Christians develop strong spiritual peripheral vision.
All of my life, summer has meant a slower pace. I have always loved summer for warm weather and long days and the fact that summer feels like a deep breath. In the summer you do not have to rush through dinner to get to activities and meetings. But for many reasons, this summer was more “out of breath” than a deep breath for me. I had a couple of projects that I was saving for the summer that did not even get started. I feel that I have run through the summer from one activity or event to another, never feeling on top of my game. On most nights, if I was home at all, dinner was left on the stove for everyone to serve themselves.
And then God reminded me that I am not a victim that I have the power to make decisions, to make changes for my life. I have moved through this summer like I was on a moving sidewalk and could not get off. I realized that I need more watchful waiting and less distracted proceeding. I need more slow food and longer meditations. I need to drive more slowly and take the scenic route. I need to take more walks with my husband and listen to my children. I need to slow down and pay attention.
I need more “Tico Time.” “Tico Time” is what time is called in Costa Rica and it is very different from American Time. Tico Time moves more slowly and is more flexible than American time. Tico time is hard at first for Americans like me to get used to but once you do, it is lovely. Things will begin when everyone arrives and the meal will be ready when it is finished cooking. There is no hurry, there is no rush – it will happen and it will get done. In Costa Rica you do not dash from one thing to the next. You walk and breathe, you ride the bus and rest. Tico Time enables you to be fully present in whatever you are doing, wherever you are. When you are fully present in the moment, you are more likely to notice the things around you – the leaves blowing, the birds singing, the warmth of the sun on your skin – you notice the child’s laughter, the mother who looks troubled, the man who looks confused. You can appreciate nature and attend to the needs of your neighbors and the earth. You smile at the child, you ask the mother if you can help, you put your arm around the man and remind him where he is. You pick up the trash, call the number on the lost dog’s collar and water the thirsty plant.
Watchful waiting requires a large peripheral vision so that the needs of the world do not get by you. Watchful waiting means one’s heart is set on what God ultimately treasures, which is compassion and mercy for the world. Our hearts should be set on ultimate things, heavenly things, kingdom things. He said, “Sell your possessions and give alms…from everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required….Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will wear.” And he said, make purses that never give out – heavenly purses to keep your treasures that really matter. Do not worry about earthly things. Do not be afraid. Do not fear. In Costa Rica they say, “Pura Vida” which translates as “pure life” but means so much more – It means: Don’t worry, be happy; Everything is going to be okay; All is right with the world.
“It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” this is the same divine pleasure expressed at Jesus’ birth and after Jesus’ baptism. God’s good pleasure is for us to be taken care of – for all our needs to be met and for us to take care of others. God’s good pleasure is for us to be anxious about nothing, to leave worrying behind and to participate in the kingdom here, right now on earth.
Many people say the root of all our problems is fear. Issues with money or relationships or whatever – they say grows out of some fear – fear of rejection and being alone, fear of loss, fear of not being ready—not being ready for life, for death, for Jesus’ coming. Fear causes all other negative feelings like anger and hate. Fear is the opposite of God – the opposite of love.
I want you to listen to what I am saying – Fear is the opposite of God. I think I have told you all that when I was a teenager, my mother taught me the “worst case scenario game.” And it goes like this: What is the worst thing that can happen? Play it with any situation. And no matter how bad the situation can get, God is still there. If you or a loved one dies – God is still there. Fear is the opposite of God. What is there to fear when we follow Jesus?
I have nothing to fear when I am connected to God. Nothing! That does not mean life will come without pain and suffering. It does not mean people will stop letting me down but truly I only have to love and trust God – everyone else is human (like me) and flawed. I only have to know and trust that God will never leave me, will never forsake me.
What would it be like if we really left the future up to God and feared nothing… if we cultivated a spirit of watchful waiting – being present in each moment, receiving each new day as a deep breath, ready at all times for Jesus’ return? What if we lived – Pura Vida.
On the one hand, Jesus’ return is certain, on the other hand, the timing has not been given to us. And so we are to engage in watchful waiting – where like a small child, we can’t wait for Jesus to arrive. “Watchful waiting” where we have no fear – no worries, no concerns—“watchful waiting” where we are concerned with the ultimate things of God.
Jehovah’s witnesses visit me regularly. When we lived at the end of Woodford County the Jehovah’s witnesses visited me regularly. When we moved, they found me and continue to visit. One of the times they came to see me, they asked if I understood what it means to live being ready for Christ to come again? I said, “yes, I know what that means.” They said, do you believe people should live expecting Jesus to come at any moment? “Yes,” I said, “I do.” Then they said, “do you live expectantly?” Hmmm – Am I living expectantly?
Am I living as if Christ might show up at any moment? Being ready does not mean we should hurry up and get everything done before he gets here. Living expectantly means slowing down – stopping to smell the roses. It means slowing down so you can hear the little child giggle and whisper as she plays. It means slowing down and savoring the flavor of the food. It means slowing down and looking the homeless person in the eyes and saying “hello.” It means slowing down and letting the car get in front of you.
This summer I have not been living expectantly. I have looked busy and felt busy but what I have missed in all my busyness? If Jesus had come to my door and knocked, I would not have heard the knock. If Jesus had waved to me on the street, I would not have seen him wave. If Jesus had touched my arm to get my attention, I would not have felt his touch. What have I missed in my busyness?
Living expectantly means breathing deeply and paying attention to the beauty of life and the needs of the world. Living expectantly means loving our neighbors and caring for the earth and fearing nothing because no matter what we trust God. I want to live expectantly so that when he comes, I do not miss a thing.
“You must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”