Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. I’m not sure when and where I first heard that phrase, but it has always stuck with me. Perhaps it was on the playground during a game of dodgeball. It may have been a line from a popular song or movie from my childhood. Regardless of its origins, it is a quote I think about often when I revisit today’s passage from Luke 12.
The scripture finds Jesus among the multitudes using his favorite teaching tool, a parable, to offer guidance about how to prepare for the coming of the “Son of Man.” Jesus uses the example of slaves (some translations say “servants”) preparing for their master to return from a wedding banquet not knowing when he will return. Those who stay up and keep watch will be rewarded for their diligence.
I find this passage challenging. I am the direct descendant of enslaved peoples who came to the United States as part of the transatlantic slave trade. Any talk of the master-slave dynamic immediately makes me uncomfortable as I consider the unspeakable horrors my family was subjected to under the system of chattel slavery. Yet, I also believe that we are called, like Jacob, to wrestle with God as we make meaning of the biblical narrative and let it speak to us.
So what does this parable have to say to those of us sacrificing certainty today? Jesus’ instructions provide us with a blueprint for action. While we patiently wait for God’s revelation, our task is to go about the work of serving others with gratitude. The best way to prepare for the in-breaking of the kingdom of God is to practice by building the Beloved Community with one another right now.
And so we keep watch, knowing that change for the better is coming. We keep watch, sacrificing certainty for a new revelation of God’s vision for a more loving world.
The prophet Isaiah brings a harsh message to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Although they are performing sacrifices and observing feasts, they have lost their heart for God. God wants no more meaningless sacrifices but instead wants the people to repent. The psalmist proclaims a similar message from God. The people’s sacrifices have become pointless because the people have forgotten God. The primary offerings that God desires are thanksgiving and ethical living. The author of Hebrews sounds a note of harmony, emphasizing that Abraham’s faith in action—not his performance of religious duties—brings him favor with God. Jesus teaches that we cannot rest on our laurels of simply “having faith.” Instead we should remain vigilant and continue to perform acts of charity, including caring for the poor, as a response to our faith.
Read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. Consider the author’s difficult questions: Is there blood on your hands? Does your worship lead you to acts of mercy and justice?
Read Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23. How do you “bring Thanksgiving as [your] sacrifice” and “go the right way”?
Read Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. How do you demonstrate faith as a verb, not just a noun?
Read Luke 12:32-40. God promises us a bountiful kingdom, but we cannot take our worldly possessions there. How do you work toward living as if you are already in God’s bountiful kingdom? How do you help to create it?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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