The 12th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 14C (8/11/2013)
Lessons:Genesis 15:1-6 Psalm 33:12-22 (22) Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 St. Luke 12:32-40
Semicontinuous Series: Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23 (23)
Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, you sent your holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church. Open our hearts to the riches of your grace, that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
12:32 [Jesus said,] “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
St. Luke 12:32-40. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
An Unexpected Hour
When I was in High School I worked the morning shift in my hometown’s locally owned Hooley’s Grocery Store. I would get up long before dawn (especially during the winter months) and make my way down Myrtle Street hill about a mile and a half to the grocery story to help unload the delivery truck and stock the shelves of the frozen food department; all of this before heading off for a day of classes at Stillwater High School.
One bitterly cold January morning I was walking to work and became aware of how still my surroundings were. Nothing was moving. No breeze. No animals. No cars. Certainly no others walking down Myrtle Street hill (which wasn’t especially surprising at 4:30 a.m. when it was 20 degrees below zero…). It suddenly occurred to me that the end of the world may have arrived during the night, and all the true Christians were taken up into heaven, leaving me behind. My anxiety built as I made my way to the store. Would anyone else be there? Would it just be me and one or two others? Would we spend the morning talking about what just happened, and what we should do now?
I was relieved to arrive at the store and see the whole crew was there, waiting for the truck to arrive. (Although it later occurred to me that this probably shouldn’t have been a source of relief for me — the early morning crew wasn’t the most pious group of people I knew…) As I think back on it now, it saddens me how the “promise” of Jesus’ eventual return was a source of anxiety for me, not a source of comfort.
How often do we take it that way? In this week’s Gospel lesson Jesus says, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” Sadly, “you must be ready” often translates into “you are not ready” and we find ourselves in turmoil. Am I ready? Have I done enough to make the cut? Does God expect more of me? Am I going to be “left behind?”
All this, of course, runs counter to what we know in Christ. As the Apostle Paul reminds us: “God proves love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) God loves us enough never to leave us behind — of that we can be certain! The warning that Christ will return at an unanticipated hour is not intended to cast doubt on our salvation. It is intended (1) to remind us that we need forgiveness because our faithfulness is never complete (in other words, salvation is important: without Christ we would be left behind); and (2) to encourage us to respond to this great news by immersing ourselves in those things that matter most to God. Who are the ones who will be found ready at Christ’s unanticipated return? Those of us whose hearts have been transformed by the grace of God, whose lives have been redeemed of all brokenness, and who, consequently, have a great interest in seeing that God’s work is done through our words and our actions.
The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. This is the greatest news ever! This is the One who loves us more than life itself; whose grace cancels our sin with righteousness; who has gone before us to prepare a place for us; who shows us what it means to live for God; who calls us to a lifetime of faithfulness. This One is coming for us, and nothing in this world can prevent his arrival. In the meantime, knowing that he has died for us, let us live for him.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What first century realities made Jesus’ listeners afraid?
- What does Jesus mean by contrasting “possessions” with “an unfailing treasure in heaven?”
- Jesus offers three images of readiness in this text; what is he trying to say to us?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- What does it mean to me that I can trust in God’s grace whole-heartedly?
- What, specifically, would it look like if I was to live for God?
- How might my faithfulness be a sign of encouragement for others?