Sermon – August 7, 2022

Weekly Sermon (2)

‘daily walk’
August 7, 2022

Scripture: Luke 12:35-40
Today’s reading from Luke is one of those passages that seems
fairly straight forward at first. Upon closer examination however I think
it may in fact yield much more. The language of the text however, is a
bit tied into conventions and customs of Jesus’ time, so it may help if we
open those up some, in order to better appreciate what he was trying to
teach his followers.
In the beginning of our passage, the theme of watchfulness and
being prepared for action, both mentally and physically is highlighted by
the opening phrase, ‘Be dressed for action’. This is translated variously
as ‘Gird your loins’ or ‘Keep your aprons on’, however it literally means
to pull up one’s long outer robe and to tuck it into the sash or belt around
one’s waist in order to allow for greater flexibility of movement, in order
to allow one to move quickly and to be able to respond in the moment.
From there it moves quickly over into wedding imagery of the
first century, picking up on the tradition of how a groom goes over to the
home of the bride in order to be married. The groom’s servants stay
behind in the groom’s household waiting for his return when he will
carry his bride over the threshold of his house and into their new home
together, after which there is great rejoicing and celebration. Not
knowing when the groom is expected back, the servants are charged
with keeping the lamps lit and the house in all readiness for the banquet
to follow. ‘Blessed are those servants the master finds alert when the
master comes’, says Jesus. Or, bringing it up to our times…Blessed are
those who live in a constant state of readiness and willingness to
respond to that knock on the door of our faithfulness.

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Here the parable picks up an interesting, but such a ‘God-like’
reversal of custom, as Jesus shares that in fact the returning master is so
pleased at finding his house in order and ready for him and his bride,
that he himself pulls up his robes, tucks them in his sash, and serves his
servants the banquet intended for him, to his faithful servants. At this
point Jesus extends the potential breadth of the call a bit, saying that we
may be called by the Spirit even into the early hours of the morning.
And, that in fact God’s needs for our participation and faithfulness, may
fall outside the bounds of polite custom, routine, or perhaps even our
comfort. In the full light of day, in the middle of the night, or as late as
the break of dawn, we may be asked to witness and to share the blessing
of love which we have already received.
After this, in verses 39 and 40, Jesus moves on to what seems like
a bit of a warning, saying that we must always be ready to respond, and
that there is really no excuse to deny the love of God to another in need,
regardless of how much it may seem to put us out. Obviously if anyone
knew Jesus was going to show up and ask something of us at a particular
time we would surely be ready, however Jesus may not always be so
recognizable when he comes before us in a form or manner in which we
did not expect him. Perhaps even in a form dressed as someone we may
not usually associate with or even care to assist. ‘If we knew when he
was coming’, the passage says, ‘then we would be prepared’…if we
were watchful, then we would surely respond faithfully. However the
passage ends with the reminder that our Lord comes at an unexpected
hour! ‘Faithful Christian living’ is a fully engaged lifestyle, awake and
alert, ready to respond when, where, and for whomever it is needed. So,
we are called to be watchful for the master is coming…which of course
begs the question – is there any way to know just when that will be?

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Now this is often as far as the interpretation of this passage goes. It
usually ends here with the injunction to wake up, to be ready, and to do
what you can for now. For some day, one day we may truly be graced
with the coming of the Master! Jesus himself may come, in the flesh,
and we need to have our lamps lit, the house cleaned and spotless, and
the banquet table laid out in all its finery and abundance. In fact, this is
the way many Christians understand how it is that we are supposed to
live out our faith, as watchful and ready servants. However, I think there
is much more to this passage we need to consider in order to really hear
and understand what Jesus was actually saying to his followers that day.
Instead of merely seeing this passage as a comfortable, although
challenging call to readiness and willingness, in anticipation of a second
visitation or second coming of Christ, I would like to see if there is more
being asked of us other than faithful waiting for some day or event that
seems to have been promised around 2000 ago. Is Jesus really saying,
‘just be good until I get back’, or is there more to his words, more to the
Biblical narrative, more that might make sense of those oft-repeated
words of Jesus when he claimed that the ‘Kingdom of God’ was already
at hand…was already present? Is all our watchfulness and waiting just
to keep us ‘awake and ready’ until Jesus comes back, or might it be
instead more of an ongoing instruction as to how we are to direct our
daily lives as followers of Jesus?
Which I think asks the question, is there really a ‘Second Coming’
on the way, a single day in which all will be changed in an instant, and
those who were good enough will go up, while the rest go down? Or, is
it perhaps at all possible that the presence of Christ has already come to
us, and come to us in all fullness? I think this is an important question
for today, for it has so much bearing on how we are called to live, act,
and engage ourselves in life right here and now if in fact the answer is

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yes! Now surely there is no shortage of those who would challenge me
and disagree deeply with my even asking this question, but I think it is a
question that has merit, and may in fact lead us further on in our faith
journey, as well as closer to the call Jesus is still issuing to followers
today. Bear with me a moment if you will, as we look more closely at
what our scripture may also be saying.
What we know of as the ‘Second Coming of Christ’ is the result of
a system of thought that was developed in the 1830’s by a denomination
of the Christian faith called the Plymouth Brethren.  They came up with
a view of history that came to be known as ‘dispensationalism’, in which
human history was broken up into specific eras or time periods of God’s
involvement with humanity. These ‘eras’, or ‘dispensations’ were taken
from a very literal reading of the Bible and included several distinct
periods of time beginning with the past/present and stretching forward
unto what they believed would be the end of time. They surmised from
their interpretation that there would be a time of preparation before the
great tribulation and trial, followed by a time of ‘Rapture’ when a
chosen few would be spirited away from earth to safety with God (not
including children of ‘saved parents’ by the way), and then followed by
a time of great trial and global conflict culminating in the second arrival
of Christ on earth and an massive time of warring and destruction that
would see some of humanity saved, and others destroyed and sent to hell
in an apocalypse that would annihilate all of Creation once and for all.
This system of thought and radical belief gained many followers
over the past 175 years or so until it pretty much came to be accepted as
orthodox Christian doctrine by much of Christianity. However,
interestingly enough, this whole idea of a ‘Second Coming’ is not
supported by the biblical narrative at all.  There simply is no mention of
a ‘Second Coming’ in the bible. The ideas gathered into this belief

