Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, Luke 12:32-40
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen
It is difficult to believe that the beginning of a new school year is nearly upon us. For the past several weeks we have seen advertisements for back-to-school specials and have noticed the aisles stocked with school supplies at the stores where we shop. We have been helping Christian Community Services Center (CCSC) in their back-to-school drive. In a few weeks, we will be blessing all our students and teachers for another year as Houston area schools begin. We even have students in north Houston that are starting school on Monday. Though it may seem too soon, another school year is upon us whether we want it to be or not.
All this school-orientated activity might cause some of us to remember our school years—with both fondness and horror. I remember my high school calculus class. Our teacher had the habit of teaching us a math concept, giving us an assignment, and then leaving the room. Once the teacher left, the room would break out into a discord of activity—very little of which was related to doing our assignment ranging from talking about the latest gossip to others sleeping in class. Those moments of absence were a mixture of fun and fear. Some class members enjoyed pushing the envelope and seeing what they could get by with. But if that teacher ever caught us not doing our assigned work, the wrath of that teacher was a horror to behold.
Our gospel story today plays out in a similar scene to our nostalgic classroom. The master is away, and the servants are entrusted to be about their work while gone. Some prove worthy of that trust and others don’t. What lessons do we learn from our classroom experience and the gospel story, and how do we apply them to our lives?
We don’t need to come down too hard on the servants in the story. Those who weren’t prepared when the master returned probably didn’t intend to be unprepared. They simply became distracted. We can understand their predicament. In the classroom the conversations that are occurring around us are distracting. The blank piece of paper that needs to be doodled on instead of the assignment is distracting. The world outside the classroom window is distracting. We want to be good students, but we get distracted.
Many of us go through life like workers on our morning commute. To get to work, they need to drive long distances focusing on the road conditions. While they drive, however, they are talking on cell phones, text messaging, putting on makeup, reading the latest news, or eating breakfast and drinking a hot cup of coffee. An accident happens, but they didn’t mean for it to happen. They got distracted.
We’d like to be better disciples of Jesus Christ, but we get distracted. There are the demands of work, school, chauffeuring the kids to their various activities, home chores, family obligations, bills that need to be paid, the need to catch up on rest and the latest show, and soon football season. It is difficult to stay focused.
Our troubles may begin with our attempts to lead a balanced life instead of a centered life. A balanced life has many goals and seeks to attain them all at the same time. We have goals of being a good Christian, a good worker, a good spouse, a good parent, physically fit, and a connoisseur of life. A centered life has one goal. We are disciples of Jesus Christ we seek to live out that reality in our work, our home, and our social life.
As often been said, “It’s not about us, it’s about God.” Like the servants in the story, our calling is to serve the master. The challenge before us is to live out our calling without being diverted from our task by distractions.
Jesus reminds the disciples (and us) of God’s grace and love for them as he tells them how they can look to the future without fear. Jesus adds: “Be dressed ready for action and keep your lamps burning.” We must remind ourselves to keep the lamps burning was a job that took diligence, very different from today. They didn’t flip any switches or replace bulbs when they burned out. They had little oil lamps and lousy wicks, you might say, compared to today where we use light bulbs that last for two or three years. Not so with these oil lamps and wicks. They didn’t have matches to light them, so they had to make sure that at least one lamp was burning or a fire so they could relight the lamp. They didn’t burn that long, so they had to replace the oil and relight them to keep them burning. But there was a purpose–it reminded them they were always watching and always prepared.
There are ways to help us focus. Worship, fellowship, service, study, singing, and prayer are Christian disciplines that enable us to be persistent in our tasks. We are challenged to be creative in being disciples of Jesus Christ in our work and play every day. These do not need to be distractions, but opportunities to live out our faith. If we are living out our faith as disciples of Jesus Christ—not playing around while the teacher is out of the room—we have no need to fear.
Today, Jesus says to each of us, “Fear not, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom, a kingdom that is yet to come.” True, there are going to be tough and difficult days. Our earthly future may not be so rosy; but our eternal future, he says, is what is important. We know there are all kinds of temptations. The Lord says
there is trouble in this world. The life-giving gospel is this, Jesus has overcome the troubles of this world you, for me, and the whole of humankind. He has overcome sin, death, and the power of the devil and has given us that gift. So until Jesus comes, we are to be alert for Jesus’ return without fear of the future. God’s future is certain. God’s kingdom is our kingdom. We are called to always be prepared. We are to be alert without fear and help our neighbors in preparing them for Jesus’ return.
We may try and fail, but we know we are forgiven. We will try again because we know that faithful, persistent discipleship will transform our lives, our families, our community, and our world. So, “Fear not, little flock, for the kingdom is yours.”
Let us pray: Blessed are you, O God. You have given us this planet as a home to cherish and care for. While we are stewards of this world, show us the work that we must do, and give us the tools we need to accomplish your mission in the world. And give us a hint of the joy to come, that we might be sustained in our hope of the world to come, this we ask in Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.