The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire



Sermon - September 10, 2017
Scripture Reading: Romans 13:8-14    
Sermon Title: Wake up!

The Rev. Robert Vodra

     When I have to work over night on the ambulance I am totally fine until about 2:00 in the morning.  Calls that come in at midnight or 1:00, even if I have fallen asleep, feel like late night calls.  And I am fine after 4:00 or 4:30 in the morning, feels like an early morning call.  Even if I have been up late, and wake up really early, I function pretty well.  But between about 2 and 4, I donít function well.  We have beds, and are  allowed to sleep, so normally turn in around 11:00.  Might watch the news, and then fall asleep.  Never sleep well, wake up about every hour, roll over, try to fall back to sleep.  When a call comes in, I hear the first tone over the speaker in the gear room.  We hear those all night, but you start to learn what the first tone of your page sounds like.  And then if the second tone matches our station, all the lights in our side of the building flip on, including the bright fluorescent lights in the bunkrooms.  And all the pagers and radios vibrate, beep, and make lots of noise.  

     It is impossible to sleep through it.  As you are sitting up and starting to pull on your pants and boots they tell you where you are going and what is going on.  But for those calls between 2-4, no matter how hard I try, I cannot hear what they are saying.  I mean I have no problem hearing the words, a street address, and some description of a cardiac problem.  But by the time I walk out to the bay, open the garage door and start the truck, anything that I heard is gone from my brain.  I have found myself actually shaking. I donít know why, but being hit with bright lights and bells and whistles and knowing that you are not ďonĒ is not always a good feeling.

     I guess in a way I do live that way most times.  I am on the fire department, and any second there may be a house fire, or car accident, or second medical call we will be asked to respond to.  But in that case, I am one of about 30 that can respond.  So if I cannot go, someone else will.   And I have two boys.  Nobody warned me before I had kids, but with smaller kids in the house, and probably older ones also, you never can totally relax and be ďoff.Ē  Frightening dreams, getting awakened with thunder, all those things will bring kids to your bedside at any hour.  Also, kids get sick.  Donít know about your kids, but I donít recall mine ever throwing up during the day; it is always in the middle of the night, usually between 2 and 4 am.  

     About once a month I try to get a really good sleep.  I shut off my pager, turn off my cell phone, and really hope that the kids donít need me.  I donít watch the news or any TV, just shut off all the lights and lay down.  But even when I try to do that, sometimes it does not work.  There are things happening in the world that disturb my sleep.  We used to live in a world where you could shut off the evening news, or not read the newspaper and not know or care what is happening in the world.  But it is hard to do that today.  You can watch news 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Even without flipping on the TV, just go on line.  My phone has decided what news is good to send me.  When it feels something important has happened, it beeps at me, and sends a little notification.  

     A few weeks ago I took a day and brought my boys to Whales Tails, a water park up 93, near the notch.  I knew with all that water I didnít want to have my cell phone ruined, so I left it in the car.  Brought in some cash, a credit card, towel and sunscreen.  From about 10 in the morning until about 6 that night, I was totally unplugged from the news.  It felt great.  I would really enjoy just taking a day, pulling the covers over my head, and blocking out the world.

     Others find their covers in other things.  Drugs, alcohol, being a workaholic, shopping.  All those things we use to escape, even if for a short time, from all the things that apply pressure from the outside.  

     Paul says, however, that we canít live like that anymore if we choose to follow Christ.  He says that the light of day has dawned, and we have to pull the covers off our heads and get up to face the sunrise.  In the light of day, we can no longer ignore the harsh realities of the world in which we live.  When we neglect to live out the faith we profess, weíre living like weíre still in the darkness.  The light of Christ that shines wonít let us do that.  It calls us to act ďas people who live in the light of dayĒ.  I think at least part of what that means is that we live our lives in such a way as to bring the light to those around us.

     One of my favorite services in the church year is Christmas Eve.  In many churches, including this one, we pass a candle light around the church and then sing Silent Night.  After the church empties out, many times I will go back into the sanctuary.  It is dark and quiet.  I think back, just a short time before it was full of people all holding candles.  Even with all the lights out, there was still plenty of light to see.  But once all the people are gone, the light has left with them, and it is again hard to see.  I know that if I lit a single candle, I could see to get around the church, but my light only goes so far.  The corners would be dark, the balcony would be dark.  I can bring that light into those areas, but once I leave again they will be dark.

