“You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
When I was a kid growing up in a conservative evangelical church, we were constantly told to “get ready,” because Jesus was coming back. It always scared me a little. I mean, “getting ready” feels like a lot of pressure, especially when what you’re getting ready for is the Son of God’s return at the end of time. It’s a lot for a kid to think about.
After I grew up, for quite a long time, I forgot about this idea that we should constantly keep watch and get ready for Jesus to come back — I assumed, because I was no longer waiting for an imminent rapture, that it didn’t have much value to me anymore.
But of course, Jesus always comes knocking back and reminding you of what he said, and I do think Jesus’ words of readiness have value for us today, still. You see, for me, it’s no longer about getting ready. Let me explain — through reality television, if I may.
Now, most of us have guilty pleasures that we love to watch. And one of mine just happens to be RuPaul’s Drag Race. If it sounds like that must be a reality competition between drag queens (and incredibly talented ones, I might add), it’s because it is.
This season, one of my favorite characters was Chi Chi Devayne, a self-described country, Southern queen. And she, I think, echoed Jesus when she would say one of her most famous lines that continues to stick with me:
“If you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.”
It’s become something of a personal motto for me, and I think it’s sound advice, ‘cause indeed, if you stay ready, you ain’t never ever ever got to get ready.
This plays out in my life in a variety of ways. I’m constantly prepping for future things, laying things out so that I can leave at a moment’s notice, so that I have to do very little getting ready in the mornings besides brewing the coffee and getting my actual self ready. I’m always trying to streamline things in my personal and professional life.
This week, in the Gospel, Jesus calls us to always stay ready for his return, and I tried to think of the practical implications of that. Sure, given the violence of our world, we look for the redemption of all things at the end of time. I have to believe in that. But I can’t say that I’m constantly looking East for the sudden return of Christ. So, given that, I found myself asking this week — what can I lay out and have ready so that I am always ready for the world-turned-upside-down-ness of the kingdom?
How can I make sure that the Gospel is always at the forefront of my mind? How can I make sure that I am constantly ready to show love and respect to everyone I meet? How am I always ready to meet Jesus in the Least of These?
Perhaps most challenging of all: how can I be sure that I am always showing love and respect to myself as a child of God? These are questions not just for me, but for all of us.
How can we stay ready?
Well, most pastors and lay preachers know that sometimes you preach exactly the sermon that you yourself needed to hear, and sometimes you don’t realize it until afterwards. My favorite occurrences of this have been in my sermons that were really designed for children.
This week, as most of you know, I served at our synod camp, Camp Calumet, as the family camp chaplain for the week. By the way, Camp Calumet sends you its thanks for “lending” me to them, and I echo those thanks!
As part of my work this week at Calumet, I was charged with designing daily devotions that were geared towards kids but were applicable for adults as well. Now, I’ve done plenty of children’s moments, some Vacation Bible School, and various other things for kids, but I’ve never designed any sort of series for kids. So I did what I usually do when I’m trying out something new: I talk to someone who’s done that kind of thing a lot.
So with a little conversational help from my brilliant Arlington-based friend Kathleen, I designed a series called “Holy Things.”
It came out of this notion: since I arrived here in New England, I have heard how much people love Camp Calumet. I’ve heard people describe Calumet over and over as a Holy Place, and how people wish they could bring Calumet back home to their churches.
And so I decided to think about how, in some ways, we already do have the Holy Things of Calumet in our churches: in the waters of beautiful Lake Ossipee that echo baptismal fonts all over the synod and help us remember our baptism, in the campfires and lit candles that recall the light of Christ, in the crosses posted at Calumet and in our churches that remind us that Christ is always with us, in the words with which we tell the story of Jesus, and finally, in table fellowship in the dining halls of Calumet and at the table of Christ every Sunday.
And so, Holy Things was born, and it became just the sermon that I needed to hear.
Because as I was washing my hands in my bathroom sink on Friday night after my return from Calumet, I thought about the waters of Lake Ossipee. And I noticed that my bathroom sink is shaped like a shell, and how the whole thing sort of recalls a baptismal font. And I remembered that I was claimed and loved by God, and even in my post-camp tiredness, I found myself refreshed and ready to keep working for the kingdom.
And I remembered the Gospel of Chi Chi Devayne and the Gospel of Jesus today:
If you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.
(By the way, if anyone asks you what your pastor preached about this Sunday, you can tell them that she preached about her bathroom sink.)
It turns out that the sermon that I needed to hear was that God’s wonders — God’s holy things — are all around us, constantly reminding us of our worth as children of God, and constantly telling us to keep watch for whom we might show love, whom we might help, and how we might preach the Gospel with our actions.
‘Cause see, if you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.
In our Old Testament reading, too, Abraham is called by God to look up at the stars and count them and he is told – “this how many descendants you’ll have.” Throughout Abraham’s life, whenever he saw the stars, he thought of God’s promise of how many people would call him Father Abraham. And now, we can look up at the stars and imagine that too — the communion of saints, and how many people of faith there have been, are, and will be, all calling Abraham their ancestor in faith.
And, though it seems to only be about the end of time, the Gospel lesson this week (like most of the New Testament) actually talks quite a bit about how we are to live and treat one another in this world, not the next. “Sell your possessions and give alms… make purses for yourselves that don’t wear out… be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.” We must constantly be reminded of God’s love and mission by the Holy Things all around us.
There’s a lot of need out there — and in here. There are a lot of people who need love out there, and in here, even if it’s just in the form of a quick hug or word of encouragement or offer of support. And while it’s usually pastors who are well aware that anything can happen at any time, Jesus reminds us today that it’s the work of the Church, and the work of every Christian, to always be ready to respond and act for the Kingdom of God, God’s reign of love on earth.
So this week, I challenge you to look for the Holy Things all around you.
May the water in your sink, in your shower, and in the Connecticut River remind you of your baptism and remind you that you are called by name, loved and claimed by God.
May the fire in these candles and the lights you switch on every night remind you of the light of Christ, and remind you to spread that light wherever you go.
May the crosses in this place and the crosses in your home and the crosses that you wear on your body remind you that Christ is always with you, especially when you suffer, and when things are at their darkest. And may those crosses remind you to reach out to someone who is currently walking in darkness, who might need your company this week.
And may the table fellowship that we share here at communion, and at coffee hour, and the table fellowship that you share with your family and friends and coworkers and clients this week remind you of Christ’s constant presence at our tables. May it remind you of those who need to be fed, so that you may always be ready to show love and hospitality.
Because at this table, all are loved and welcomed. Even you. Even me. And this table is an extension of Calumet’s table, and Christ’s table, and your table at home — and Jesus is a laughing, loving presence at each one of these tables. May we remember that this week. May we remember that we are loved fiercely, and may we remember to spread that love around.
Because you know, if you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.
Zavion Davenport, aka Chi Chi Devayne of Shreveport, Louisiana
…Who ain’t never got to get ready.