Be Alert and Ready for Action
Pentecost 10 Luke 12:32-40, 41-48
Some people are
just “ready and raring to go.” They are ready to step in and
lend a hand. To do the job. To get it done. They are “on their
toes and ready to do the work.” They have the right attitude and
the right demeanor. They have on the right work clothes. You can
tell that they are ready and raring to go.
That is true in all
of life. You can almost divide life into two camps: those who are
ready and raring to do it and they then get the work done. On the
other hand, there are people who are not so “ready and raring
to go” and these same people often don’t do the work. There
is a connection between prior attitude and subsequent performance. Those
with a good and energetic attitude before the job often do
the job. On the other hand, those with a bad and lousy attitude before
the job often slough off on the job. Such people work hard at
For example: Would
you please imagine a restaurant? You come into a restaurant of your
imagination. A host or hostess immediately welcomes you and greets
you. Before you know it, you are escorted to your table.
Immediately, a server comes to your table to take your order for
beverages. Immediately, they are back with your drinks and within
moments are ready to take your orders. They are smiling, engaging
and friendly. Your food is prepared and after a brief interval, your
waiter or waitress serves you. Talk about good service. What is good
service? The people who serve have the right attitude.
They have the right demeanor. They have the right uniform or
dress. They have the right actions. They are communicating to you
that they are there to serve you and meet your needs. Those with a
good and energetic attitude before the job actually do the
job exceptionally well.
On the other hand,
you come into a restaurant and nobody is there to greet you. You and
your family stand around for a while and then you finally get
someone’s attention. A person finally tracks down a table for you,
and you wait for what seems like an eternity for someone to come and
take your order. A waiter or waitress finally takes the order for
your beverages. It seems to take forever for them to come. You wait
to order the meal. When the meal finally does arrive, it is served
poorly. Talk about bad service. What is bad service? Such people
have a slovenly attitude. They have a lazy demeanor. They are
dressed sloppily. They are communicating to you that there are many
other more important people than you. They will meet your needs when
they get around to it.
What are other
similar examples from our everyday lives? You can tell when a
teacher has prepared his/her lesson and he/she is ready to teach.
You can tell when a preacher has prepared his/her sermon and he/she
is ready to preach. Experienced surgical nurses “in the know”
can tell when the surgeon is prepared and ready for surgery and they
can tell when he/she is not. Experienced conductors of symphonies
can tell when the musicians in the orchestra are ready and prepared
to play and when they are not. All of life is the same: people come
with good attitudes and prepared to work and other people come with
bad attitudes and “not
prepared” to work. Those with good preparation and good attitudes
do the job; those with poor preparation and lousy attitudes often
don’t do the job. There is a connection between prior attitude and
subsequent behavior. This occurs in many different facets of life.
It is with this
mood that we approach the particularity of the Bible story for
today. Jesus wants us his disciples to be prepared, to be ready, to
be alert to do God’s will at any and every moment. The attitude
that we have prior to the event will have an impact on how we do the
job before us.
Let us look at the
particular Bible passage for today’s sermon. Today is another
wonderful text and is a passage that we want to study carefully and
Like always, when
Jesus wants to teach us a lesson, he never quotes from the Old
Testament nor does Jesus quote from the famous rabbinical
philosophers of his day. Instead of quoting from Old Testament
wisdom and instead of quoting from rabbinical philosophers, Jesus
always quotes from everyday experiences from everyday life. Life
around him is the primary source for Jesus’ imagination. Therefore
common people could always understand Jesus’ parables because his
parables came from common, everyday experiences.
Jesus said: “This
is the way it is when God rules your life, when God is number one in
your life. Let me tell you two stories.” Jesus went on to tell the
Let’s say that
you are average, normal servants, and you are waiting from your
master to come home from a wedding party. You are not sure of
exactly when your master is going to come back home that night, but
you know he is coming sometime.
unexpectedly, your master shows up. And you his servants?
What are you doing? You are dressed and ready for work. You
are not in your nightshirts nor are you running around in your BVDs.
You are not wearing your bathrobes nor your slippers nor your
nightcap. Rather, you are dressed and ready for work. You are ready
And you have the
olive lamps lit. Yes, the lights are on. As Motel Six repeatedly
says, “We always have the light on ready for you.” You have the
olive lamps lit and burning so there is light on in the house when
the master arrives late at night. The house is not dark. The rooms
are not dark. The house does not look deserted. Several olive lamps
are lit, lighting the whole interior of the home. The lights are on
as if you were expecting the master to arrive home at any moment.
attitude. Your working clothes are on. The lights are on. And you
are not far from the door. When the master knocks on the door, he
doesn’t wake you up from a nap. You haven’t been sleeping in
your bed, sawing wood, nor are you deep in your dreams. In fact, it
is just the opposite. You have been awake, alert, aware, and
expecting a tap on the door, and as soon as the master knocks, you
move quickly to the door to welcome him home. We can easily
visualize this scene that Jesus paints with words.
