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Edward F. Markquart

Series C
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 avoiding work.

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 well.

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 following stories:

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.

Suddenly, 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 for action.

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.

It’s the 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.

Let 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 night.

Instead 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.

Next, 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.

Next, 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.

All 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.”

Or 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 our lives.

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.


POSTSCRIPT: “Too 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.

“At the 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 true.

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.

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