Matthew 24:36-44, Advent 1 A, December 1, 2013
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
There are two types of people in this world: Those who procrastinate and those who do not. There are those who wait until the very last minute to complete work and those who have done it far ahead of time. I think that this is most evident in college.
There are those responsible people who do their reading on schedule and prepare for the end of the semester crunch. They experience less stress and more sleep because of it. I must admit that I never stayed up past midnight to complete an assignment.
And then there are those other students who don’t start their work until after midnight. They spend the entire night at their desk under their lofts or in the computer lab. “Pulling an all-nighter” is nothing unusual to these students.
The difference between procrastinators and those who are not was most evident at Wartburg College during the weeks leading up to Outfly. Outfly, you see, is the most “blessed” day of the Fall Semester at Wartburg. On that day, all classes are cancelled. The professors serve a free breakfast in the cafeteria, and students are free to spend the day however they so choose.
The best part of Outfly? Nobody knows when it will happen. Only the college president and the student body president know when Outfly will be. For the rest of the students, it is a guessing game. Some people will act like false prophets, declaring to anybody who will listen that Outfly will be the next day.
Then, they spend that night partying instead of doing their homework and studying for their tests. When the next day is not Outfly, they are disgraced in class and receive lower grades. Yet, do they learn from their mistake? No! They are sure of the next time that Outfly will be, and they continue to use that as their excuse for not doing their work.
The responsible students continue to do their work, writing their papers and studying for their tests. They also do not know when Outfly will come, so they are always prepared just in case Outfly will be a few days later.
The Outfly edition of today’s gospel lesson might sound like this: ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the faculty or staff, nor the student body, but only the President. For as the days of the old were, so will be the coming of the Outfly. For as in those days before the Outfly they were eating and drinking, studying and giving into procrastination, until the day the student body president hid in an academic building, and they knew nothing until the college president came and rang the victory bell, so too will be this coming of the Outfly.
Then two will be in the dorm; one will be taken to the bell and one will be left to work in the caf. Later, two women will be playing Frisbee in the quad; one will be taken to voice lessons and one will be left to play. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your president will hide. But understand this: if the resident of the dorm had known on what day of the year the cross country team was coming, she would have stayed awake and would not have let half naked men go unseen. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Outfly is coming at an unexpected hour.'
Preparing for the second coming is sort of like waiting for Outfly. Jesus tells us that nobody knows the day when he will return. Any guesses that we make will prove to be wrong. Just as the people in Noah’s time didn’t know the flood was coming until it was too late, so also we won’t know about Jesus’ return until it is too late to change our ways.
So, Jesus tells us: Be ready. You don’t know when a thief – or a drunk guy – might try to break into your home, so keep your doors locked. You don’t know when Jesus will return, so you can’t procrastinate. You can’t say to yourself, “Self, I will be a sinner and sin boldly until Jesus returns. Then I will serve Christ with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.”
You see, it doesn’t work that way. By the time that Jesus comes, it is too late to change your ways. Don’t procrastinate. You can’t procrastinate, because to do so means that you have a deadline to meet. Do the work of God now. Then you will be ready for Jesus.
There is a chance that we might experience Jesus’ second coming during our earthly lifetimes. Most likely, though, Jesus will return long after we are gone. But we will experience Jesus in death. So when Jesus says, “Two will be in the field. One will be taken and one will be left.” He is not necessarily talking about the rapture. Jesus is talking about life.
Some people are taken too early in life. And some others are left to live on earth into old age. We are all in the field doing God’s work. Some of us will be taken by cancer or heart attacks. Others will be left to experience dementia and painful physical decline.
We do not know when we will die, so we must be ready. If we are always ready for Christ to come, then we will have no regrets. We will be alert to the sin and suffering in our community, doing our part to alleviate the pain. When Jesus does come again, there will be no pain. There will be no suffering. We will be able to rejoice without a worry or care.
Outfly is a small example of this pure joy. On that morning, when all the students are still sound asleep in their beds, they wake up to a loud ruckus in the hallway. The orientation staff are running up and down the hall, pounding on all the doors and shouting at the top of their breath, “Outfly! Outfly!” Groggy students roll out of bed and look in the hallway to see the spectacle.
Then they bundle up, wrap themselves in blankets, and head to the victory bell. Outfly does not officially begin until the student body president is found hiding in an academic building. Then the college president declares classes canceled for the day. He rings the victory bell, and all the students flood the cafeteria where their professors are at the ready to serve them breakfast. The rest of the day is full of activities, including lunch on the lawn.
Responsible students who have all of their work already done spend the day having fun with friends, enjoying the campus and the activities planned. Other less responsible students spend the day catching up on missed assignments. Or maybe they wait until midnight when Outfly is officially over.
Some of my most favorite memories of Wartburg College are from Outflies. The joy of Outfly brightened everyone’s spirit for days and weeks to come.
So, as we wait for our eternal Outfly to come when Jesus returns, don’t procrastinate. Don’t leave any bridges burned, and live a Godly life. We may not know when the Lord will come knocking on our door, but we can enjoy the wait. Amen. May it indeed be so.