Jesus want on to
say, “When you are alert, dressed, ready for work, with the olive
lamps burning and with one ear listening for a knock on the door,
the master will be very pleased with your attitude and actions. The
master himself will come in and do you know what he will do? He will
have you sit, you the servant, you will sit at
the table. Yes, you the servant will sit at the table and the
master himself will serve you. The master will serve you!!!
What a surprise. What a reversal. My goodness, whoever heard of such
a thing? The master will generously bless and reward those servants
with the right attitudes and the right actions. The master will
serve his servants.
Jesus said, “You
must always be ready because you never know when the Son of man,
when Christ, is going to come knocking at your door. You never know.
You need to always be ready for Christ to come and knock at the door
of your life.”
Jesus said, “I
want tell you another story. This is a story about a head
supervisor, the chief steward, the manager of all the
servants of the house. Mr. Boss. Ms. Supervisor. Miss In Charge. The
master/owner of the house told the head supervisor of all the
servants that he was in charge of feeding the servants while he the
master was away on a trip. Blessed will be that head supervisor/that
chief steward/that senior servant when the master comes home and
finds that senior servant feeding all the other servants. The master
will reward that senior servant by promoting him to be caretaker of all
his possessions, not just the food, not just the pantry, not
just the kitchen cupboards. He will become chief administrator of
the whole mansion. What a reward!!! But, if the master is
delayed in his coming, and finds that the senior servant is beating
the other servants, eating all the food and drinking all the wine,
that senior servant will receive a severe beating himself. He will
be sternly punished.
Then Jesus taught
us that classic line: “To whom much is given is much required. To
whom much is entrusted, even more will be demanded.”
What a story. What
shall we learn from it? Where shall we go from here? What does Jesus
want us to learn from these parables?
We are to be alert
for the coming of Jesus at all times in our lives. Jesus is forever
coming unexpectedly into our everyday lives and we are to be alert,
sharp, ready and prepared to see him, receive him, welcome him.
The presence of
God, the presence of Jesus is forever dropping in on us and
intersecting with our lives. A telephone call, a chance encounter
with a friend, a conversation with a parent, with a child,
grandchild, friend. There are thousands of ways each and every day
that the Lord God unexpectedly comes near to us. We are to be alert
for his coming, with eyes open, with our senses being sensitive to
his presence in and around our lives.
me explain by a simple analogy, which is a Christmas drama. The play
is entitled, WAITING FOR THE CHRISTMAS GUEST, by Edwin Markham.
In this Christmas play, there is an old shoe cobbler by the
name of Conrad and his wife, Martha. In his dream, Conrad the
cobbler, had a vision that he was going to be visited by Jesus
himself before Christmas day. Conrad the cobbler believed his
vision/dream and Conrad was waiting for his special Christmas guest
to arrive. This special Christmas guest was to be none other than
the Lord Jesus Christ himself coming on Christmas Eve. And Martha,
his wife, had prepared a gorgeous Tom Turkey banquet for his
expected guest, Jesus himself. But Jesus didn’t show up that
of Jesus, the first person so show up on the doorsteps of the
cottage was a bum, a homeless person, a castaway who wandered into
Conrad and Martha’s home that Christmas Eve. Shortly, this
homeless person found himself eating a portion of the feast that
Martha had prepared for the anticipated special guest. The homeless
man also received a set of shoes from Conrad the cobbler. The
homeless man left the cottage with a full stomach and a pair of new
shoes on his wrapped-in-rags feet but Conrad was still waiting for
his special Christmas guest to arrive at his front door steps.
a little old lady rapped on the door of Conrad and Martha’s
cottage. She had been evicted from her home and was lost as she was
trying to find the way to her son’s home. After wandering around
the streets of the village, the little old lady found the front door
steps to the cottage of Conrad and Martha. Soon, the recently
evicted widow was eating a portion of the banquet which had been
prepared for Jesus himself and she was sipping on a cup of warm tea
that Martha had specially prepared. Before you knew it, Conrad was
taking this little old evicted lady by the hand and leading her to
find her son’s house.
Conrad the cobbler found a little boy who was lost as he was trying
to find a baker that Christmas Eve. All the bakeries were closed
that Christmas Eve. Conrad took the little lost boy home to his
cottage and fed him some of the feast that Martha had prepared for
the phantom Christ who was not appearing as Conrad had thought he
would. They gave cookies and milk to the little boy. They discovered
that the little boy’s father had recently died and the little boy
belonged to the Widow Schultz. Martha herself took the lost little
boy home that night with a loaf of Martha’s freshly baked bread,
and Conrad was left all alone in his cottage.
alone, Conrad the cobbler was wondering out loud why Jesus the
Christ hadn’t come to his house that night. Conrad was so sure
that Jesus would show up that Christmas Eve for the banquet that
Martha had prepared for him. Conrad was mumbling to himself that
night when he finally said, “Jesus, why didn’t you come
to our cottage tonight? Why didn’t you come, Lord? Humm.”
maybe he did. Maybe Christ had come three times.
Christ came to
Conrad and Martha’s house three times that night. Both Conrad and
Martha had this expectancy that Christ was to come that night.
