Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Journey With Matthew - Day 40

Read Matthew 24:42 - 25:13.

At the beginning and end of today's portion of Matthew we hear the same admonition: keep awake! (24:42, 25:13.) This, on the heels of the comment I shared yesterday from Cynthia Briggs Kittredge about how eschatological literature invites us to "acute attention and renewed faithfulness." Our task as followers of Jesus is not to "crack the code" to try to figure out when the world as we know it will come to an end. Our work is to keep awake.

And yet, we have that extraordinary image of the disciples in Gethsemane - where Jesus needs them most - and they keep falling asleep. They could not keep watch for even an hour.

What do we do when we can't keep our eyes open - when we are feeling sleep deprived? Double down at Starbucks on a double espresso? A couple of Red Bulls? In my experience, this solution does not lead to "acute attention and renewed faithfulness." Paradoxically, it is good deep REM sleep that allows for wakefulness.

We are built to need rhythms of work and rest. Time and again, on spiritual retreat or on vacation I find myself needing to catch up on sleep - not even realizing how overtired I had become. Every now and again I come across an article that reports on how sleep deprived we are as a nation. I believe it. We keep going and going like energizer bunnies, until we collapse. Until we cannot keep our eyes open - and if our eyes are not open, we cannot see.

There is a prayer from "Compline," the last office of the day, which includes this petition: "...give rest to the weary..." (BCP 134)

I think we need to hold that prayer in tension with this admonition to "keep awake." That, paradoxically, it is in keeping the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy that we are able to be awake. Alertness comes as a gift to those who know how to rest, not from constant multitasking.

The key is to be awake when we are awake, and to let go and rest when we rest. Easier said than done, I know - especially for those who struggle with sleep issues. But finding that rhythm does seem to me to be the goal at least.


  1. I've always found these "end times" readings unsettling, and today's reading is especially problematic for me. All that Jesus is saying feels like the opposite of what he taught back in the fifth chapter of Matthew. What happened to all the words of assurance and community?
    The parable of the ten brides is truly troubling. The women have no solidarity with each other. Why didn't they share the oil? Didn't Jesus teach us through the loaves and fishes that there would be enough in the Realm of God if we would just share? And that leads to further questions I'm asking myself: Would Jesus really refuse the five bridesmaids who weren't prepared? And, if he would, is that the kind of God I would cherish? Is my salvation really a salvation if I know that others are not "chosen"?
    I find this reading very appropriate to today's discussion of immigration. My salvation isn't really mine alone, after all. Isn't my salvation found in the working for all to experience the Reign of God on Earth?
    I like Thomas Merton's reimagining of the Bridesmaids in the following poem:

    The Five Virgins

    There were five howling virgins
    Who came
    To the Wedding of the Lamb
    With their disabled motorcycles
    And their oil tanks
    But since they knew how
    To dance
    A person says to them
    To stay anyhow.
    And there you have it,
    There were five noisy virgins
    Without gas
    But looking good
    In the traffic of the dance.
    There were ten virgins
    At the Wedding of the Lamb

    Thomas Merton, Collected Poems

    1. LOVE the Merton poem, which I had not previously known. Thanks.

  2. Here's another thought worth pondering...