Reading: Luke 17.7-10
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’
Today’s reading is one of those passages from scripture that often leaves us wondering exactly what it is that Jesus is saying to us. I would suggest that after yesterday’s reading, which was about our relationship with others, today’s reading is about our relationship with God. Yesterday we were told not to be ‘stumbling blocks’ to those with whom we share this human life. Today we should see ourselves as the ‘slave’ who is called to work in the service of their master.
Our call to serve God is one of the constants in our lives, whether we acknowledge that fact or not. No matter what pressing appointments and priorities we may consider to be more important, God is always our first priority. The need to tend our gardens, clean our cars or play golf is never as great as the need to worship God. The urgency of cleaning, cooking and resting never outweighs the truly urgent need to be constantly in prayer. The greed which leads us to hoard both goods and money is always contrary to God’s call to show our love for humanity through generosity and open-hearted compassion. The pride and stubbornness which leads us to exclude others is an act of defiance in the light of Jesus’ command to love and serve in his name. Jesus is telling us that, if we are to be true disciples, we need to set aside all those things that separate us from God.
In St John’s Church, Corby Glen, there are some magnificent medieval wall paintings. One of the most eye-catching of those paintings is a representation of the seven deadly sins. This would have been seen by parishioners as they gathered for worship each week. The picture is there to remind us of what we should not be doing in our daily lives. We should not be proud, greedy, lustful, envious, gluttonous, angry or lazy. These are all things that distance us from God and they are the very things of which we are guilty every day of our lives. They are also the things that Jesus is warning us about today.
However, all is not doom and gloom! We simply have to look at Jesus’ warning and make one simple adjustment to our thinking. As I have listed some of the things people do instead of honouring God’s call in their life, I have also developed an awareness that it sounds like serving God is an onerous chore. That is not the case! Instead of looking at our call to love and serve in God’s name as a time-consuming and over-demanding set of relentless tasks, we simply have to view serving God as an act of thanksgiving. God has given us everything we celebrate and enjoy in our lives. Surely, it is fitting for us to say ‘thank you’ for all that grace that has been bestowed on us. Let us stop being so ungrateful, and let us, in joy and gratitude, say ‘yes’ to God and offer him the prayer, worship and obedience that he is due.