For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. —James, the brother of Jesus (James 4:14).
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
You know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up! The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. (Romans 13:11-12 NLT)
PRAYER FOCUS: Our Scarcest Resource
“How did it get so late so soon?” asks the beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss.
William Penn, a prominent Quaker and one of America’s Founding Fathers, wrote, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”
Charles Darwin, the great 19th Century naturalist and evolution theorist, declared, “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”
Ancient Romans used the expression, Tempus Fugit, which translates literally from Latin— “Time Flies”…
And you thought you were the only one with a hectic life full of time-gobbling stuff…
In this week’s Lectionary passage from Romans, the Apostle Paul expresses this same urgent, premonitory sense of fleeting time. He sounds the alarm to a sleeping Church: WAKE UP!
Once fully awake, Paul calls for believers to change their clothes—to take off their old dirty garments and to put on new ones more appropriate to the beloved children of the Living God. Paul exhorts us to do four things:
1. What to take off—the deeds of darkness. Literally, to cast off (or throw off) the works of darkness. The 18th Century Bible scholar Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Sinful works are works of darkness; they come from the darkness of ignorance and mistake, they covet the darkness of privacy and concealment, and they end in the darkness of hell and destruction.”
2. What else to take off—thoughts about how to “gratify the desires of the flesh”. Paul mentions three specific pairs of sinful behaviors that we must discard and disregard: 1) carousing (rioting) and drunkenness, 2) sexual immorality and debauchery (adultery, fornication and other forbidden sex acts), and 3) dissention and jealousy (envy). How often do these pairs follow each other? Put these behind you, Christian!
3. What to put on—the armor of light. Other references to armor include 1 Thess 5:8, and Eph 6:10-17. Specifically, this armor includes a breastplate (of faith and love, righteousness) and a helmet (of hope, salvation). Paul is telling us to protect our hearts by 1) keeping them full of God’s love and 2) by clean living. We protect our minds with the hope of the gospel and the certain knowledge of our salvation. You live in the land of the enemy, Christian. If your life resembles a battlefield, it is because the forces of darkness continually make war against your heart and your mind.
4. What else to put on—clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. In baptism we put on the Lord Jesus Christ (all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ, Gal. 3:27). Borrowing again from Matthew Henry, “Without Christ, we are naked, deformed; all other things are filthy rags, fig-leaves, a sorry shelter. Jesus Christ is the best clothing for Christians to adorn themselves with, to arm themselves with; it is decent, distinguishing, dignifying, and defending.”
And we are to waste no time in doing this. As Paul says, it’s later than we think.
With more and more of the world being overshadowed by the gathering storm clouds of war, and with more and more congregations of the Church coming under persecution, how much longer can we afford to sleep? What are we waiting for?
Wake up, Church. Get dressed—not as you used to, but as you should be, now that you belong to Jesus. Put on your armor, for you will have to overcome many trials and temptations in this day. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ—be energized by the radiance of His love, marvel at the beauty of His goodness, feel the perfect fit of His plan for you. And may your well-adorned feet bear these garments of hope and good news to everyone He directs you to.
It’s Monday Morning. If you knew time would run out on Tuesday, what would you do differently today? Wake up. Get dressed. Get busy.
I can hear the ticking of the second hand of destiny…we must act now or we will die. —Gen Douglas MacArthur, just prior to the amphibious landing at Inchon, Korea, in September 1950.