Are You Putting Me On?

Are You Putting Me On?

September 10th, 2017

 

Romans 13:11-14

11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers;12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Our text from Romans begins with a great sense of urgency.  It is addressed to people who have fallen asleep.  They are not spiritually awake.  They are snoozing and losing.  Paul tells them it is morning, time to wake up, rise up.

Through this text, you and I are invited to rouse our minds and spirits from slumber.  You and I are invited to hear the alarm ringing, rise up, greet the new day, be alert to what God is doing in the world.

Do you feel the urgency?  Paul felt it because he believed Jesus would return in his own life time.  You and I have set that notion aside.  Over 2,000 years now and we are still waiting.  It might be another 2,000 years.

Of course, the televangelist reminds us:  “Jesus is coming soon ‑‑ perhaps tomorrow! Send $10 for a video that will explain the Second Coming of Jesus Christ! Please allow six weeks for delivery.”

Jesus is coming, but who knows when.

Three apprentice devils were preparing to come to Earth to finish their apprenticeship. Satan, appeared before them and questioned them about their plans to tempt and ruin people.

The first said, “I will tell people that there is no God.” Satan answered, “You will deceive only a few that way because deep down, people sense that there must be a God.”

The second apprentice spoke, “I will tell them that there is no hell,” “You will fool only a few that way,” replied Satan, “because deep down people know one day they will have to answer for their misdeeds.”

Finally, the third apprentice declared, “I will tell people that there is no hurry.” With that, Satan laughed with delight and predicted, “You will ruin them by the millions.”

If you still aren’t feeling the urgency, consider this:

There is a website called “death clock.”  Enter a few details about yourself and it will tell you the day and the hour when you will die.  Actually there are three such sites, one of which tells me I died two years ago.  So I don’t recommend you go there.  Even the most generous one, I dearly hope its prediction is not accurate.  There is too much left for me to do.

So it may not be tomorrow or this year, or next.  But there is an end.   It was with that sense of an end time that Paul wrote words like, “Now is the acceptable time.”  And, “…you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.”  If not now, when?

So in a few short verses, Paul issues two challenges to you and me.

The first is to wake up, become alert to what God is doing in the world.

The second is to consider what to wear.  If you and I are going to spend the day at God’s party, or in God’s kingdom, or in God’s presence—however you want to think of it—we must put on the appropriate clothing.

What would it mean for you and me to wake up?  What would it mean for you and me to wake up, rub the sleep out of our eyes, and become serious observers?

Have you ever pulled back from a situation and asked, “Where is God at work in this situation?”

It’s a question we don’t ask often enough.  And if we aren’t asking it, well, we usually don’t get an answer to a question we haven’t asked.

The consequence is that we rarely perceive God at work.  We aren’t looking for God’s presence so we don’t experience it.  We are told that we are immersed in God, as evidenced in the orderliness of the creation.  Or in the gift of relationships.  We are told these things but it all remains hearsay until we stop to ask the question.

Another way to become alert is in a disciplined spiritual practice of prayer, meditation, reading and writing.  It’s another opportunity to step back and observe yourself and your surroundings, to realize how you are changing, maturing.  You may discover how God is preparing you for the next stage of your life or discerning what that next stage should consist of.  It opens you to God’s direction in your life.

To be awake is to be sustained in the tasks of observing and of spiritual life. Rather than to find ourselves bored, yawning or napping.

What should we wear?  When I ask myself that question, “What shall I wear?” I am reminded of a common colloquialism.  When we think someone is telling us a tall tale, we might say, “You’re putting me on.”

That’s the sermon title this morning and I had it mind as coming from the mouth of Jesus.  Are you putting Jesus on?  Are you wearing, displaying his values, his love and compassion.

So we ask, “What am I putting on?”  Who is the person I am being, or pretending to be.

There were times in my life when I engaged in amateur theater.  I found that more was going on than learning lines and learning to repeat them with the proper inflection.  When I surrendered to the make-up artist, or as I put on the uniform of my character—that was when I became that character.  What I wore had a profound influence on who I was.

One might say that pretending to be something you are not is hypocrisy.  I say that you become what you pretend to be.

When I was in maybe seventh grade I went to church camp with my friend Jimmy Nulton.  Jimmy and I used to sneak off to the outdoor chapel where I would assume the pulpit and preach on the Scripture selection beginning with Genesis 1:1 and ending with the last verse of Revelation.  It was all pretense.  At that time I planned to be an astrophysicist.  It was maybe ten years later, in the middle of an aeronautical engineering degree that I started the process of becoming a Presbyterian minister.

By the way, I have done some very amateur theater.  My first acting role was that of an archbishop.   I’m still waiting to be elevated.

Ingrid Bergman once complained to Alfred Hitchcock that the way a particular scene was written, well, she just couldn’t do it naturally.  Hitchcock replied, “If you can’t do it naturally, then fake it.”  Bergman later reported that this was the best acting advice she had ever gotten.

Now I want to be careful about this advice I seem to be giving.  I do not want to create a congregation of phonies.  I would prefer to be a part of a congregation of people who were actively, consciously working on becoming more compassionate, generous and forgiving.

I’m trying to say that sometimes you and I don’t feel like doing the right thing.  But we can act our way into doing it.  You don’t feel like going to see your friend in the hospital or the nursing home.  But you go to the closet.  You get out your coat and you pretend you’re putting on your coat of loving compassion, and you go, and you act out the loving compassion.  Do that often enough and you won’t need the coat.  It will cease to be pretense.  It will be who you are.

Or you put on your sweater of generous forgiveness.  You’ve been deeply hurt.  You don’t feel like forgiving.  But you wear your sweater of generous forgiveness for a week.  Why do you wear it?  Because that’s the kind of person you want to be.  That dirty rotten sassafras doesn’t deserve your forgiveness, but you want to be a forgiving person.  So you put on your sweater of generous forgiveness and hopefully it doesn’t take a week to get to where the forgiveness is genuine.

This is my understanding of what it means to be clothed with Christ, to wear his compassion and forgiveness.

So:  Wake up.  Rub the sleep from your eyes.  Look around.  Discover the presence of God.  Get dressed.  Put on the person, the values of Jesus Christ:  His love, compassion, forgiveness.  There is urgency about this.  Jesus is coming.  December 25th.  Especially in this season, put on Jesus Christ.

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