Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Monday, 30 August 2010

Morning Prayer - 1 Thessalonians 5:5

You are all children of light and children of the day.
We are not of the night nor of darkness.

Morning Prayer -Jeremiah 15:16

When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight,

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Take a Seat

Gospel Luke 14:1,7-14

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

Interesting that this Gospel comes in the exam season; a time when the hierarchy of life first starts to raise its ugly head in earnest. Whether it’s places at Grammar schools, counting A stars in GCSE’s or UMS points for university places. Young people begin to understand that we may have all been born equal but that that equality does not last long.

The world all too quickly becomes a place for haves and have-nots; houses, holidays, cars, driving lessons, friends in high places, faces that fit. And into this melee we try to find a seat with our name on it. And we hope that the seat is at least more than halfway up the table and that we find ourselves sitting with people who are on our level; who are like us.

Which is, of course the other thing - that we often seek out those who are ‘like us’; from football teams to music preferences to the language we speak to the colour of our skin to our abilities and disabilities; it is so much for comfortable to be with people who remind us of us; who remind us of what we like about us.
What follows then is ‘them and us’ and all the many reasons to criticise other people’s behaviour, lifestyle, attitude simply because they are ‘them’ and not ‘us’. What starts as opportunities for hospitality and sharing, is quickly given over to judgement and confirmation of status.

This behaviour, this attitude, this way of thinking has gone on since humanity began living in community and those that study community and society would probably say that, whilst seeking common ground is preferable, in the main, group identity is a good thing; judging others is unavoidable; conflict and exclusion is humanity’s way of dealing with what is strange and unknown.

Well, maybe it used to be, but someone came along and modelled another way of looking at people; of deciding status; of judging others; by not doing it.

Jesus looks into our hearts. And in there, somewhere below the critical, damaged, sinful, proud, poverty stricken layers is that Divine spark that makes us God’s. That’s the ‘us’ that Jesus sees; the ‘us’ that is undeniably beautiful, unique and ‘connected’.

In the weekday Gospel readings, Jesus has been rebuking the Pharisees for their measured hypocrisy; using the Law to exclude those it was intended to protect; protecting the self-serving behaviour it was meant to exclude. The word ‘hypocrites’ is a theatrical word for those who wear a mask. The world can easily become a masquerade ball with only the privileged few invited.

But then we all have a mask of some kind or other; and for some of us they are very elaborate indeed; combining all the elements of status and authority that we need to take the right place in the theatre of life.
Jesus is sitting at the back in the cheap seats and shouting at us to come and join him. But would you be prepared to give up your seat?
Jesus loves us all, but he shows a fondness for honest people, or rather people who are honestly themselves; the poor, the unclean, the lame – the ones who have given up wearing the masks of society. Even the rich can be honest, although it may be more difficult; but Jesus makes friends across the width, depth and breadth of society. He will sit with the greatest and the least; providing food and family. The celebration of the Eucharist tells us this is true. All are welcome and there is room for all.

Interesting, as well, that it would have been Mother Teresa’s 100th birthday last week; for she lived by this Gospel. Moving herself further and further down the table; until there was no-one in her eyes who was beneath her.

She said that people imagined that the role of her and her sisters was to care for the poor; it wasn’t – it was to fulfil the Great Commandments; the definition of hospitality - to love as Jesus loves.


Saturday, 28 August 2010

Night Prayer -Deuteronomy 6:4-7

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your strength. Let these words be written on your heart.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Feast of St Monica

Psalm 131

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,

Like a weaned child with his mother;

Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
Amongst others, St Monica is the patron saint of abuse victims; difficult marriages; disappointing children; mothers; victims of unfaithfulness; victims of verbal abuse and widows.
In other words, I suppose, the patron saint of those who refuse to give up even when love is not lovely; who know how suffering and love can exist in the same breath and who actually do believe that love will conquer all. And the fact that it took Monica so many years of prayer and tears gives comfort to those whose love is driven by perseverance and hope.
The readings for today are all about this maternal and wifely devotion; some of the images having me feeling distinctly way down the 'good wife and mother' scale. But I am not just a wife and mother; I am also a grandmother and this evening I sat during the service with my 'nearly two years old' granddaughter fast asleep in my lap; her usually super-energised body heavy and warm against my chest; curls flopped over her eyes; bottom lip turned out in a pout; absolutely beautiful.
And I heard this line from the psalm - and I heard, particularly 'weaned'.
Like her own mother, my granddaughter was breastfed, which means a relationship where the very life of the child depends on just one person; even a few hours apart puts her and the mother in distress. The emotional umbilical cord remains intact, creating real physical discomfort. Two are, in all realities, still one; like ourselves when we live in integrity with who we are; with ourselves, with God.
But we grow; and we grow- one becomes two; independence is the aim and weaning is the first step. Because a weaned child is a child not longer dependent on her mother. A weaned child simply needs someone to provide nourishment and care. ~And if you are like my confident, outgoing, daredevil of child -it doesn't really matter who or where that food and care comes from. And that, of course, can be tempting, exciting and bad for our health. God also doesn't tie us with apronstrings; growing up spiritually means making our own decisions about what feeds us, nutures us which also can be tempting, exciting and bad for our spirit.
But we do not live on bread alone and when a weaned child needs a place to sleep, to be comforted, to be held securely, when she becomes frantic with 'over-tiredness' or 'too-muchness' she will return to a more instinctive nature; where is the love? Where is the connection; where is the relationship? In a room full of people, only one or two will do; and it is her choice. And it is amazing how great a privilege it feels when you are the chosen.
And this is how God is with us. It may seem one-sided that we come to times in our lives when we realise that only God will do; only His arms are strong enough; only His hands can give comfort; only His voice takes away the pain. But no, to give yourself into God's arms because that is where you want to be; to trust in God because that is your choice; to rest in God because God is Love, gives God that same sense of privilege; of delight in welcome; of being the Chosen.
When we choose God, our soul is calmed and quietened.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


Mindfulness is not about simply being quiet or still. It is about finding a centre within you and filling it with grace.

Then, just as a glass tumbler filled with clear water becomes a magnifying glass so this grace filled centre becomes a way of seeing the world through God's eyes. It concentrates the gaze and gives a sparkle and a unique lightness to everything it sees,no matter how small or mundane.

When you are quiet or still; this is simple to achieve with time. The trick is to take that tumblerful of clear water and start carrying around with you wherever you go; using it to concentrate your vision; to see within.

 And there will be distractions but don't worry too much about spilling it; especially when the droplets become tiny lens themselves finding treasures of their own. And remember it is there for you to drink from, should you need to; with an eternal invitation to return to the Source to be filled again.


Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Monk in the Modern World

In response to (trying to) live contemplatively in the modern world-

Not of this world

The Matrix woke me up
Its own worst enemy
Asking me the question
Red or Blue?
Of this world, or not?

I chose - Red
I chose - Not

To cling to imaginary lives
Digitally created
In plasma
But not blood.

To be an avatar
Living out on the broadband
Virtually but not quite

To be a Warhol exhibit
Fifteen minutes in eternity
Is not for me
I have other plans.

I chose - Not.


Sunday, 22 August 2010

Tough Love Luke 13:22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men !”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

This is the Jesus we don’t like to hear from too often; the Jesus who seems to go back on everything that he has promised; forgiveness, worthiness, rooms in the Father’s mansion. Well,yes, but only if you can get through the narrow door. God wills that all will be saved; but there seems to be lots of exceptions all of a sudden and it’s a bit of a shock to the system.

A difficult Gospel to unwind until I thought about the time of year that we are in. Exam results! It’s during the month of August that parents and young people discover what the waiting game is all about. The dates that seemed so far off at the end of the school year; suddenly are looming large. The confidence that you’d done enough to pass; suddenly is fading into anxious memories of lessons missed and questions left unanswered. The decisions made in the surety of success are now overwhelmed with ‘what if’s’.

Parents remembering the hope and ambitions that they had for their children stay awake at night considering strategies and regretting every night they let them go out with their mates or watch ‘Big Brother’. The questions come one after the other; too lenient, too ambitious, not ambitious enough?

And I take no pleasure in this – being one of those parents with one of those young people.

Eventually though, there comes a point for parents when you cannot do any more for your child; and it may not be exams; it may be friendships; money issues; job applications; sports ambitions. Eventually you have to come down of the side of that strange emotion ‘tough love’. Knowing that you have done all you can – it is now ‘up to them’. And whatever happens next is in that knowledge; it is love – and, especially when the outcome may not be what they want - it is tough.

Otherwise, you are left being the parent of a adult ‘baby’, wanting the world and having no idea how to get it; wasting their lives and blaming it on everyone except themselves.

