PENTECOST 9 Proper 14 Year C
Gen. 15:1-6; Psalm 33:12-22; Hebrews 11:1-3; 8-16; Luke 12:32-40
Christ Episcopal Church
Sunday, August 11, 2019
The Rev. Janet B. Campbell
“You [also] must be ready,
for the Son of Man is coming
at an unexpected hour.”
expected the return of Jesus
in their own lifetime.
this they eagerly awaited,
this they looked longingly toward,
this that shaped their daily lives in hope.
The things the world deems indispensable,
the treasures of wealth, position, power,
held little importance
for those expecting a new creation
established in God’s justice and peace.
“Sell your possessions, and give alms,”
Jesus told them,
“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.”
The parable of the slaves
waiting for the master’s return
urges and warns
those waiting early church communities
to be alert and ready,
“. . . dressed for action and [with] lamps lit.”
Their ancestors in faith,
the people of Israel,
believed the long-awaited Messiah
would finally come to redeem God’s people
on the night of the Passover,
the ritual meal celebrating
God’s liberation of Israel
from slavery in Egypt.
For the early Christians
that expectation was transferred
to the night of the Christian Passover,
the Paschal Feast,
the Easter Vigil liturgy celebrating
the liberation of God’s people
from the power of sin and death
through the dying and rising of Jesus.
Versions of the parable
of the waiting slaves
appear in the gospels of
Matthew, Mark and Luke,
but Luke, as he often does,
has added allusions
to the church’s worship,
for it is in worship
that the waiting community,
gathered around Word and Sacrament,
experiences the presence of Christ
in its midst,
in the present.
We’ve seen that clearly
in Luke’s story
of the road to Emmaus,
which reflects the shape
of the Church’s eucharistic celebration.
The grieving disciples
recognize the risen Christ
in the Scriptures he opens to them
on the road
and the bread he breaks for them
In a similar,
although more subtle way,
Luke links the parable
of the waiting slaves
to the Paschal liturgy
and the community’s hope
for the final coming of Christ.
“Be dressed for action . . . “
or as some translations have it,
“Let your loins be girded . . .
God’s instructions [Exodus 12.11]
to the children of Israel
about to embark on their exodus from Egypt:
“This is how you shall eat[the Passover lamb],” God said,
“your loins girded,
your sandals on your feet,
and your staff in your hand . . .”
The crucifixion of Jesus, the lamb of God,
which happened at the Passover,
was also referred to
as his “exodus” or his “departure.”[e.g. The Transfiguration Luke 9.31]
“ . . . have your lamps lit;”
for it is the dark night of vigil, of waiting,
for the Sun of Righteousness to arise.
“Be like those who are waiting
for their master to return
from the wedding banquet . . .”
The wedding banquet,
another name for the heavenly banquet
the kingdom feast
to which the risen Christ ascended
and from which he would return,
and another name
for the Church’s Eucharistic feast,
a foretaste of that banquet.
And so the early Church kept vigil
on the night of the annual Paschal Feast
expecting, each year,
the final coming of the Christ
And when he did not return literally,
once and for all, when expected . . .
(for hadn’t he said he would be coming
at an “unexpected hour”?)
the Church celebrated the Eucharist,
his continual coming
in the sacrament of his Body and Blood
to feed with his own self
a people hungering
for justice and peace.
And so the promise was fulfilled:
“. . . [the master] will fasten his belt
and have them sit down to eat,
and he will come and serve them.”
Sunday by Sunday,
week after week,
wherever Christians gather
the world around
that promise is ever fulfilled.
Through the bread and the wine,
things seen and tasted,
God’s waiting people
receive the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.
Like our ancestors of old
and all their descendants,
as many as the stars in the heavens,
we live by faith in a promise:
“Do not be afraid, little flock,
for it is your Father’s good pleasure
to give you the kingdom.”
“All of these ancestors died in faith
without having received the promises,
but from a distance
they saw and greeted them.”
Abraham obeyed when he was called
to set out for a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
and he set out,
not knowing where he was going.”
we travel through life
not knowing moment to moment
where we are going . . .
yes, we know we are going
to church, or to school, or to work,
or to the movies, or to the park, or to brunch . . .
But where are we truly going?
We are warned and urged to be
dressed for action
alert and ready
and with our lamps lit
because we are not mistaken
about the urgency of our times . . .
this critical and scary moment
in the life of our country,
the life of the nations,
the life of the creation.
Where are we going
how do we find our way
through the turmoil and darkness?
Our destination is God’s kingdom,
the promised land
of justice and peace . . .
and the way of Jesus
is the way for us.
The way of Jesus,
deep, loving, courageous,
with the problems of this world,
the violence and injustice,
the folly and cruelty . . .
From a distance we see
and greet the coming kingdom
as we journey
toward its promise.
While the concern of Christian living
in times past
seemed to be all about getting out of this life
and making it to heaven
Our focus is
going deeper into this life,
into this life,
becoming heaven in this life,
in faith looking for,
God’s emerging kingdom
in the here and now . . .
because of us.
Faith is doing what is good and right
whether or not we think
it will make any difference.
For God will put the good and right we do
usually in ways we cannot see or know.
what God needs to
build the kingdom . . .
feeding people who are hungry,
housing people who have no home,
welcoming people fleeing from danger,
challenging political and social systems
that do not serve those for whom
they were created,
praying and working and hoping toward
a society of justice and peace
with no guarantee
we will see the results,
that it is God’s good pleasure
to give us the kingdom.
From a distance,
through the eyes of faith,
we see it,
and greet it,
and, in hope,
live as if it were already here.
For though life is fearful,
it is good,
and it is beautiful,
and there is joy
in our companionship
There is joy in Christ,
who has not yet returned
finally to establish God’s reign
yet every Sunday, in every Eucharist
is already and always with us:
In this the promise is already fulfilled:
“. . . [the master] will have us
sit down to eat,
and he will come and serve us.”
Christ, the promise, the strength, the courage,
the encouragement, the consolation, the gratitude,
for our hard work of the week past,
our hard work of the week ahead.
Christ our life, Christ our joy.