To Stay awake.
To stay awake. To be alert. To listen to the slightest noise. Is the breathing still the same? Must I do something? Am I needed? Soon it will be time to give out medicine again.
To stay awake next to a sickbed or deathbed takes a lot of energy.
Those of you who cared for a family member at home, knows that from experience. You also know about the worry. You worry that you may miss something; that you won't be there at a crucial moment. Many of us do not even want to leave the house. Even for necessary shopping.
To stay alert.
Thoughts are crowding your head. You cannot sleep. Always the same questions. Have I forgotten something? Could I have done more? Should I have been more alert? Should I have noticed more?
Someone who is suddenly alone after the death of a beloved person often cannot sleep. You could have benefited from sleep; to sleep for a few hours and forget about the pain and the mourning and the despair. To sleep and rest and preferably not wake up again, that is what some say in the first pain.
But life goes on. Only - how can it go on without the beloved person?
What is left for me in life?
The disciples to whom Jesus was talking here in our text verse would soon have to ask themselves this same question: What is left for us in life?
These are some of the words of farewell Jesus spoke to His disciples when they were together shortly before His death.
“Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.”
The intransient lights up the transient; the permanence of His words shines in the impermanence of heaven and earth.
He reminds them of the discussions they had had and of the message He had for them that will now become their assignment.
When it feels as if heaven is falling onto you and the earth is falling away from under you feet because the death of a beloved has rocked you, then the promise that Jesus gave His disciples after His death becomes true: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” You are not alone with your mourning and your despair.
The light of His words that are permanent shines in the impermanence especially when you read further what Jesus says: “Stay awake”. He says that four times: “Stay awake”. “Stay alert”.
Do not stay awake for alarm bells. No. stay awake for life. Be on the alert for your own life and for the life of others. Watch them and look out for signs that they give. Maybe there is a sign that touches your heart, that brings you comfort and gives you hope.
Stay awake because you still have a task in life. That is what the comparison with the house means. Everyone has a task to fulfill.
To stay awake and to be responsible for our house of life, that means to live with your senses wide awake. Live and experience life to the full. “O Lord, teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom”. (Psalm 90:12)
In our everyday life with all it's routine and stress it is not easy find the wisdom and wakefulness expected of us. We take things for granted in our usual habits and become complacent until suddenly our routine is disturbed. Someone falls ill, or there is an accident or a sudden death. It is a wake-up call that reminds us that our everyday life is not always a given. Often it is the realization that death can be so close that wakes us up. Small things can be reasons for happiness and it can become great delight. A walk in the park, the smell of roses, the taste of fresh cherries.
When you had to say farewell to a loved one, it is usually so difficult to find pleasure in anything. To be alert is a burden because it is painful to be aware of the void left by the loved one. You would prefer to forget the pain of loss. But mourning and pain is part of life and can't be blocked out.
Years ago the next of kin held a wake for a loved one that had passed away. Now it is not done so often anymore. In doing so they said farewell to the life they had shared.
Eventually after weeks or months or sometimes years, relaxation eventually comes. In the beginning it is the sleep of exhaustion. With time sleep becomes normal again. You can sleep to regain your energy.
Jesus does not say that everyone must always be standing in readiness. In His example of the house today, Jesus mentions the doorkeeper who has to stay awake . Then the others may rest and regain their energy and do not have to take care. Members of the congregation, neighbours, friends and children may be such doorkeepers who can take care of those who mourn the loss of loved ones. Someone may bring a pot of warm soup, others can take care of paperwork or do the shopping. A friend may stay overnight in the first week or so.
As time goes by the soul can recover and wake up to the new life. With new energy those who mourn can slowly return to work and to normality in the house.
The whole world is the common home of mankind and all are part of the stay-awake and must be aware of it. All of us are responsible for this common home and we all have our own tasks in it. How we treat nature and the environment, our helpfulness to everyone far and wide, political or social engagement are all part of wakefulness. It may be a wake-up call that shakes us all to a new awareness of our fragile life. We must not sleep through it but stay aware with all our senses and live life in all phases or our hearts.