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Prepared Unpreparedness

Be PreparedishPrepared Unpreparedness

Sermon for Second Sunday before Advent – Sunday 17 November 2019

St John the Baptist, Felixstowe

Text: Luke 21.5-19

Make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. (Lk 21v14-15)

 God give you peace my sisters and brothers.

Proper Planning, so the Management Studies.5 psgurus say, Prevents Poor Performance And, if you live in Yorkshire or Warwickshire you may well be understandably questioning, as you try to keep flood waters at bay, why more preparation had not been done?

But surely we can’t prepare for every eventuality?  The floods in Fishlake and elsewhere are a once in a lifetime occurrence (or so we hope) but disasters like this, along with drought in Africa and bush fires in the Amazon, California and Australia, are becoming ever more frequent and, if we are to survive things must change.

ipswich arkPreparationsmust needs be made for extremes of weather; the arrival of a replica Noah’s Ark in Ipswich is a reminder that the people of the Ancient Near East knew about the challenge of natural disasters.  But is an Ark and flood gates, Fire breaks and Reducing our Carbon Footprint enough.  Can even God help us prepare for….

‘wars and insurrections, great earthquakes, famines and plagues?’  

The fact that the foundation of our own St Felix, Dunwich the Episcopal See is literally all at sea, should give us pause for thought.

How then do we get ready for the unexpected?  Do we just indulge in a counsel of despair, throw our hands in the air and rush for the high ground?  The painful memory of the floods in our own parish in 1953 should be a constant reminder that we do not always live in a Green and Pleasant Land and either Mother Nature or our own foolhardiness and greed will see an unending series of disasters.

What can we do to prepare for the Unexpected Expected?  It seems as if we are caught in spanish inquistionthe middle of some kind of apocalyptic Monty Python sketch in which, instead of running around in robes and scarlet hats proclaiming ‘Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition’, we are bounced from flood to famine and from fire to snowstorm – and that without any devilment that may be brought on our own heads through not yet having learnt to live together as a family of nations.

Today Jesus gives us his advice on what to do about the Unexpected Expected.  He gives us sound advice on preparation for the Apocalypse.  We are not to head for the high ground, we are not to go off and join a crusade, we are not even (though please do try) to aim to become  a Carbon Neutral nation by 2025.

What preparation does he ask of us?
He asks that we do nothing, nada, zero, zilch!
         ‘Make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance;’ (Luke 21v14) 
We are to get ready for the Unexpected Expected by choosing a Prepared Unpreparedness.

Jesus is coming look busyWhisper it quietly but I think that Jesus has lost the plot just a little.  Maybe he didn’t mean we should do nothing.  Maybe Luke misheard him. Maybe he just expected the church to keep shtum and all would be sorted out in some sort of wonderful rapture in which God whisks us all away to paradise just as the floodwaters lap at the door of St John’s. Surely we should be doing something?  What will he say if he returns and finds us sitting on our hams?  Isn’t there a small grain of truth in the T-Shirt Slogan ‘Jesus is coming, look busy’?

But no.  Not only does he put on his manifesto that we should indulge in Prepared Unpreparedness (Jesus would not get very far in the upcoming General Election would he?), but he also tells the church that it is going to have a somewhat rocky road and we should still be quiet!

‘before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.’ 

and this is when the crazy plan kicks off.
Only when we’ve been through;
‘wars and insurrections, great earthquakes, famines and plagues?’  
Only when we’ve been;
arrested and persecuted, imprisoned and put on trial
Only then will we be able to speak.
Or will we…?

For even then we won’t know what to say as Jesus puts the cherry on the top of our Prepared Unpreparedness by saying;

for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.’ 

At last!  Something to shout about.
Well not really, more someone to listen to.

And that is what our Unprepared Preparedness is about.  We are not meant to go running off after the latest idea to tickle our ears and be led astray.  Our preparation is all about learning to listen.

Learning to listen to the words and wisdom of our Lord rather than the clamour of the world around us.  This is not easy as from now until the middle of December each of us will be assailed by a veritable flood of words proclaiming what we should or should not be doing.

We need to listen, listen, and then listen again.  Something which we cannot do if we are off running around on a different crusade. This not  a counsel for inactivity, after all Noah was the one built the ark because he listened when all around had gone deaf to the voice of God.  This is instead a call to actively seek Christ and his word in the middle of the muddle of this world.

Mind you isn’t that what this season of the year is for?  This time as we get ready to enter 

08-do-you-hear-what-i-hear-4-728Advent.  Now is a time of listening.  Listening about a young woman conceiving a child.  Listening about a  small village called Ephrata becoming a little town called Bethlehem.  Listening to angels singing to shepherds on a hillside. Listening, on a Winter midnight, to the cry of a new-born babe lying in a manger.  And having listened, worship.

The coming weeks are a time of preparation, a time of getting ready to remember that God lives amongst us.  A busy enough time without having to wonder about any goings on in Westminster.  If we are not careful we will be so busy preparing, so busy listening to voices shouting, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!”  that we will forget to listen to God. When that happens ‘Do not go after them.’   but instead take time to stop each day to listen, and in listening worship.


[This blog ‘Prepared Unpreparedness’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2019 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]


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