Are you ready?”
And If you are a parent you’ll know that is the question every journey starts with.
“Are you ready? It’s time to go?”
And I’ve discovered being ready is a relative term…”are you ready?”
“Why are you still on the computer? Where are your shoes? And it’s going to be cold later so where is your jumper?” And if you’re a Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy fan or simply going swimming or to the beach or on holiday that all important question “have you got your towel?”
“Surely you’re not going to go out in that? Have you brushed your teeth? Have you brushed your hair?” “Did someone feed the cat? Lock the back door? What do you mean you just need to pack!
I thought you said you were ready?”
Then, if you’re like me, once you’ve got everyone ready it’s usually …“are we ready? Oh wait! Where did I put my keys? Where is my wallet? Where are my glasses? Where is my towel? “Have I got those tickets? The directions? And yes I know we could just use google maps?”
Are you ready? Get ready? Live ready? This is the imperative Jesus gives his disciples in the passage we had read to us this morning from Luke 12. Be ready for the coming of the son of man.Are you ready? Be ready, live ready…
We are working our way through Luke’s account of Jesus final journey to Jerusalem: His journey to the cross and resurrection; A journey that takes up the central third of the gospel (ch10-19); a journey in which the narrative focuses on Jesus teaching on what it means for us to follow him. Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at Jesus teaching his disciples about being faithful and wholehearted, about being faithful and wholehearted in the face of opposition and persecution and the pull of wealth and possessions. In each case he has pointed out a sin they needed to avoid, hypocrisy and greed, and encouraged them not to fear not to worry but to trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness and care. In each instance Jesus invites his followers to live faithfully now in light of the coming of the kingdom of God. The coming of the kingdom of God: inaugurated, started, by Jesus life, death and resurrection, where the rule and reign of God had broken into the realms of humanity…and awaiting its consummation, fulfilment, when the Son of Man returns. Are you ready? Get ready, live ready…
It’s interesting that when we talk about the idea of end times or the coming of Christ, many people want to focus on the signs of the times. They want to look and see how does what is happening in the world today line up with what the Bible says about those times, they fit and squeeze the happenings of their day into the vivid images of books like Revelation. They want to know if it’s close so they will be ready…But when Jesus talks of the times to come, he focuses on three things. The first is certainty: certainty that the son of man will come. We see that in parables that Jesus tells here, the master does return, the thief will come. Secondly uncertainty, that no one knows the hour or day… the thief comes in the night, the unfaithful servant discovers that the master returns on the day he least expects him. Thirdly in light of that certain return and in the face of that uncertain timing God’s people need to be ready, watchful and waiting, but waiting isn’t a passive thing. It’s not the impassive sigh, as we stand around and wait, because dad’s rushed back into the house for the third time to get something he’s forgotten. It’s not the pensive walking up and down the platform at the train station because the trains late…AS we see in the parables we had read today it’s about persevering in serving and faithful loving your fellow servants and doing the things God has called you to do. It’s keeping on keeping on following Jesus, wholeheartedly and faithfully. Are you ready?
The two parables Jesus uses in this section use the imagery of a roman household, in particular the slave/ servant relationship with his master or Lord. The first parable tells the story of a master who is late coming back from a wedding banquet, we tend to forget that such banquets could go on for days in the Ancient middle east. The faithful servants continue to be ready for the master to come even if it is after midnight, well actually closer to dawn. They are there ready and waiting and open the door for him. And Jesus paints a wonderful picture of the master’s reaction; he changes his clothes and serves them. WE have a foretaste of that whenever we celebrate communion, as it Jesus who invites us come to his table, where he meets us, feeds us, strengthens us, and we remember how he served us and saved us in his death and resurrection. It’s a foretaste of sitting down with the Lord when he returns. Our Lord, who came not to be served but to serve.
The parable is flipped on its head, as Jesus says if the master knew what time the thief was coming he’d be ready for him and the house wouldn’t be broken into. You could imagine getting a phone call from bob and bob ‘the considerate burglars’ just to let you know that they were planning on breaking into your house between 2am-3am tomorrow night and they hoped it was convenient and they would appreciate you not calling the police as for some strange reason the police seemed to be spoiling their business a lot lately. That does not happen… Jesus says we simply need to Be ready today now because we do not know the time or day.
The second parable is about a manager. Someone who has been put in charge of the household while the master is away. This person is responsible for caring for the other servants, feeding them and looking after them. But the manager decides that the master is taking a long time and abuses his position of power, not feeding them, it becomes quite violent and he beats them both the men and the women. He hordes the food and drink and binges and is drunk. When the master comes we find that the manger is punished, and treated as if they are a non-believer.
