Sermon: “Wake Up”

Sermon for Feb 21st, 2016; The Second Sunday in Lent

“Wake Up”

Scripture: Mark 14: 32-42

You’ve been through it several times, some of us more than others. It begins every year with ashes and it ends every year with bonnets and eggs. The Scripture readings are similar most years, so are the hymns. The call of the season of Lent is the same, give something up, take on a spiritual discipline, all to reflect on our lives and come closer to God in the 40 days before Easter. Yet, it can be so easy to just go through the motions, sleep through Lent completely, to wake up on Easter morning, ready to celebrate the resurrection when nothing in our lives has really changed, it’s just another Easter. For others, this season can start off rather strong, with the imposition of ashes, then the days and weeks of Lent come and go and we slip into a seasonal, spiritual slumber.

We heard the story of the disciple’s slumber party in the Garden of Gethsemane this morning. After the Last Supper, the celebratory Passover meal, with feasting and wine, the disciples have one thing in mind, as we probably do after a Holiday meal as well, time for some sleep! The other disciples must have slept near the Upper Room, where they had dinner, then Jesus takes his closest disciples into the Garden with him. Jesus takes Peter, the rock of the church; James and John the sons of Zebedee, who are the same disciples who followed Jesus up the Mount of Transfiguration.

In Gethsemane, during this private moment of reflection and prayer, Jesus bears his heart to God the Father. He turns to his closest disciples, who a moment ago he asked to keep watch and pray with him, and finds them sleeping. “Peter, are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?” Can you believe it? All Jesus wanted was for his closest Sleeping Babydisciples to keep watch and pray, now they’ve fallen asleep. Now while it might be easy to convict the disciples here, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we have been there
before. I know it’s true for me. My wife and I welcomed our first baby in early December, so I can resonate with the disciples’ desire for sleep. Last month, when I came back to ministry after my paternity leave, it was challenging for me to stay awake. In fact, one night, we laid the baby down, walked away from the crib, and just minutes after, he began crying again, I was already asleep. I tried to argue with my wife Candace that I really wasn’t asleep, but she said I was snoring already, so it was probably true. I couldn’t stay awake, I couldn’t keep watch.

It could be for you that when you come home at night after a long day of work you really want to read that devotional or pray or read Scripture; the Spirit is willing, yet the flesh is weak. I have learned that this phrase is true. The Spirit is willing, yet the flesh is weak. It was the same with the disciples. They just had a holiday meal, some wine, the last thing I’m sure they wanted to do was to stay awake and keep watch with Jesus in the garden. They had better things to do, like sleep, which to new parents, or maybe even to you, is the best possible thing to do.

Jesus returned three times to find them asleep. Their eyes were heavy, the Gospel tells us. Maybe there’s something deeper going on here than physical sleep though. Jesus invited his closest disciples to be with him in his time of sorrow. He didn’t need them to say an encouraging word; he just needed their presence and prayers. How did they respond, by falling asleep on Jesus. They fell asleep on him physically and they fell asleep on him spiritually. They couldn’t keep watch.

The fact that the disciples had fallen asleep each time points not to just their need for rest, but to their own temptation and, more importantly, to the temptation of Jesus’ followers ever since to sleep when Christ wants to wake us up from our slumber. Have you ever heard the phrase “sleeping on the job”? When we show up to work, sit down, and stare at the computer for a few hours. We’re just distracted all the time, can’t focus on the task at hand, it’s like we just sleep through the day.

That’s one of the temptations of the season of Lent, we just sleep through the season, we ignore the invitation to the Last Supper, the challenging prayer in the Garden, the torture and cross, hoping to wake up in resurrection. It’s easy to drift off. I have learned a lot about putting a baby to sleep since December. Baby experts say to watch for the sleepy cues: yawning, wide glazed over eyes, disinterested in surroundings, and decreased activity. What about our spiritual lives? What are the cues that we may be falling asleep?

Perhaps if worship feels more like going through the motions, rather than sensing God’s presence in praise, then we might be falling asleep. Maybe if our prayer lives feel like repetitious phrases with no authenticity, then we might be asleep. We might be asleep if our reading of Scripture fails to challenge us, forces us to ask questions, or even inspire us to seek God. Perhaps if we serve the church or others with little to no joy, feeling like it’s an obligation rather than a privilege to serve God’s people then we might need to be wakened from our slumber. It’s easy to fall into the temptation of going asleep in our faith.

Remember, Jesus asked his disciples in the Garden, and this includes us, to “Keep watch. Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation,” the temptation of falling asleep in our faith, the temptation to simply go through the motions.