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system by the Plymouth Brethren were taken from the scriptures to be
sure, however their literal reading of the text and interpretation of one
key Greek word in particular lead them to go off in a direction that, at
least I think missed the point of what Jesus was trying to convey
entirely.
Those who would argue against this point out that there is in fact a
Greek word that means ‘Second Coming’, the word ‘parousia’.  Parousia
actually is formed by adding the prefix ‘para’ which means ‘alongside’,
to the root word ‘ousia’ which means ‘substance or being’, in effect
saying ‘being alongside’, a word most commonly translated as
‘presence’. This word parousia was used by the Brethren in coming up
with their theory of a Second Coming. They heard Jesus say that he
would draw alongside of them, and that his presence would be made
manifest to them, and then they decided that this promise was for some
time in the future, some future time of God’s dealings with humankind,
some future and not yet seen ‘Dispensation’. Which I suppose is not all
that much of a stretch unless there really is nothing else in the rest of the
Bible that supports such a radical view of history, which in fact seems to
be the case.
But, and it’s a big but, if the Brethren’s understandings of the will
and purposes of our God of love are not actually what the bible is
saying, then what is actually meant by ‘parousia’? What was Jesus
telling his followers, and how might it shape our understanding now
some two thousand years later?  What is today’s scripture passage telling
us, what does it mean, and how can it be heard in light of Jesus’ promise
to truly ‘be alongside’ of us?
To go there we need to consider again an idea I have brought up in
the past. The idea that just perhaps history may be something other than

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we usually think it is.  That instead of history being the arc of time as we
live it out into the future with its direction determined solely by our
decisions and our human actions, perhaps history is being called into
reality, called forth into being by God who resides simultaneously in the
past, present, and future. One who stands out in front of us in time, and
beckons each of us to bring the Lord’s good will and intentions into
being through the faithful living of our lives.
Is it possible to consider that it may be more biblically accurate to
view history as something that unfolds in front of us at the beckoning of
God who is drawing all of Creation ever closer to the fulfillment of his
day of love and justice. As though God is perhaps calling us from the
future to live lives that share the love of God fully with one another,
while also ushering in the day prophesied as the final and complete
triumph of justice and love over oppression and exploitation?
Are we, and is Creation an as yet incomplete story with our God as
an author who is not afraid to share the final draft with many other
creative hearts and minds? If this is a possibility, then perhaps the
‘drawing alongside of’, the ‘being present with’, the ‘Parousia’ of our
Lord already came about in the gift and giving of the Holy Spirit. That
gift already received, by which we now have resident within us and most
surely alongside of us the living and vibrant presence of God.  And if
this might be true, then the idea of being called to ‘watchfulness’ gains
new clarity as well as urgency for all who claim to follow our Lord
Jesus.
Let us hear again the words we started with, this time however
with these other possible understandings in mind…
‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit’…perhaps means,
‘be ready and waiting at all times to respond to that inner whisper of the

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Spirit, being fully flexible and unafraid to take on even the most
challenging of requests to share the divine love that is within you’.
‘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.’ This may seek to point out the incredible blessings
that await all who enter into willing partnership with our Lord of love
and mercy, affirming that to answer ‘Yes my Lord’, will give great joy
and peace to all who wait. 
  ’ 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’. In this living partnership with
our Lord we will be filled from head to toe with gratitude and deep
humility as our Lord continues to teach us by example, and as he calls us
to serve others in the same manner and to the same extent as he
cherishes and serves each one of us. As our Lord daily stoops down to
wash our feet and refresh us unto newness of purpose and resolve, let us
also start each day ready, watchful, and willing to do the same for
others.
  ‘If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and
finds them so, blessed are those slaves’. This is a reminder that
following after our Lord takes no account of the imagined hassle of time
or schedule, but rather only the moment’s need and purpose. Let us be
ever ready to share the treasure we have been given, for it was only ever
ours to give away anyway.
  ‘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.   You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an
unexpected hour.’ This second part of today’s reading calls us to be

careful not to miss out on the blessings that are ours when we participate
in the ongoing story of our faith. If we are not ready, if we do not answer
the call, it does not stop God, it only stops our ability to participate at
that time. Therefore, be watchful, so as not to miss out on an opportunity
to be a part of something wonderful. And though at times we may
hesitate, or turn away in fatigue, let us never fail to keep our heart
attuned to the Spirit within, that we might never miss any opportunity to
be a blessing for others, and a blessed vessel in return.
So, let us imagine for a moment, that indeed the Second Coming
already came, in the form and presence of the Holy Spirit, and that our
true call is to serve God as we are asked through the voice and abiding
presence of that Spirit of Love. It is a call to live a life of expectant
watchfulness, for indeed, the Spirit will use all of our willingness in the
furtherance of God’s will and in pursuit of the Day of the Lord here on
earth. That day will surely come about through our willingness to make
it happen as we live in readiness and willing service. The future is ours
to make, and it is our responsibility to create it through love.
But for that to happen, we must always be ready for action, and
have our ‘long robes lifted up and tucked into our sash’, so as to allow
for maximum flexibility and movement. We each have been given an
opportunity to actively participate in bringing about God’s desired
fullness of blessing for all of Creation. Let us hasten to the task…

… amen

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