August 7, 2022

“Ready or Not!”

(From Luke 12:32-40)

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 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.  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.  If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.  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.”

     When Jesus was teaching his Disciples and followers, he often spoke to them in parables based on characters found in ordinary life, and he would also include their everyday life events and situations.  That is because nearly everything we experience in daily living can teach us something of greater spiritual value.  Take for example a favorite childhood game—Hide and Seek.  When the “seeker” has completed their time of counting, giving the time needed for the “hiders” to find their best hiding spots, the seeker alerts everyone to their impending arrival by shouting out, “Ready or not, here I come!”

     The “ready or not” part of this warning invariably caught a few of the hiders off-guard.  They would then scramble for any immediately available hiding spot that offered them some refuge from the seeker.  Smart seekers would be on the lookout for these strays, as they were more easily caught than those who were prepared for the arrival of the seeker with a good hiding spot.  Even in the game of Hide and Seek, it is important to be prepared for the “ready or not” moment of the seeker’s “here I come” impending arrival.

     The Scouting program strives to assist in developing young men and women of high moral character and strong life skills.  The Scouting motto, “Be prepared,” was the brainchild of founder Robert Baden-Powel in 1907, and then adopted by the Boy Scouts of America program in its founding year 1910.   When asked the meaning behind this motto, Baden-Powel stated, “You are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” His goal was to prepare young folks to be capable and productive adult citizens. 

     Many famous American leaders in their fields of endeavor earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Scouting program.  Astronaut Neil Armstrong, former U.S. President, Gerald Ford, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg are just a few examples.  At its best, Scouting has produced adult citizens of sound mind and body prepared to lead productive lives within our society. 

     As Christians, we can see that Baden-Powel’s motto, and the Scouting program’s associated goal to produce model citizens within society, is shortsighted.   There is a third component associated with the mind-body connection that has not yet been named, nor has it been taken into consideration as a vital element of the growth and maturation process of humans.  That component is the spirit.  The true formation of people of faith, believers, is not complete until body, mind, and spirit have all been trained equipped, and prepared both for our present life and for our eternal life in the kingdom of God—ready or not! 

     When Jesus dwelt among us, he gave us clear direction regarding just where our priorities in this life should be focused.  Last week, as we will recall, Jesus reminded us that life is about much more than the abundance of wealth and possessions we can amass in our lifetime.  He said that we are foolish if we allow ourselves to become rich in things and not rich in our relationship with God, as God was revealed to us in Christ Jesus.  This week finds Jesus further punching this point with his words, “Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Treasure in heaven, not the accumulation of earthly “stuff,” is the only true and eternal treasure one can know—ready or not.

     Jesus goes on to teach us, in our lesson for today, that we should be lighting our lamps and waiting in eager anticipation of our master’s return.  That is what faithful servants do when their master returns from the wedding banquet and knocks at the door to enter.  Waiting in this parable of Jesus implies anticipation and readiness for an upcoming future event.  It means being prepared for the day when Jesus returns to us in the fullness of his glory.  That kind of readiness calls us to pursue a life of spiritual preparation and maturity, one in which our relationship to God in Christ Jesus, and our relationship to one another as his beloved church, is of prime importance.  It will necessitate our journeying down a different path than the one the world defines for us.  Paul affirmed this understanding of our Christian calling well when, in his letter to the Ephesians, he said, “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”  Seeking, living and speaking the truth of Christ, in love, we must grow up and mature as Christians into the image of Christ.  He is the “true North” of our spiritual compass, our head, and the cornerstone of the foundation of our faith.

     The letter to the Romans, as we have often discussed, was Paul’s opus composition.  This letter is the summation of Paul’s mature theology of his personal faith, as well as his doctrine of teaching about God’s plan for our salvation in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.  It was Paul’s strong desire and hope to preach in Rome at a future time; so he sent this letter to the church at Rome as a means of insuring their spiritual education and preparation for his coming.  Rome was the seat of power within the Empire of the 1st Century, and the ways of the world had established a stronghold there, just as they had in other regions.  Gentile Christians in Rome were quarreling with and rejecting Jewish Christians because of their observance of ancient Jewish laws and sacred holy days.  In his letter, Paul was calling the Romans apart from these disputes and the quarreling ways of the world.  He explained that the work of salvation Jesus completed on the cross is for both Jew and gentile-we are all one in Christ Jesus.  He then shared these words of guidance with them, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Paul was preparing the church at Rome for the “ready or not” moment of Christ’s coming again in final victory.

     Church, we are no strangers to quarreling.  It seems that we, too, can find many opportunities to quarrel with and to reject other brothers and sisters.  Like the church at Rome, we even find means to quarrel with other brothers and sisters of faith.  But speaking the truth in love, and in Christ, as we are told to do, I say to us all that this should not be so.  This is of the world, and not how we best prepare to receive our Lord, Jesus, when he comes again in his glory.  As humans, we struggle with the powers of this world, and with the world’s value system.  But, this is not how the kingdom of God in Christ operates, and this kingdom is coming soon-ready or not!

     Paul understood, in fact suffered himself, the human struggle with the ways of this world.  In Romans Chapter 7 Paul shared his struggle against the powers of the world at work in him, he called them sin.  He said:

“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

     And there we have it, church!  Paul calls us back to the remembrance that it is God, through Christ Jesus, who delivers us from the sin of this world in which we live.  We must keep our eyes, our life’s focus, on Jesus; for it is in him alone that we are able to stand.  We are not alone on this journey of faith and spiritual growth.  We are the church, and at our best we are a community of love and support for one another.  But, we need to recall daily just who we are and whose we are, so that we can continue to set ourselves apart for the sinful and selfish values of this world in which we live.  Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, we live in this world as he taught us, and not as the world lives.  Then, when Christ comes again, he will find his people prepared and awaiting his coming.  For he is coming again, with all of his angels, to claim his own, his church.  He is coming…ready or not!  Amen.