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Reading: Luke 12.35-38
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘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.’
Yesterday we read of a rich man whose foolishness and greed meant that he was far from ready for the time when he would be called to stand before God and account for his words and actions in this life. Today Jesus continues this theme. Today we are being challenged to be ever ready for that unforeseen and unpredictable moment.
Many of you will have watched the series Downton Abbey on television. Some of you may have watched an earlier depiction of the master/servant relationship in Upstairs, Downstairs. In those popular television stories that contrasted the life of the rich and their servants there was an underlying sense of the servants having to be in a constant state of readiness. Despite the similar stories of conflict and love being played out in the lives of both rich and poor, the servants had to be ever-ready to drop everything and wait on the whims and fancies of their employers. The servant/master relationship is one that has existed throughout history. It is a relationship that Jesus knows his listeners will understand when he speaks to us in today’s reading.
Jesus’ ministry on earth was short. We know that it ended in the most violent of ways. We also know that Jesus conquered broke the chains of death and rose again before ascending to his rightful place in heaven. What is sometimes forgotten is that Jesus promised to come again. The early followers of Christ expected that second coming to be in their lifetime. Two thousand years on we are still waiting. Of course, Jesus knew and knows when the moment of his return will be, but we do not.
After such a long period of waiting, we should not be surprised that people have watered down this aspect of Jesus’ teaching. Many of us will have encountered those who predict the second coming on a specific date only to be shown up by the inaccuracy of their predictions. However, that teaching is still there, it has not gone away, and today’s reading reminds us of that.
There will come a time for every one of us when our earthly lives will draw to a close. At that moment we will stand before God and be judged for the lives we have led in this world. This is not the cosy theology that some like to peddle but it is firmly rooted in scripture. We are challenged to be like the servants in those popular television series – constantly ready to serve our Lord and Master. The difference, of course, is that our Lord and Master is God himself, not a human whose whims and fancies serve no purpose other than to ensure his comfort. So, let us live this and every day, not in fear of meeting God, but in joyful expectation and always ready.