"Be prepared for what?" someone once asked Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, "Why, for any old thing." He said.The training in scouting prepares the scouts for what is to come in their lives, not just emergencies and such. As the BSA website puts it,
“Be prepared for life - to live happily and without regret, knowing that you have done your best. That's what the Scout motto means.”Getting ready for life is also true for anyone expecting a child, there are always the preparations for the arrival of that new life, the child: getting the room ready, clothes, toys. I think of all the books Ellen and I read on parenting to be ready. We live in a society that wants to be always ready. Right? We have our cell phones, ready for that important call, or to use when we need it. We feel like we always need to be connected, or maybe its out of fear that we want to be ready.
And yet, when we stand alert for too long, what happens? We lose that attentiveness. Think of the color code system set up for our country by Homeland Security. What’s the color? (Yellow – elevated threat level) Its been on that color for a while, are we really standing vigilant? Have we really prepared?
“Be dressed for action,” Jesus said. “Have your lamps lit, be like those waiting for their master to return.”So is Jesus asking us to be on the lookout, always ready? Is the heavenly code system on yellow alert or should it be red, he’s coming any day now (reminds me of a t-shirt a friend had, it said, “Jesus is coming. Look busy.”) Or is Jesus’ emphasis on discipleship that we hear about in today’s gospel helping us see that attentiveness in a different light from our culture today?
Think of the beginning of our reading today, when Jesus said,
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”It is God, who in pleasure gives us the Kingdom. But to understand that, to know it in our bones and soul, Jesus tells us to let go of our possessions, to give alms, to focus on that treasure that God gives us. And with that in mind, then we see Jesus not asking us to be hyper-vigilante like our society with our cell phones always on. But to be aware and ready for this abundant kingdom has been given to us, and its up to us to share it and live it in our daily lives.
11 year old Olivia Bouler knows every species of bird near her grandparents’ cottage on the Alabama coast. The fifth-grader, appreciates their beauty and elegance and has developed a real talent for illustrating them. So when she saw the pictures of the birds drenched with oil, Olivia was devastated. “I couldn’t stand it… It wasn’t fair for them. They didn’t do anything.”Olivia in her own way was ready and alert, because she understood the abundance she had been given and to see the need of those birds, she wanted to sell her drawings and give alms so they would benefit. Is this not what Jesus asks of each of us? To respond to the Gospel in an attentive way to what’s happening around us and to give?
Olivia was determined to do something. She wrote a letter to the National Audubon Society: “I’m a decent drawer and I was wondering if I could sell some bird paintings and give the profits to your organization.” Olivia’s sketch of a cardinal accompanied the letter. The Audubon Society was so moved by the young girl’s talent and determination that they began offering her watercolors and prints on their website. To date, Olivia’s drawings have raised over $130,000.
The Audubon Society is using the money for animal rescue and to establish a new bird habitat in the Gulf. This summer, Olivia is working to turn out some 500 illustrations for sale. A fifth-grader with a paintbrush and a big heart is one of the few signs of hope amid the toxic sludge destroying the wildlife and beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. [People Magazine, July 5, 2010; CBSNews.com.]
Several years ago a young man in his early 20s was dying of AIDS in a hospital in Atlanta. He had no connection with any church, but friends called a local church and asked the minister to come. The minister came, but would not go into the room; he stood out in the hall, shouted a prayer and blessing into the room of the dying young man, and quickly left.The compassion of that young minister is the mark of the faithful disciple. We all are called to prepare for the Master’s return by creating his kingdom of mercy and peace through our acts of kindness, generosity and mercy in our world today.
But another young minister, just out of seminary, heard what had happened and rushed to the hospital, hoping the man was still alive. She got to the hospital, went into the room, and pulled up a chair by the bed. The man was gasping. The minister lifted his head and cradled it in her arm. She sang. She quoted Scripture. She prayed. And he died.
Later, a friend said to the young minister, “Weren’t you scared? He had AIDS!” “Of course I was scared,” she said. “Well then, why did you do it?” And the young minister said, “I just imagined if Jesus had gotten the call, what would he do. I had to go.” [From Craddock Stories by Fred Craddock.]
Today, Cheryl & Patrick have brought Sarah into our midst, to be named before God and be baptized. Today, she will begin her journey of faith. A faith that will rest in the abundance of God’s kingdom, a kingdom that God wants us to have and to share.
So let us begin as her parish family to show Sarah what discipleship is all about, by faith filled action in our lives and in our community. For its not about being on the lookout, looking busy, but instead being attentive to the ways that can we share the abundance that God has given to each of us. Amen.