Except that the gospel reading I just reflected upon was from several weeks ago. Oops. My bad.
So, this is today’s gospel reading, Luke 12:32–40, for the twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Year C), according to the Revised Common Lectionary.
32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:32–40 ESV)
What does it mean to be ready? To stay awake? To be dressed for action and to keep our lamps burning? To fear not?
Sure, it means to pray, and worship, and teach, and baptize — because, as the next section of Luke (which is not included in the lectionary) states, the wise manager is one the master sets over the household, and who treats his calling with the responsibility to merits — caring for the servants under him and “giving them their portion of food at the proper time.” (Luke 12:42)
To stay awake to do our master’s work — to care for the poor, to live in charity with each other, to forgive the sins of our sisters and brothers, to love our enemies and serve them, to cast out demons and to heal, to bear witness to him who came and lived and did all these things among us, to confess that
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!
And to trust God in all things. Including our provision.
To be awake, to live without fear, to keep our lamps burning, is to do these things seeing Christ in all we love, knowing the Master will come at any time. Knowing the master may already be in our midst.
To sleep, then, to fail to be ready, is to think we have time to spare, time to “beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk.” (Luke 12:45) It is to fail to live conscious of both Christ’s presence in our midst and his immanent return (he is both here right now and not quite yet.)
To be ready is not to be pure. It is to love, remembering that we are conquered and occupied, ruled by our enemies. It is those enemies who rule us, brutally, that we are to respond in love to. We cannot be pure — we cannot find a bunker or a monastery or an enclave or a tiny duchy to hide in and hope to live untainted by a fallen, sinful, vicious world until Christ comes. We live in that world, and we love in the world, and while we are to love each other — a mutual self-giving — we specifically love strangers and enemies as a people who will likely not return that love.
Love our neighbors and our enemies. That’s how we get ready. That’s how we keep our lamps burning and stay awake.