Are You Ready for the Hear-and-Now?
Proper 14, Year C, 8-7-2016 Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 Luke 12:32-40
Like last week, our Gospel clearly picks up on the theme of greed and storing up treasure. But then it quickly changes into something else. Jesus offers us two pericopes to further illuminate our thought. One is of the servant who waits up for his master. We wait while the master is out at a wedding banquet. Because of our faith, our attentiveness, God rewards us. He rewards us by serving us. (I wonder what that exactly means?) The second bit says the owner doesn’t know when the house will be robed, so we must stay ready for Christ, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
We often think that this passage speaks of the eschaton, the end times; when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead.But instead of talking about the eschaton, I’d rather focus on the hear-and-now.Last week the foolish man wasn’t ready or prepared as he stored up his treasures. His time came before he could enjoy the rewards of his works. And his death had nothing to do with the second coming. That very night God demanded his life. So this begs the question, if we are not talking about Christ’s second coming, what do we need to be ready for?
We need to be ready for Christ; Christ in our lives. Not only at the end times but hear-and-now. Christ is already with us. As he tells us through the disciples when we help someone in need we are helping him. This constant state of preparedness is because we don’t know how often in our daily life we bump into Christ. The real answer is that every time we interact with someone else we are meeting Christ and they are meeting Christ through us. We are Christians, bringing the light of Christ into the world around us and we have to be prepared to see the light of Christ in all others we encounter.
So now for my first question, “What does it mean that God rewards us by serving us?” How often do we feel served by God? This theological question is a struggle and there is no one answer. But I think, in very basic terms, it comes down to knowing who God is in our lives. Faith. If God is all and all; all powerful, all knowing, omnipresent; what can we give Him? If God is the creator of the heavens and the earth; the sustainer of our life and life around us; how can we serve him? What do we have to offer him that he doesn’t already have? Luke in the book of Acts says,
“The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, . . . so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:24-27)
What God want from us, is for us to find him, for us to grope for the unseen that is so close. He wants us to serve him by helping each other. This is where faith comes in. The definition of faith given to us in the letter to the Hebrews says, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Think into your life and ask yourself, “Where have I had such faith?” Where have I taken action or lived into a situation; not out of calculated rationalism or even best projections but out of hope and prayer. This prayer is not necessarily praying with the hope that things will work out. In this prayer you find confidence in the unfounded knowledge that this situation will be fine; or that you know this is where you are supposed to be; or what you are supposed to be doing. For example when selecting a collage, the selection can often be more about the intangible, what feels right what seems to be a good fit. Other collages could be calculated to have better professors, better job placement, lower cost. But it is not always out of calculation that the choices are made. When marrying your spouse, hopefully the decision wasn’t on calculating gains and risk for bettering your life, but more on faith knowing that this person will complete you, or complement you, in this life. That somehow both of your lives will be better because of this intimate relationship.
This is what God is seeking from us. God want us to have an intimate relationship with him. He wants us to see his creation that is all around us as a gift to us. This is God’s service to us. The rice that we plant and harvest, does not grow directly from our hands. We may nurture it, care for it. We may know when the best time is to cut and dry it. But the life that is within the plant and each grain of rice is a gift from God’s abundance. Just as a farmer toils in the soil, and brings in a crop out of hard labor, so do other people’s labors build their careers and wealth. Though our vocations may be different, we are all working to realize the abundance that is around us, the abundance that ultimately comes from God alone.
This realization takes faith. The farmer has to have faith, assurance of things hoped for, that when he plants the seeds, the seeds will grow. The farmer also needs to have faith that the harvest will be sufficient. We have to have faith, that through the Spirit we can find Christ in all people; and they in us. It is also in this same faith, that we believe through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection we will never die. This is the Christian faith, the faith of life in Christ. Faith such as this, assures us that there is life beyond what we know; and we are convicted in what we cannot see.