Between these two parables Peter had asked Jesus a question. AS we’ve worked our way through Luke chapter 12 we’ve seen that Jesus has been going backwards and forwards between speaking to the large crowd that had gathered and speaking directly to his disciples. And Peter is helpful here because I guess like most of us who are reading this passage we are kind of confused at this stage as well. Who is Jesus speaking to? So Peter asks is he talking to everybody or just to the twelve, just to the disciples? Jesus answer leaves the door open to it being both. Jesus had started this whole section with a warning against the yeast of the Pharisees. These parables could be seen as a critic of the history of Israel and the fact that they have missed the coming of the Son of Man. The second parable resounds with words such as those in Ezekiel 34 where the Lord judges the leadership of Israel for feeding themselves and not the flock, and caring for themselves while the needs of the sheep go unmet. It open enough to apply to us all, but also Jesus focuses on the people who have positions of responsibility within the household of God, to be faithful in fulfilling those roles, feeding and caring for God’s people. To those who much is given, both God’s people Israel and the church, much is expected. The only time there is negative talk and talk of punishment for those who believe in terms of our future hope is for leaders who abuse their power, do not care for the poor. In the church it is a great challenge to those of us who feel God’s call to lead.
I want to bring this back to today and where we are and where we live. What does it mean to be ready, to live ready for the coming of the son of man? It’s been two thousand years since these words were spoken. What does this passage say about perseverance, and keeping on keeping on?
It would be great is Jesus would provide us with a check list wouldn’t it. Like you see pilots use and tick off as they get ready to take flight. The pre pre-flight check, the pre-flight check, the pre take off check etc… But he doesn’t. In this passage it’s parables, stories which are quite open ended and non-specific.
But quickly I see three things. The first is clothed ready for service… while it comes from the Old Testament and the exodus when the people of Israel were to eat the pass over meal dressed in their travelling clothes so they could leave when the time was right. In the scriptures the right clothes is also an image for salvation and forgiveness. Our dirty rages of unrighteousness, our clothes stained by all we have done wrong, as we ask Jesus to forgive us and put our trust in him are exchanged for spotless garments. Being ready is to know daily the great reality of what Christ has done for us. That we are forgiven and set free: Our live are transformed by knowing Christ. And each day we live our life out of that wonderful reality. I’m using the bible in a year app for my devotions. It has a bible reading from psalms or proverbs, the new testament and the old testament along with comment from Nicky Gumble, who heads up Alpha, a programme to introduce people to the Christian faith. It’s great but I found myself thinking Nicky must think I need salvation because every day every devotion pulls us back to Jesus life and his saving love for us. But I’m getting it know, this great love is at the centre of our faith, it is the motivation of our love for God and for each other. We need to be reminded and experience it daily to be ready for it fulfilment.
The second thing is the lamps burning. In the Olivet discourse in Matthew’s gospel about the end times, Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins, waiting for the bride groom, who again is late and comes towards dawn. Five of them have kept their oil supplies up and five did not, and it speaks of the need for us to continue to be filled by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Keeping up our devotional life and spiritual life. A vibrant prayer life and bible study, allowing God to speak into our lives, and minister to us. So we can give to those around us. We need to focus on keeping our lamp bright.
The third thing is the call to be committed to loving one another. To keep our faith vibrant and ready for Christ we need each other. Genuine faith is worked out by how we care for each other. Our love for God is reflected in our love for neighbour. Faith without works is dead. There is much debate about journeys… Is a journey all about the destination or the getting there. Is it about the goal achieved or the process we go through? In his insightful book ‘11’ Leonard Sweet says that for the Christian it’s neither but rather who we cross the finish line with. The Christian journey is a team sport. If you’ve watched the ‘tour de France’ you’ll see that the rider who wins the race is dependent on his team to do their part. They keep cover over his nearest rivals. Lead him out when he needs to make a break, they will lead him out for the last sprint. Sweet says it’s the same for the Christian faith we need each other… In fact he says there are 11 indispensable relationships we need.. We need an encourager in our lives, and an editor, we need someone to kick our butt, we need a trusted friend, someone who will mentor us, and someone we can pass things on to, we need people who haven’t got it together who need us to help and people who do have t together and can help us get it together ourselves. We find that in the church, sadly when people feel like giving up they will give up on the church before they give up on Christ. But in this rag tag group of people together we have the people we need to love and be loved by to be and stay ready for Jesus. Even sadly when there are times that we beat up on each other.
Lastly. We need to live ready because the hope of the appearance of the master is not just a future hope. It is a reality that we can know today. The image I used for the service this morning is one I took up at the batch at Sandy Bay we stayed at last week. It was dusk and the whole sea and coast turned silver as the sun began to dip over the hill. I looked across at the open door and saw how the beauty of the scene had stepped across the threshold of the batch by being reflected in the glass of the old fashioned door. Be ready for Jesus live ready for Jesus, because in our everyday life, Jesus may appear at the door, may come and step into the darkness with us bringing his light. Be ready live ready for the kingdom of God because in our lives and our community and our world, because we are there and faithfully serving and loving, the kingdom of God can break into the day and night we are waiting in. To bring hope, salvation, healing, wholeness, justice, peace, God’s rule and reign. It may be just a glimpse or a foretaste of what is to come. But it brings the creators presence and power. So Be ready, live ready, you never know the hour, but the son of man will come.