Jesus said to the disciples,] “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (NIV)
Grace to you and peace from God our creator, from Jesus the Christ, our redeemer and friend and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
There are three very important words in this text. Well, there are lots of words in this text, and they are from the scriptures, so all of them are important. But the three words in this passage that are the most important of all: NO ONE KNOWS.
NO ONE KNOWS the day or the hour the Son of Man will come to you.
NO ONE KNOWS the form the Son of Man will take.
NO ONE KNOWS the things that will happen in life.
NO ONE KNOWS where and when you will find God bringing grace and peace into your life…
But I KNOW that God will be there for you and with you when life throws you a curve ball.
I KNOW that God will be with you when the unexpected happens.
I KNOW that God will give you the strength you need to do what you are called upon to do in this life. How do I know? I have seen it time and time again… in my own life and in the lives of others. Time and time again, God turns up in unexpected places, God is present when life gets hard, so I thought I would give you a bit of my testimony… because you see, God has turned up for me.
I was born and raised in the church. Church life was important to my family and so it was important to me. But as a kid, I took it for granted. I went to church every Sunday and most of my friends went to church every Sunday… lots of them to my church but some to others. It was just the way it was. But then I was selected to go to Sweden as an exchange student for a year. I lived with a family who didn’t go to church together. Only the one daughter, the one who was closest to my age, was a Christian. She and I went to church together. The Lutheran Church was officially the state church, so nominally all the people were Christians, but it barely went skin deep. Most people NEVER went to church, but the Spirit was moving there. On Sunday mornings the church building, a big beautiful cathedral, was virtually empty. A church that would hold hundreds had a handful of old people who all sat alone, scattered here and there in the sanctuary, and a dozen or so young people that all sat together. There was a young pastor and the youth group was small by American standards but it was mighty. Those kids took their faith seriously. We met every Friday night for Bible Study and fellowship. And we really studied the Bible. In my youth group at home, we were all about the fellowship but not so much about the Bible Study. That was for Sunday morning. My faith grew by leaps and bounds with that group. L
I came back to the US and went to college. I found a church there and and was working at a fast food joint in the student union. I hadn’t started thinking about a summer job yet, but God was laying the foundations for me… I would work the morning shift and the way this place was set up, the people would go to each station to order what they wanted then go to a central cash register to pay. I mostly worked the griddle and one morning a man and woman came up and ordered pancakes. Now I have to tell you, I hated making pancakes. They weren’t ordered very often so we made up the batter one serving at a time and I never seemed to get the right amount of water and the batter was too thick or too thin and it was lumpy. They struck up a conversation with me over those pancakes. It was one of the more pleasant interactions of the day. I finished my shift and went to class. On the way back from class I noticed a sign about a job fair that day so I decided to go through it and see what it was all about. Lo and behold, the man and woman that had ordered pancakes that morning were the Director and Co-Director of a church camp and were recruiting staff. They didn’t hire me as the cook, but I spent the next three summers as a camp counselor. It was there that I learned that I loved to teach the faith.
I was going to college to become a psychologist. My plan was that I would go to grad school and become a counselor, but I began to consider that if all I had ever done was go to school, I might not be able to relate to my clients very well. I began to think about what else I could do for a while before going to grad school. Through another set of circumstances some would call coincidences (I say it is God working behind the scenes0 I learned of a youth ministry training program that would place me within a congregation to work with their youth group. It required a two year commitment and I thought that sounded just about perfect for me. I had enjoyed working with the kids at the camp, now I would work with teens in a church. My psychology professors, on the other hand, were aghast. They advised me against it. They said I would never get into a good grad school if I had religion in my resume. Back in those days, psychology and religion were not on friendly terms. I told my professors I would take my chances.
Of course I never went to grad school for psychology. It was during those two years, working as a youth director in a church in Ohio that I discerned a call to preach. It was also during that time that God hit me over the head with a sailor. Let me back up. My husband’s name is Ed. I grew up on a farm in Iowa. We didn’t have new kids very often at our school. When I was a sophomore in high school, Ed was the new kid in our class. It was a very small school so everyone knew everyone, so I knew who he was. But the next year… well, I began to take notice of him and we started dating. We dated the rest of our Junior and senior years and then he went off to join the Navy and I went off for my year in Sweden. We corresponded and he saved his leave for when I would return so we be home at the same time. He asked me to marry him then. I said no. I felt he was from my childhood and I wanted to move forward, not backwards. Besides, I wasn’t ready to settle down. So he went back to the Navy and I went on with my life.
So back in Ohio, about five years later, one day early in May I open my mailbox. It was a letter. It had been sent to me at my parents’ address and forwarded. It was from Ed. He was stationed in Hawaii on a ship and he said he had been thinking about his life and all the best girls he had ever dated had only been an imitation of me, or something cheesy like that, and would I be interested in taking up a correspondence with him again. Well now, that was a thing to consider! I was in a different place emotionally and spiritually and in fact, I WAS INTERESTED, but I was also suspicious. I could just imagine a bunch of sailors sitting around playing cards, drinking beer and someone says, “Hey, I bet I can get an old girlfriend to write to me faster than you can.” I was interested, but he was going to lose that bet. I hung onto that letter for about three weeks before I began to craft a response. I wanted it to be forward enough that he would write back but not so forward that I would look like a fool if it wasn’t for real.
Well, he wrote back and one thing led to another and the next January when I announced our engagement to the congregation where I was the youth director, people kept asking me if I was going to marry a sailor, was I also going to be a Navy chaplain? They knew by that time that I had received my call to preach and would be attending seminary after my commitment with them was complete. Every time someone asked me I answered, “No, I am going to be in the parish. Ed will be in the Navy. I will be like home base for our family.” Well, after about 40 people asked me that question I started to realize maybe God was speaking to me through them.
I can’t make this long story short because it is already long, but to keep it from getting any longer, suffice it to say that I went out to seminary and interviewed some chaplains and the more I heard the more I knew that being a Navy Chaplain was EXACTLY what I was supposed to do. And that is how it works in life. I have had a very twisty path that has led me straight to where I was called to be and God was there in each and every part of it.
Who would have thought that a farm girl from Iowa would be here preaching to you with this beautiful ocean as a backdrop? Who would have thought God would use a skinny sailor to get me to be a Navy chaplain where I would be able to touch the lives of many young Americans who would normally not darken the door of a church? Who would have thought God would send me to a place where the churches were empty to liven up my faith?
The thing is, NO ONE KNOWS where God will show up.
And yet, we know. We know because God shows up wherever we are. God will draw us into the life of faith and service if we are even a little bit attentive to the Spirit. And that’s the thing, be attentive. In Noah’s day, people were living their lives, doing all the things they would do, but they weren’t attentive to God. Noah was, and Noah was in the ark and the others were swept away. Jesus is saying the same thing. Those who are attentive to God will be saved and those who are not well, they’ll miss out on all that God is doing… in the days ahead whenever God shows up in our lives. And so my friends, be attentive. Because God is here, and the moment might be now.
silence for reflection
Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church for the good of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Blessings to you,
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.