The promise of salvation is a wonderful gift; the thought of all those rules we never needed to follow; all those rooms – surely one with our name on; a God who has promised us so much even though we are not worthy. Having sat and listened to the Good News; it would be simple to live in expectation of Heaven.

But could it really be that easy? Should it be that easy? After all that God has offered us would it not seem reasonable that we should be taking a bit of responsibility.

Jesus has spent most of Luke’s Gospel teaching us how to be disciples; we have the theory; we have sat and listened; we have been there whilst he was speaking. Perhaps we have not realised that there will be a ‘test’. That the test is the day to day living of our life.

The theory is not the answer; it simply gives us the method; we have to put words into practice. To get up from our place at the Master’s feet and walk the walk. It’s like piling the shelves up with self-help guides to health, happiness and love and never trying any of it because the time is not right; like buying a membership to a gym and promising ourselves to go ‘tomorrow’. The things that belong to ‘tomorrow’ are the very things that will weigh us down; distract us and stop us from being able to enter by the narrow door.

If we wish to cross the threshold we need something more than ‘we know how to do it-we just haven’t ever got round to it’.

Jesus appears to have had his moments as an unruly child and a stroppy teenager,  and been on the receiving end of obviously loving but firm parenting, and has the measure of most of humanity. We like the Good News; we like the promise it offers and we like the idea of it being handed to us on a plate.

Nothing worth having is that easy. At least the warning has been given. The teacher, having given his lesson, warns us that we also have to do the homework, the revision and the practical.

Warnings we are used to in all other aspects of learning and they are given with love; Jesus paints the blackest of pictures and gives the darkest of threats because of ‘tough love’ –it’s the last place he wants us to be and the very last thing he wants to hear is weeping and grinding of teeth – but at the end of the day – it is up to us.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Feast of the Assumption

Once there was only one feast day for Mary – New Years Day- The Day for Peace in acknowledgement of the arrival of the Prince of Peace. In the Roman Catholic Church today, Mary the Mother of God has 19 Feast Days, the month of May, October dedicated to the Rosary and all the Saturdays in the year for Marian devotion.

No wonder that Catholics are considered as much Marian as they are Christian.

What is it about Mary?

The Assumption is one of Mary’s great feasts and celebrates the love and continuing faith of the family that she was asked to care for. Because, despite the glorious imagination of the Renaissance artists there were no eyewitnesses to the Assumption; no sightings of angels, no rolling clouds of white or trumpets of gold - there was no proof.

It is the apostolic tradition that tells us what happened; in fact we have the tardy and still doubtful Thomas to thank. Tradition tells that the Holy Spirit had gathered the apostles together for Mary’s burial but that, somehow, Thomas was late; three days late; and insisted on opening the tomb to give his respects. And when the stone was rolled away….

Through prayer the Early Church decided that Mary, a woman they had known as mother, disciple and friend, had been taken to her place in Heaven – a place that had been promised to us all.

Assumption is not the same as resurrection, Mary did not return to life on earth. But her mortal death had become more of a ‘falling asleep’ that lifted the veil and allowed her to continue her journey to heaven. (a phrase that is still used for the death of the faithful – in fact a guide at the catacombs in Rome told me that the Christians changed the name of the places where people were buried from necropolis - ‘city of the dead’ to cemetery - ‘place of sleeping’ in sure and certain hope that it was not the end). The Eastern Church has followed this understanding since early times and names it ‘The Dormition’, early imagery showing Mary wrapped in her burial clothes whilst the apostles stand in prayer.

So it was believed – by the family of God that Mary loved, that this had happened; that Mary, having lived her full, faithful and natural life had gone immediately into the arms of her son. And even without the various decrees by the various Popes; the depth of faith that this happened is all the Church has ever needed for it to be true.

Truth, without proof, why not? After all, a faith you have to prove isn’t faith, it’s a theory.

Of course, if Mary had truly been ‘just another woman’ the tomb would have remained closed; we would be none the wiser. If Mary was simply put on this earth to provide the means to incubate God into his human form – if it was all preordained then how can we support such a devotion. How does one feast day turn into so many? Because she was not, is not, just an incubator. Try saying that to any mother.

Some people believe that devotion to Mary replaces that lack of a feminine sense of God in our culture. I have no doubts that God has a distinctly feminine side, I usually experience her in the instinctive and impulsive will of the Holy Spirit, just as she was described in the Wisdom Scripture of the Old Testament. There’s one thing you can say about God – God is big - and God the Mother can be as awesomely unfathomable as God the Father; and sometimes we may need someone who’s just one of us. I was reminded just last week how I would flatly refuse to say prayers to Mary because she wasn’t God. Amazing how sound the theology of a five year old can be. And in fact that has always been my issue with Mary’s reputation – that not only is she not God – but that it is incredibly important how ordinarily human she is.

