2016-08-07 Sermon on Luke 12:32-40
A watched pot never boils. We all know that saying. What does it mean? Well, have you ever tried to watch a pot boil? There you go. Actually, there’s a lot of meaning in that little phrase. One thing it gets at, is anticipation. When we’re waiting for something, doesn’t it feel like time slows down? And the more you want or need whatever it is you’re waiting for, the worse it gets. We encounter this in a lot of ways – waiting for a restaurant order. Waiting for medication to take effect. Waiting for an appointment. Waiting for an answer. These are totally different situations, but it all comes down to the same basic thing. Waiting. And don’t we do a lot of it?
Pot watching gets at another important thing – it’s mundane. It’s like watching golf on TV. Maybe not. But what I’m getting at is that when we wait, it feels like nothing’s changing. Patience may be a virtue, but we all have our limits. Also, we’re often waiting for things that we don’t have any control over. That just kind of compounds the sense that nothing’s changing, because we can’t make it change. All we CAN do is wait. Maybe we give up hope a little bit. And when nothing changes, you stop noticing things, because there’s nothing to notice, right? Which may or may not be a horrible thing, but in that complacency we might miss the thing when it happens. Sometimes we let the pot boil over, and then you’ve got a mess.
So, maybe what this means is that waiting is hard work, and we’re not necessarily good at it. That’s kind of what Jesus is getting at today. He talks about waiting. Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit – be like those who are waiting for their master to return, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. If you think about it, isn’t that a tall order? After all, the master goes off to a wedding banquet. That’s not necessarily down the street. Jesus leaves it open-ended. It could last for days. Even if the master says when he’ll return, he may be delayed. We don’t know, and to be absolutely ready for that magic moment is asking a lot. But Jesus ramps up the situation – what does he want us to wait for? For the Son of Man to come, at an unexpected hour. That’s the end time, which makes us think of what? Judgment. When Jesus comes in glory and delivers some kind of judgment. So right away, we’re not sure we like what’s coming, because we all know that we’re not perfect disciples. And for Jesus to talk about it when he’s asking us not just to wait, but wait with expectation, to do what we’re not good at doing, it’s not a good mix. After all, if we were so disciplined to stay on guard, Jesus wouldn’t have felt the need to warn us about coming at an unexpected hour.
But what compounds all this, is when Jesus says that 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. Have you ever been robbed? I have. What does that feel like? It feels like violation. We get outraged. Angry. You try to figure out how it happened, so it doesn’t happen again. You get hyper-vigilant, because you’re not going to be taken advantage of again, right? But something else happens at the same time – this worry that no matter what you do, you can’t stop it. What’s the point anymore? I once heard a preacher say something that’s stuck with me for years – it’s not the lock that keeps the burglar out. It’s true, because there’s no underestimating the power of human desire, but it says something that we don’t get that. It’s not the way we’re convinced that the world works. But we also underestimate our own desire, because we work so hard to insulate ourselves from disaster. We’re always on guard for that. Always thinking and dreading. And yet, we just don’t feel nearly as anxious about Jesus’ coming. Yeah, it’s been 2000 years and he still hasn’t come. But what that points to is where our hearts are pointed. For where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also. If our hearts are pointed toward all our things, everything that makes us feel like somebody, everything that makes us feel secure, these futile things that can’t add one moment to our lives, then we don’t really need anything that Jesus has to offer. We’ve taken over the job. Jesus wants to give life, but if we don’t want that, then what’s left for us?
Well, brothers and sisters, the good news is the very first thing that Jesus says. That’s why he says it first, because the entire reason Jesus comes is to bring us this good news – Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. But you know what? Our English translation actually falls short. It’s better than that. The Father is actually already delighting, because the Father is already giving us the kingdom! In spite of our mistrust, in spite of our fear, in spite of the fact that we don’t know how to wait for it. It’s like we’ve been waiting for 2000 years, and we’re so tired that we haven’t noticed it creeping in on us the entire time. The kingdom is happening, and there’s not a single thing we can do about it, but praise this God who operates in this way. God’s will be done.
That’s why Jesus tells us to sell our possessions and give alms. With our old, earthly ears, all we hear is this command to give up everything, and all we can think about is how there’s no way we can bring ourselves to do it. Make ourselves destitute for what? Just for the sake of obedience? No, there’s no good news in that, but Jesus isn’t speaking to those old ears. He’s speaking to our new ears of faith, to set us free from our struggle to protect ourselves. Things come and go, but we will live by the power of God’s Spirit. Only by the Spirit’s gift of faith, can we hear what sounds like a clear command for command’s sake, and somehow realize not just that Jesus is doing something so much bigger, but actually doing it to us. Jesus is setting us free from the bondage of the world. Faith sees everything in a new way. The world just sees Jesus’ death on a cross, but by faith, we see the resurrection. We know all the ways we have failed, and yet by faith we believe that Jesus forgives us everything, unconditionally.
Yes, Jesus tells us to be dressed for action and have our lamps lit, because the master is coming back. But the point isn’t to worry – Jesus is always telling us not to worry. The point isn’t to make ourselves ready – who knows what “ready” even means. The point isn’t to be hyper-vigilant. Try it, and see how far you get, because we all fall asleep, just like Jesus’ disciples who can’t even stay awake while he prays. No, the point is that our master is coming back, for us. He will fasten his belt and have us sit down to eat. He will serve us, because that’s what love does. God’s love for us. Yes, blessed are the servants who behold it unfolding, but equally blessed are the servants who wake up to an unexpected feast, because this God will not turn them away.
And where do we see God giving us the kingdom? Every time we see justice breaking through for the least of us. When we hear truth speaking to power. Where we see human life thriving when all the odds are stacked against it. There’s no shortage of bad news, but faith has this strange knack for catching our attention with these constant moments of light in the darkness. Faith doesn’t want us to miss a thing. Not just to give us hope, but that we might always be reminded of who’s responsible. God. This could only be the power of the kingdom of God, overcoming this tired, broken world. And sometimes, God even draws us into the struggle when we least expect it. Not that we know what we’re doing, because we say and do some crazy things. We can be our own worst enemies. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. But do not be afraid, little flock, because with God all things are possible. Therefore, children of God, when Jesus says “I am coming quickly”, we are free to say with confidence and hope – “even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.” Because he will. Amen.