Unexpectedly, Conrad and Martha helped the homeless man with food
and shoes. Unexpectedly, they helped the evicted old lady with hot
tea and then took her to her son’s home. Unexpectedly they helped
the little boy who couldn’t find a bakery on Christmas Eve and
Martha then walked the little boy home to the Widow Schultz. Time
after time, Conrad and Martha were open and receptive to the Christ
who unexpectedly showed up in their lives, uninvited, unexpected,
and not looking very much like their image of Christ.
Conrad and Martha had consistently shared their resources
with Christ. Conrad and Martha had this deep conviction that Christ
was coming to them that night, and Christ did.
Jesus, in his
parables for today, is inviting us to always be ready for the
bridegroom to come, for the kingdom of God to break into our lives.
We Christians live with that expectation and alertness, that God’s
kingdom, that God’s possibilities, that God’s opportunities are
forever before us and around us, breaking into our lives.
We are always to be
ready for Christ’s second coming, his third coming, his persistent
coming, his relentless coming. The miracles of God’s presence is
forever coming to us, and we need to be alert, sharp, ready for
Christ’s in-breaking into our lives.
It is being filled
with this Spirit, the Spirit of expectation that Christ is coming to
us in the near future. It is having a spirit-filled attitude, the
right and expectant attitude. Knowing that the bridegroom is going
to show up sometime this night. Knowing that we are to be dressed
and waiting for action. Knowing that we are to have the nightlight
on and assuming Christ will come. Knowing that we are to have an ear
listening for a knock at the door. These actions all signal an
attitude of expectancy that Christ is going to come at any moment in
And Christ does.
Christ consistently and unexpectedly shows up at our doorsteps to
the doors of our hearts. Christ consistently and unexpectedly shows
up all around us, especially through people in need.
But there is
another lesson that Jesus teaches us through this parable. At the
heart of this parable is the awareness that the bridegroom will reward
his servants who have this expectant attitude, who have willing and
working hearts and minds. Jesus wants us to know that we will
be rewarded for such attitudes and actions, in this life
and in the next.
In the first
parable for today, the master blesses his faithful servant by
serving the servant himself. Yes, the master serves the servant. In
the second parable, the master blesses the faithful servant by
placing that servant over the whole household.
Jesus still blesses
us today when we have similar attitudes and actions. When we have
that positive expectation that Jesus will be coming to our lives
very shortly. When we live and act according. Jesus promises
to bless us, reward us, and shower us with his kindnesses.
And this is true:
we experience the blessings and rewards of Christ in this world and
the next. That is, when we live that way; when we live with the
expectant attitude that Christ will break into our lives at any
moment and when we are ready to serve him at any moment, God blesses
us. God blesses us when we are alive to the possibilities that life
brings. God blesses us when we are alert and ready to receive
God’s unexpected comings. God blesses us with happiness that comes
from finding life in the moment, in the present, in the small
blessings that God showers upon us every day.
And Jesus promises
to bless us, not only in this life by making it much richer and more
beautiful, but also in the next life as well. At the final judgment
and separation, God promises to bless us for all eternity.
whom much is given, much is required.”
The following is a
postscript that could be part of Pentecost 26A, Matthew 25:14-30 and
Jesus’ parable about the five talents, two talent and one talent.
conclusion of the parable in Luke 12;41-48 and like an appendix to
that parable, Jesus
adds one more teaching. This teaching of Jesus is enormously true
and has been etched into our hearts and minds: “To whom much is
given, much will be required. To whom much is entrusted, much will
be demanded.” There is no other place in the Scriptures
that you hear this teaching of Jesus. It is only here, in the
Gospel of Luke, that we hear this profound teaching of Jesus: To
whom much is given, much is required. To whom much is entrusted by
others, much is demanded.
What does this
teaching of Jesus mean for us?
We all realize that
when God has given us resources, gifts, talents, and aptitudes, God
wants us to use those gifts. God wants us to use our God-given
gifts, however varied and numerous those gifts are.
The more that God
has given to you, the more God requires of you. We remember Jesus’
parables about talents, those with five, two and one talent.
(Pentecost 26A) In that parable, the person who had been given five
talents, doubled his talent to ten talents. The person who had been
given two talents, doubled his talent to four talents. Both were
commended for using and multiplying their talents. The one who had
been given two talents was not expected to make ten talents;
the person with five talents was. The more God has given to
you, the more God expects from you. In our hearts, we know that is
We hear Jesus’
words, “To whom must is entrusted, from that person much more will
be demanded.” All leaders of the world need to grasp what Jesus
was teaching through these words. In politics, business, medicine,
education, sports, church and in every area of life, there are
exceptionally gifted people who have been entrusted with inordinate
gifts. Jesus taught that much more will be
demanded/expected/insisted of these people on whom God has showered
inordinate gifts and resources.
What does that mean
for you, for us? We all need to ascertain the resources that God has
abundantly showered on each one of us, and fully use those resources
that God has entrusted to us. As we wait for Second Coming of
Christ, who comes unexpectedly like a thief in the night, we are to
fully and wisely use the talents and resources that God has showered
upon us. And to those on whom God has entrusted with more gifts, God
expects more of them. Amen.