Hang in – no matter what

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:14-30

I’m not sure what I was thinking, but when I was younger I use to love pre-season football training. Alongside your team mates, pounding the pavement in 40 degree heat. Everyone struggling together. Sometimes cursing the strain and other times either encouraging or being encouraged by those alongside you to go a little further. People throwing up to a mix of laughter, congratulatory words of breaking through the pain barrier or just the sound of heaving bodies with nothing left to give but the desire to remain standing.

A year or so ago, one of those running alongside me lost his teenage daughter in a car accident. Lost his wife in divorce, his father in death and months later he himself was diagnosed with cancer and upon meeting up with him amongst such a time he remarked that it’s like those times in footy that when the bar is raised, you don’t really have a choice because you either rise to the challenge, or you go under.

In 1915 American physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon coined the phrase fight or flight to describe how we respond to perceived harmful events, attacks or a threat to survival. A situation felt by many during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and its allies and the United States and its allies. It was termed the Cold War because from the end of WWII until 1991 and though there were regional wars, the two superpowers never engaged directly in full-scale armed combat, they each did arm themselves heavily in preparation of a possible all-out nuclear world war. Each side had a nuclear deterrent that deterred an attack by the other side, on the basis that such an attack would lead to total destruction of the attacker: a doctrine of mutually assured destruction. And aside from the development of the two sides’ nuclear arsenals, and deployment of conventional military forces, the struggle for dominance was expressed via proxy wars around the globe, psychological warfare, propaganda and espionage, and technological competitions such as the Space Race.

They were troubling times where more than once, the inhabitants of this earth lived in the perception, and sometimes rightfully so, as in the Cuban missile crisis that at any moment life would cease as we know it. A time it would seem not unlike now where as I see on T.V. and read in the papers that once again people are building personal bomb shelters and preparing for the worst.  Or prepping as seems to be the phrase used these days.

Who knows maybe they might be right and as American singer Pat Boone said: “My guess is that there isn’t a thoughtful Christian alive who doesn’t believe we are living at the end of history. I don’t know how that makes you feel, but it gets me pretty excited. Just think about actually seeing, as the apostle Paul wrote it, the Lord Himself descending from heaven with a shout! Wow! And the signs that it’s about to happen are everywhere.”

Or there again they may be wrong because in Mark 14:32 we are told that “of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” And this is more in keeping with Paul’s message to the Thessalonians in today’s epistle where he in realization that they are falling into calculating end dates and a little too focused  about the shadows approaching and the later Glory, rather than living hopefully in the day to day.

Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians and indeed to us encourages us to live hopefully now knowing that though the day we know not, we do know that with faith in Christ; we have been given the birthright of people of the light.

Fight or Flight. I remember making a representative cricket team and coming in at number five we had lost three wickets for only two runs. I soon found out why because never prior or never since have I faced such a fast bowler. A bowler mind you that later I found out later was a loud out of a minimum security prison on the weekends to play and I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time because I didn’t need to add any more distractions to the fact that I did not see at all the first ball he bowled to me and playing in the time between cricket helmets being available but not used because to do so would be considered soft, I was recessing thoughts of such bravado because it was clear in my mind that should this man bowl me a well-directed bouncer at my head-I was a dead man.

I was punching way above my weight level but somehow scratched out about twenty runs while both not wanting to get out while preferably not being killed in the process and in doing so, my view on protective batting helmets was forever changed.

Fight or flight moments can forever change our views on people and situations and in our time of Cold War like concerns, Paul gives us some good advice

“But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness ……………………you children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.  So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep but let us be awake and sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.  But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.  For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up….”

People of the light that St. Peter declares in 1 Peter 2:9 to “be a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”

Today’s Gospel talks of using our talents which each and every one of us have. To use them rather than to bury them away not to build our own kingdom, but to build his kingdom and help all and sundry along the way.

We saw that video clip of Elizabeth Boyle where at the end the judges are like where have you been and to which we find out later she had been performing, but only in her little village. She had not buried her talent but know it was put even more on show through her singing and particularly for me her first album which was basically full of hymns.  The voice of an angel that would ultimately see me driving my little black sports car with the roof off with her version of amazing grace blaring and Cathy making mention of the somewhat unusual combination the two together may seem to some.

We may not have the voice of an angel but we do have the voices of the angels and all the company of heaven who cheer us on in both times of doubt and worry and in times fulfilment and contentment that in putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet and secure in our Saviours arms we need not fight nor flee but be present in the lives and situations of those around that the Lord brings before us that let the fruits of your labours be in abundance and the fruit of the Spirit in you bring love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

Some people’s talent is put on show for all to see and in the rough and tumble game of AFL none is greater than Gary Ablett Junior.  Some here may suggest that compared to league and union it maybe not that rough and tough but be that the case or not, it still is a highly aggressive and fierce body contact sport. Gary’s football talent is undeniably great but in a sport where every little thing can be used against you by the opposition it is with great admiration that I read in the Women’s weekly where in an interview he remarked openly “that he is a Christian, that Jesus is the most important thing to him and before every game he prays to God in Christ’s name including that he will not be badly hurt of injured.”

Great footballer and great confession. But no greater than yours that you take with you into your world that through having been given unfathomable fame and skill or just the right words in a seemingly chance encounter, all are alike before our Lord and Savior who sees those toiling amongst both the thorns and the good soil and looks in anticipation to “welcome home His good and trusted servants.” Amen.

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