     I find that it is similar in my life.  When I am working in a church, or active in a church, it is easy to think about God.  I write a sermon every week, I pray often.  And often in those times it is easy for me to see where I am going and what I need to do.  The light of Christ is in all of those around me.  But other times in my life it is much harder.  When I have moved away from the church, not active in a church, I donít have the light of Christ in others to help me see.  

     Sometimes those dark corners are the places in which we find ourselves wanting to pull the covers back over our heads.  Those dark corners are the times in which I wake up in that 2-4 am time frame, where I cannot think straight.  Those dark corners are the places in which we seek out those unhealthy habits to drown out all bad news and fear that we live with.

     Paul realizes that those dark places are not where we, as Christians, are meant to be.  As we gather together, just like on Christmas Eve, the light gets brighter and brighter, and night becomes day.  

     At the vigil in Keene a few weeks ago the theme was to be the light.  We lit candles as symbols of the light that we will carry.  As Christians, that light we call Christís light.  Speak up, say something when you see another being discriminated against, speak up to the fear others are trying to infringe on the rights of our friends and neighbors.  Be the light for those around us.  And it is somewhat easy to stand with 100ís of others who feel the same way that you do.  It is much harder when you are the only one trying to give the light.    

     Watching the news of Irma coming toward Florida I think back on some of the hurricanes I went through when we lived in North Carolina.  We had a few fun hurricanes.  Charlie came through, started about 10:00 in the morning, moving fast, and was out of our area by early afternoon.  It was small - Category 1.  70-80 mph winds with higher gusts.  We didnít board up our house, my sister, brother in law and family were all down.  We watched our neighborís porch furniture fly over into our front yard, we lost a tree which knocked out power, but we didnít need power.  My brother and I went out during a break in the rain for a walk, just to feel the power of the wind.  It was daytime, we could see what was happening.

     Ernesto came in at night.  We did board up the house, but I always left my front and back doors open. They had glass, I so I could see.  It was only a strong tropical storm when it came to us.  Sustained winds about 60-70 mph, gusts up to 100 mph.  Power went out in the early evening, but we had flashlights and candles.  As it came over us it apparently slowed down, 1 or 2 mph.  The water came up in our back yard, we lived right on the sound.  We learned about that from watching the news on the little black and white battery-operated TV we had.  I remember hearing a big bang that shook the house, and then the gutter ripping off the front of the house.  I was concerned, so just before midnight I went out to look at where the water was.  My flashlight was not bright enough to shine into the darkness of my backyard.  

     We ended up spending quite a few hours in our walk-in closet that night.  It was the only area that didnít have windows, and even though our windows were boarded up, we knew at least one tree feel on the house by that point.  I never felt fear during Charlie. During Ernesto, despite it being a similar storm, I was frightened.  The difference was the light.

     Just the past week I decided to replace the headlights on my cars.  The headlights on my little Honda are horrible.  While my eyes may not be quite as good as they were 20 years ago, I am also convinced that headlights are getting less bright then they used to be.  I had one head light burn out, so figured I would spend a little extra and get the new LED headlights, which are supposed to be brighter.  They are much, much brighter, so got bulbs for all my cars.  As I replaced them, and then have had the need to drive at night, I have found that I feel much safer.  It is again the light on the situation that makes all the difference.

     What do you have a passion for, that you can bring your light to?  Obviously on all our minds is disaster relief.  There is a major hurricane hitting Florida right now.  Loss of property will be great, hopefully loss of life will not be, but we donít know yet.  Certainly, we will pray.  We are assembling flood buckets.  I mentioned last week that the United Methodist church keeps a supply to bring to areas effected by hurricanes.  I fear that after this week their supply will be very, very low or gone.  

     You may have another passion, race relations, peace, hunger, immigration, all sorts of things that Jesus calls us to talk about and address.  All sorts of things we are asked to shine our light on.  But there is a warning - you may feel at times like I do between 2 and 4 am.  Totally disoriented.  You may feel like you are in the empty church after Christmas eve with a single candle, alone with your light not reaching into the dark corners.  You may feel like I did during Ernesto, really frightened as I could not see what was happening around me.  But by bringing your light into those dark places, by waking up, throwing off the covers, walking in the light, we are doing the work of God in this world.