Sermons IX Pentecost 11 August 2019
O Almighty God, who pourest out on all who desire it the spirit of grace and of supplication: Deliver us, when we draw near to thee, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections we may worship thee in spirit and in truth; in the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Preparation and readiness are important parts of being an adult I’d say, but I readily admit that as an adult, these are not things that come naturally to me. This past Thursday night, as parents swarmed the Audubon Park School, I saw the eyes of more than a few people that share my situation. There were quite a few parents not quite ready for school quite yet!
The kids were ready to roll, though, and there’s something really exciting about the first day of school; even if leaving the laziness of Summer behind seems like a raw deal. The rhythm, the repetition, and the allure of new horizons (not to mention seeing your school friends again) help to make the bustle of a new school year a much less bitter pill to swallow. Even still, I know I always whined a ton the first week of classes, well into Seminary.
Preparation, readiness, and zeal are the very ideas that animate Jesus’ teaching from the Gospel according to St. Luke this morning. Notice that he used a few different images in rapid succession to make his point:
-A sturdy bag for the journey ahead;
-Treasure without tarnish, untouchable by things like thieves and rust
He did not relent. He said:
Be dressed, ready to move. Lamps lit, ready to receive the master at a wedding banquet. Be alert as servants awaiting the master’s service.
He contrasted with the master of a house who wasn’t ready for the unexpected thief when they came in the night.
In this short passage, we get the idea that Jesus really wanted his followers to be ready for action. I believe a sense of urgency is baked into this teaching. But urgency for what? What kind of action?
Perhaps the disciples asked the same question as they listened to Jesus. After all, it would take Christ’s cross and passion to bring clarity to the fullness of who Jesus is and what was at stake for his ministry. Interestingly, Luke’s sequel to his Gospel narrative, the book we call the Acts of the Apostles shows what readiness looks like in the near term, while awaiting Christ’s return: it meant being committed to the prayers, the breaking of the bread, to the continued ministry of the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, and care for the sick, the friendless, and the needy. It means that, for the Christian even now, there is no real fast-track to being prepared for the life of grace. It means the things of that life ought to be attended to; things like attendance at worship to receive Christ’s own strength in the sacrament and in the company of family of God, things like making time for prayer in our daily life, and even making time to consider the Scriptures. You know, the things people like me are always haranguing our congregations over.
And truly, these things are good in themselves, but what they produce in us by God’s grace is what is on my mind this morning. The basic acts of Christian devotion and practice help us to be prepared for the full ministry of the Church as we await Jesus’ return, indeed prepared to become what God intended for humans from the beginning. There’s a temptation, I think, to perceive these things as having a “pie in the sky” kind of quality. I would suggest that our preparation, rightly considered, creates in us the ability to deal with the problems of here and now in ways far more profound than we give them credit. If, for example, Godly readiness includes the increase of our love of God, it should also increase in us love for our neighbor per Christ’s own summary of the Law. And after having to hear about yet more public gun violence last week, horrendously perpetrated on the account of something as absurdly broken as racial hatred and animus, you can see why someone like me would be zealous in trying to encourage people to do yet more things that would prepare them for more love in their lives, to promote the increase of yet more love in the world. It really needs it. The world is in need of Good News as it ever has been; and I believe that God desires for his people to be prepared to tell it, and to live out the their faith especially as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of thing unseen, which might even be the very love of God raining down on us day by day.
And so, a challenge this morning. As we send our kids back to the discipline and community of the school tomorrow, back packs freshly blessed and all, let us consider what it might mean for our own hearts to return afresh to the discipline of Christ and the community of his commands. May we seek his grace and so rule in our hearts , seeking to extend his love to all in our midst, prepared to reflect the fullness of who we are which is the beloved Body of Christ.
To Him be all glory, from age to age. Amen.
The Very Rev. David Bumsted
Emmanuel Episcopal Church