Be Ready & Vigilant

19th Sunday Ordinary Time August 8 2010
Hebrews 11: 1-2, 8-12. Luke 12: 35-40
Tony van Vuuren.

What awaits us in our future? Today’s scripture readings put that question to us: What does the future hold in store for us? What awaits us when we die? Is whatever it is, determined by what we did or didn’t do in this life? These should be meaningful questions that we face today and in all the days of our lives.

Jesus talked with His disciples (and we are His disciples) about the future, telling them they were to face it not with fear, but with hope and in the spirit of positive expectancy. But how can we live in a world with a future that is unknown?

 Only by living it in faith; our Faith, our firm belief in the truth of all we have learned about God and our relationship with Him, Faith, which is a free gift from God; received through our baptism.

The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” 

Faith is not something that belongs only to religion; it belongs to everyday living. Each and every day we take risks and act on probabilities, very seldom on certainties!

Still, we as believers can see what is not yet visible to the eye because we see with the eyes of faith.

But how do we know that Christ is standing with us, while we are struggling to respond to difficult situations that severely test us?  So often we seem to be absolutely alone!

 Let’s reflect on Abraham as an example of someone who trusted God in an impossible situation. He believed even when, from all appearances, there seemed to be no way God was going to be faithful to him.  If he relied only on what he could see and what his reasoning could tell him, he might as well have given up on God.  But his unyielding faith kept him strong.  He had a lamp of faith burning through the dark nights of testing and doubt. That’s the kind of faith Jesus invites us into when he says, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock.

Most of us have known people who have lived or are living the faith these scriptures describe; people who are been severely tested by loss or tragedy to themselves or loved ones. Yet somehow, in the face of their hardships, they haven’t given up on God. Even when the evidence against such faith rose like a tidal wave before their eyes! Still, they trust and their faith gives them “evidence of things not seen.” When we undergo such trials, even those closest to us might challenge our persistence and faith. We can’t prove with concrete evidence the validity of our faith. But on the other hand, how often is our faith reaffirmed for us;

through prayers answered; surviving a near death experience; unexpectedly experiencing kindness and generosity; there is the story of an international cricketer whose blind father died on the eve of a test match and the cricketer said he would nevertheless play in the test because it would be the first time that his father would see him play!; and so on;

 we all have our own experiences to remind us.

The Lead SA campaign launched this week needs our moral support and prayers to restore our faith in our beautiful country; a faith that was kindled during the world cup.

We can trust, as our ancestors did, the One who has promised to be with us, and give us courage to take one more bold step, growing ever stronger on our journey of faith.

And it is through Luke’s travelogue that we continue to accompany Jesus on the road to Jerusalem today, together with the disciples. He has been telling them what to expect and certainly, when they get to Jerusalem, they will experience a lot there to frighten them. 

When bad things happen to us, or when following Jesus causes opposition and revilement, then we are easily liable to shift our attention off Jesus, lose faith in his accompanying Spirit and become fixed on the troubles at hand.  To help us cope with this Jesus encourages us in these sayings and parables today to stay watchful, faithful and prepared.

The parable of the servants waiting for their master’s return is about the fulfillment of the promise God made to the persevering and long-suffering faithful ones proclaimed by our first two readings. The parable suggests that those who waited in diligent faith were not disappointed and have seen God’s promises fulfilled in Jesus’ arrival.

And now the first generations of Christians, like Luke’s hearers, had to be encouraged to stay alert and ready for Jesus’ return. Jesus makes a promise to his vigilant disciples: that when he does return those who faithfully fulfilled their responsibilities, would be well cared for by the master. Illustrated by the reversal of roles explained in the Parable: the newly-returned master waiting on table, serving his faithful servants — surprising treatment that servants would not normally picture for themselves!

So here we are this evening, gathered in worship, trying to be faithful and alert–as the parable encourages; but we are not Luke’s original readers. It’s just short of 2000 years since Jesus’ departure; but we still sorely need the faith which Hebrews proclaims, “to have Faith is to be sure of the things we hope for and to be certain of the things we cannot see!”

 It is that faith and hope that sustains us as we wait for the Master; Jesus Christ. We mustn’t give up on him; because, despite our long term struggles, both as a church and individuals, we still find an unexplainable joy and confidence in our faith.

We still have hope that what we are experiencing now is not the totality of our lives.

Meanwhile, we are called to continue our journey, like Abraham and Sarah, “not knowing” where we will wind up, but confident in the Master’s presence already with us, serving us, as He does today at the Eucharist; in faith, placing Himself in our hands with the belief in His heart that we accept Him in love and with a firm purpose to live as He would have us live.

Last week we were told that there may never be a warning sign to our natural deaths and this week we are told that there may never be a warning sign to the second coming of Christ. Jesus may come unexpectedly like a thief in the night, and break through the walls we have surrounded ourselves with. Be ready and vigilant!

We are faced with multiple choices to make each day, which may seem singularly insignificant; however they often add up to pointing us in particular directions.

 Sometimes good directions. Sometimes bad directions. Are our many everyday decisions pointing us in the direction of making us ready? Are they helping us to get prepared not only for the possibility of death; but for the Second Coming?

Is our relationship with God, our behavior in our homes, in our workplace, in our recreation, and with our neighbor; as such that we would change nothing in it, if we were told by God that we were to be called tonight?

If it is, then thank God for it and keep on going. If not, then let’s not wait for God to tell us; He won’t. Put things right today, and then we need not worry when our call to judgment comes.

 

Death will be graduation day for the good Christian; not examination day.

 Jesus warns; “You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

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