People Will Say We’re In Love
The extent to which I care about end-times predictions and the Second Coming is approximately zero.
Yes, that makes me a terrible priest, but, well, it’s not my first sin and won’t be my last.
I just get so impatient with all the code-breaking of the Book of Revelation and all the calculating of who’s in and who’s out of the Magical 144,000 and especially all of the, “Why take care of the environment or address systemic injustices of racism and poverty? Jesus is going to show up any day now and blow up the whole Earth!”
I just…I just can’t. I’m so sorry.
But our Gospel reveals that I am not on the same page with Jesus (again, not for the first time and not for the last).
“In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven,” Jesus says.
“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.”
I want to keep awake, but I’m falling asleep because I. Do. Not. Like. Apocalyptic. Theology.
Quite abruptly, in fact.
Because of one commentary I read.
Mark Allan Powell of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, wrote: “In today’s church, many Christians seem to think, ‘Since the time of Jesus’ coming cannot be known, we need not think much about it.’ Mark draws the opposite conclusion: since the timing is unknown, we should think about it all the time! Modern Christians often think, ‘Since the time is unknown, it could be hundred, or thousands, or millions of years from now.’ Mark draws a very different conclusion: since the timing is unknown, it could be today! Maybe this evening, or at midnight, or when dawn breaks.”
“But does anyone actually think that way? Does anyone go through every day, wondering at morning, noon, and night if now is the time that someone long gone might return?”
“Yes. People who are in love do that.”
Oh. Wow, that actually, um, resonates very powerfully with me.
People who are in love long for each other to return.
And I have a very serious thing going with Jesus and have for some time.
I do miss him and think about him and want to spend time with him.
This makes me think about his return in a completely different way.
Now I am about to do something I swore up and down I would never do.
I am going to quote lyrics from a Broadway musical in a sermon.
(Seminary and Sermon Club friends: you are now licensed to make fun of me for the rest of time.)
And not just any Broadway musical.
I am going to quote lyrics from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!
Homiletical Cheese-Meters are exploding as I speak, but it’s not the first dumb thing I’ve done to try and proclaim the Gospel, and again, it won’t be the last.
For me and my sisters, the 1955 film version of Oklahoma! starring Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae was a deeply formative piece of our childhood. We would reenact scenes with patched together pioneer costumes from our dress-up pile of old clothes.
Who got to play Laurey and who was forced to play Curly was the result of an ongoing and complex set of negotiations that make the Middle East Peace Process seem amateur.
And the song that came to mind for me when I read the commentary was “People Will Say We’re In Love.” Curly and Laurey caution each other not to be too affectionate toward each other or people will say they’re in love.
“Don’t sigh and gaze at me
Your sighs are so like mine
Your eyes mustn’t glow like mine
People will say we’re in love!
Don’t take my arm too much
Don’t keep your hand in mine
Your hand feels so grand in mine
People will say we’re in love!”
Curly and Laurey flirt with each other by feigning worry that someone will notice they’re totally gone on each other and the word will be out that they’re in love.
And I asked myself: could anyone look at my life, or your life, and know how much we love Jesus?
Do we give it away with our every breath, our every action, our every moment?
Or is it a well-hidden secret because our lives are no different from anyone who doesn’t love Jesus?
Mark Allen Powell says that how we wait for Jesus will reveal our love for him.
And Advent is the time of waiting.
Jesus is not just coming back at the end of the world, he is coming into the world in a few short weeks as the Christ Child.
He is about to be made incarnate, sharing our human flesh and using his human body and human heart to spread such grace and forgiveness and promise to us and the whole world.
How are we waiting for him?
Is it obvious that we can’t wait because we love him so much?
Are we preparing with attention and focus and devotion for his coming?
Or are we bouncing back and forth from impatience to indifference?
Are we distracted by the consumer clamor and raucous noise of schedules full to bursting?
Will people say we’re in love?
I don’t want Jesus to have to wait until he ushers in the end of the world to know if I really meant anything to him.
I want him, as he comes to Earth as a fragile human child, to know that he has a safe and welcoming and cherishing place in my heart and in my life.
And I know that in order to do that, I need to be welcoming and cherishing the Christ within every human being I meet.
It is very clear that Jesus loves me. There is no doubt about that and everyone knows it.
But I’m not sure that it’s obvious that I love Jesus, not just through my words but through my actions and through my life.
And so my prayer for Advent is that God will teach me to give it all away: to give away my love and my life so that I will give away the fact that I love Jesus.
I want people to say we’re in love.
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