“If I Should Die Before I Wake”
32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
ur mothers taught us the bedtime prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep.” Most of us prayed that prayer throughout childhood and some of us may still do so.
The Chief of Chaplains for our American Military told me that this is the only prayer that most troops are familiar with and that it is often overheard during battle along with the Lord’s Prayer. Both are good models for prayer for little children and for us:
“Here I lay me down to sleep,
Our text for today deals with Jesus’ teaching about our need to “Be Ready.” Prayer is the main way for us pilgrims to stay prepared for all eventualities. A good thing about our following the United Methodist Lectionary is that fewer of us feel the preacher has selected a specific text to single out individuals.
After preaching from this text dealing with the assumption that some in the pews are not ready, one young rebel came by after the service and asked if I had preached on this topic just to step on his toes. My response was, “If I stepped on your toes today, you might consider whether or not your toes are in the right place.”
Really now, don’t we all know that Jesus wanted all of us to be always prepared to live or die? He has given us an inner assurance of salvation that ought to give comfort and security. Through this comforting gift of assurance that He meant for all people we to have ought to feel satisfied and sure that He has assured eternal life for us. It is not God’s will for any to parish but some prefer to rebel and select the downward way in life and consequently throughout eternity. God has given us the choice and some. Why risk missing out on the great reward that God has prepared for us in heaven?
And God has made it so simple for us to get our ticket punched for heaven by surrendering to God’s plan. Believe, in the wonderful story of salvation which Christ lived out for us. What other pageantry would have been able to capture the hearts of the entire cross section of the human race? Every Christmas we hear again the beautiful story of Christ’s coming into the world, just like the rest of us, as a baby. He grew up to be a man; he worked as a carpenter. He had many friends and was admired as a Rabbi in his local Synagogue in Nazareth. As an adult he began to preach, carrying his message throughout Palestine. Many who heard him believed that he was the long expected Messiah and, as always, some refused to believe. Some even joined a plot to kill him but he proved to be invincible. He was resurrected and still calls us today.
Yet, times have not changed too much. Some open up their hearts and believe and are given the miraculous experience of a new birth. It is as they have a new start in life. The old self becomes a new person.
It’s like an old house that has not been lived in for a long time. When new owners arrive and begin to make the old house new with brooms and vacuum cleaners go to work. Cobwebs are cleaned away. Mops and polish perform miracles. The plumbing always needs some overhauling. Paint inside and out, and the old house begins to be new. Neighbors drive by and notice that the old house has taken on a new life. It is obvious from the outside and inside too.
This same kind of process is similar to what happens to sinners when they are washed clean by salvation. We were lost and now we are found. We were blind but now we see. And the whole world sees the obvious changes made in the new us.
This familiar story has been experienced by us and by billions around the world during the last two thousand years.
Charlie Gibson hosted a Friday night television special about the friendships Billy Graham has had with all of our Presidents since Truman. The common question the Presidents asked the evangelist was, “Will I go to heaven?” Here is the man who has the nuclear bomb button at arms reach 24/7 and his concern is the afterlife. As Graham has done in every sermon in every Crusade around the world, he explained that we are accepted into God’s grace and are given an assurance of heaven. Most of the Presidents knew this process from childhood but several had missed it. In every worship service some already have an assurance from God, and others have postponed or missed out someway and need to allow God to give them assurance that they have a home in Glory.
As far as I know this way of assurance of heaven is the only way. If you desire this assurance, you might want to come down and kneel at our Chancel Rail and have a little talk with Jesus. We would then know the outcome if we died before we wake.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor