“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
This is a poignant reading, which comes at a heart-rending time in the life of Jesus. He knows that he’s nearing the end of his time on earth, is facing the reality of a world that has rejected him, and friends who simply don’t understand what’s the matter.
Jesus’ instruction to stay awake, in order to be ready for whatever comes next, echoes in the following chapter, where he asks his closest friends to keep watch while he prays, and sadly, they fail.
Reading these words about staying alert brings to mind an analogy selected by Rowan Williams as he writes about prayer in his book ‘Being Disciples’; he uses the image of a birdwatcher sitting expectantly, waiting for something to happen, then goes on to say: “living in awareness, your eyes sufficiently open and your mind both relaxed and attentive … is basic to discipleship.”*
I believe the message to stay awake and alert is as strong now for 21st century disciples as it was for Jesus’ close friends on earth, even though we might not expect an apocalyptic event in our lifetime.
To live in awareness and attentiveness means much more than sitting and waiting, it means behaving like Jesus – being aware of the people and situations around us, and most importantly, acting to make a difference. Whether it’s “the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn”, the Church needs to be active and alert, ready and waiting for something to happen, and working together to live-out the Kingdom values of compassion, loving service, caring for our neighbours and sharing the love of Jesus.
Only when we do these things, are we ready for any and every eventuality.
* (Being Disciples: Rowan Williams 2016: p 5)
Lord, Help us to follow Jesus’ instructions and to stay awake to everything that is happening around us. Give us strength to act to bring your values to every situation. Amen
Linda Raynor is a member of Bramhall URC in Cheshire and National Co-ordinator for Fresh Expressions in the URC.