As I prepared for this Sunday and read time and again the Scripture reading for today, what struck me was something that seemed to be missing in the reading. We only read of Jesus’ words to the disciples. Their only reaction to Jesus was falling asleep. They don’t respond in any other way, there are no words from the disciples to Jesus recorded in the Gospel. They didn’t make excuses, they didn’t even apologize. They simply fell asleep time and again. Could it be that they recognized that they fell into the temptation of spiritual slumber toward the end of this reading? Could it be that in the silence and honesty of that moment, they knew that they had failed their Messiah?

If we want to wake from our slumber, one way to wake up is to find God in the midst of slowing down, seeking those holy moments, where we authentically reflect upon our lives and examine our lives, realize our honest mistakes, then rise up and follow. Isn’t that the whole point of Lent? That we examine our lives, turn from our sin, be intentional and focused on following Christ in our lives, coming to Easter Sunday celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.

When Jesus tells the disciples “Stay here, keep watch and pray,” he is telling them to be intentional, be focused in prayer at that moment, but also throughout their lives, and ours, to follow Jesus. The whole point of Lent is to reflect on our lives, acknowledge our sin, and follow Christ. What causes us to become distracted to the point of falling asleep?

God calls us to seek Christ intentionally again, to be focused in our faith. This might mean that we need to put down our cell phones, close our laptops, turn off the TV, sit in the silence of the moment, and open ourselves up to God. If the story of the Garden happened today, I’m afraid that Jesus might turn to see his disciples playing on their phones rather than keeping watch and praying. A few years ago Pope Francis made the comment, “Perhaps many people waste too much time in useless things: chatting on the internet or with your mobile phone. The products of technology that should simplify and improve the quality of life, but sometimes they take attention away from what is really important.”

It might not be your cell phone that’s keeping you in your spiritual slumber, perhaps it’s working too many hours, watching too much TV, or simply keeping a schedule that doesn’t allow time to be intentional in waking yourself up to Christ. I’m guilty of these things too, but I recognize that to be alive in Christ, we have to wake up from our spiritual slumber.

The phrase “being awake” is used often in the New Testament. It doesn’t always mean actually being awake like most of us are in this moment. Instead, “being awake” means being spiritually ready, most often for the return of Christ, but it also means being spiritually ready for whatever may come next in life. It means that we will be able to pray authentically the words of Jesus from our lesson in Mark “Not what I will, but what you will.”

This intentional period of time, 40 days, the same time that Jesus was tempted in the desert after his baptism, invites us to go deeper, reflect on our lives, keep watch, and awaken ourselves again to the grace, love, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Friends, Lent can be a powerful season, but it’s up to you to make it so. Don’t let this season go by without taking the time to reflect on your life. Look within. Ask yourself today and every day in Lent, “Where have I fallen asleep in my spiritual disciplines, in my walk with Christ? Where am I in a spiritual slumber?” Reflect on that, spend some time in prayer, then heed Jesus’ calling toward the end of the Gospel reading today “Rise! Let’s go!” Jesus doesn’t want us to stay in a slumber this whole season or our lives, instead Jesus invites us to join him in this journey that in the end leads to resurrection.

The sermon is almost over, so it’s time to wake up! Watch and pray, experience Jesus offering you love, grace, and forgiveness. Throughout these forth days of Lent, may we keep watch and pray, so that our lives will be awakened to the glory of God in Jesus Christ. May it be so.

Let us pray: Lord, many times our spirits have been willing to do your will; but our flesh has been weak to the point of falling asleep in our faith. Help us to stay awake, to listen for your voice and be the people you have called us to be. We pray this in the name of the one who was born, taught, was crucified, died, and was risen for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Responsive Gospel Reading

Leader: Jesus told his disciples: Stay here and keep watch with me.

People: Stay here and keep watch with me. The hour has come.

Stay here and keep watch.

Leader: They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples,

“Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him,

and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is

overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.

“Stay here and keep watch.”

People: Stay here and keep watch with me. The hour has come.

Stay here and keep watch with me. Watch and pray.

Leader: Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible

the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is

possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what

you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.

“Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch

for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus told the disciples: Stay here and keep watch.

People: Stay here and keep watch with me. The hour has come.

Stay here and keep watch with me. Watch and pray.

Leader: Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came

back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.

They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he

said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour

has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.

Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Let us not forget that Jesus told his followers: Stay here and keep watch.

People: Stay here and keep watch with me. The hour has come.

Stay here and keep watch with me. Watch and pray.


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