Let’s Keep Our Eyes Open

by Hugh Farquhar

The Lectionary Epistle Reading for this Sunday is 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. I find myself drawn to verse 6, “So then let us not fall asleep as others do but let us keep awake.”

During my years of leadership at St. Paul’s United Church in Riverview, NB, I often got teased in a friendly way about the padded pews. “So comfortable it makes it easier to fall asleep,” people would say. The prevailing view in the history of the Christian Church seems to have been that to keep people awake during homilies, care had to be taken to see that the seats were as uncomfortable as possible. It’s not easy to fall asleep in the hard pews found in most churches.

Paul had a different kind of “falling asleep” in mind when he wrote these words. He was thinking about how easy it is to fall asleep spiritually.

It’s the same today as it was in his time. One day follows another, and sometimes we become so mesmerized by routine that when someone asks us what’s happening in our lives, we reply, “Same old, same old.”

Or we have been persons of faith for so long, have attended so many church services, that everything about the faith has become “old hat.” We have lost the capacity for astonishment.

There are so many ways to sleepwalk through life, to become unaware of it as gift and unconscious about how we are to live it.

When we find ourselves in this space spiritually, these words of Paul are a good wake-up call. I love Eugene Petersen’s rendering of the last part of this verse: “Let’s keep our eyes open.”

Anthony DeMello, in his book, “One Minute Wisdom”, records a dialogue between “the Master” and a young disciple. The disciple asks:

“Tell us what you got from enlightenment. Did you become divine?”
“Did you become a saint?”
“Then what did you become?”

As Christians, we embrace our own form of enlightenment. We keep awake spiritually because, as Paul puts in this Reading, we are “sons of Light, daughters of Day.”

In the Lectionary, this is a pre-Advent text. But God’s coming to us isn’t limited to a “once upon a time” story. God is always approaching and knocking at our door, looking for a welcome and an opportunity to share with us an intimacy that will bless our lives. But it’s unlikely that we will recognize God’s presence in the ordinariness of life if we aren’t alert and expectant.

Hugh Farquhar is Minister Emeritus at St. Paul’s United Church, Riverview, NB. He also teaches Biblical Studies in the Diploma in Theological Studies Program at Atlantic School of Theology, Halifax, NS.



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