As a young, young girl, it was the nice ‘Mary’ things that I remember, the May processions, singing ‘Flowers of the rarest’ and scattering rose petals. Important in its own way when even the most ungainly and cockeyed girl (of which I was one) became an angel under the eyes of God’s own mother. But she was a bit ‘up there’ enthroned as she usually was in the Gothic marble and gold of the Mary chapel.

I was about 10 or 11 when I first realised that there was something more to her.

At the weekend I would go to my nan’s – a whole two streets away! She worked like a Trojan and made sure I did too – there were jobs for each day and if I had nothing to do I would be sent to Mrs so and so’s to see if she needed anything.

Except now and again she would reach the end of her tether and go - just gone. I discovered that she went to church. In those days church was a 24 hours a day, sanctuary for many and there she was sitting in candlelight in the Mary chapel, her rosary running through her fingers like a cat’s cradle. I sidled in next to her and sat quietly. This was a totally different atmosphere to what I was used to. And Mary was different; instead of the regal Queen of Heaven she seemed to be reaching down; her own rosary in her hand, to share in whatever was bothering my nan. And we sat there, the three of us, until the air had cleared and my nan stood up, fastened her coat, lit a candle and we set off home. My nan, who had never studied scripture or biblical history, knew Mary as a mother like herself, as someone who had not had an easy life; who knew the pain of having a family as well as the joy and who knew the sacrifices that came from love.

Some of this I have come to appreciate in hindsight; but what I did realise at the time was that Mary was not a plaster saint. And that mothers are very complex creatures.

They say that you never really understand someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. I think that counts for saints as well. I have lots of saints that I count as friends now and all of them have come from the experience of some shared encounter.

With Mary, it was growing up and realising that I was not in control.

Because there was a time when I believed I was. I imagined my life was all about my choices and decisions; even when they weren’t I could find some way of reconciling them into my own grand plan or hiding them in that dark place that we all have for things we don’t want to deal with.

I hadn’t given up on God, although He was also ‘by appointment only’. The Mass was just an hour out of my week. My faith was still aged about 10, it had never grown up. I knew I needed to develop the relationship; I needed to renew contact. So I started to use meditation, to pray and began to study scripture. And I started far away from God – I didn’t want to catch his eye just yet… I wanted to be prepared – to be in control.

I learnt about the girl who agreed to be the Mother of God. The cultural consequences of Mary’s ‘yes’ in the society she lived in;

the humility that allowed her to put herself, her whole self in God’s hands –

the letting go of control – ‘Your will be done’.

The courage to face the unknown;

the wisdom that it is not all about her.

‘The Almighty has done great things for me….. He has come to the help of Israel his servant’ – that she knows that her ‘prize’ is for us.

This is what we like to imagine we would do, knowing that we would probably be the ‘yes, but’ instead. This surrender is what earns Mary her place in people’s hearts. The surrender, the strength and, I imagine, the stubborn will, of this lowly handmaid that has supported my Nan became an inspiration to me.

And so, I sit with Mary and I pray. And she sits wil me and just allows the prayers to go straight through her to where they were meant to be. I have a wonderful, loving relationship with God now and in many ways it is thanks to Mary.

How many times do we do that? Rely on mothers to be the go-between, to be that space between the awkward moments; the shameful sorry’s; the regretted challenges? And as I have become a mother and a grandmother, what better friend in faith could I have than this little, old Palestinian lady who nursed the Church, until her own deathbed.

I think a lot of people can get to this point of understanding Mary and why she is honoured. How many of us would say ‘yes’ and bear the consequences with such surrender? How many would be prepared to be treated as ‘just another woman’ even by her own son and yet to have been the person who brought him up; walked beside him in everything he did; who was his mother. His humanity reflects the courage and humility that was hers.

And is where I had got to and this, a few weeks ago is where I would stop. But the Gospel changes every time you read it and after being asked to talk about it this time I painted a set of Russian Dolls with the aspects of Mary with Jesus being the last little figure within her. And I thought, cleverly to myself – through Mary to Jesus. But then one morning at St Michaels in the morning chapel – where the statue of Mary points towards Jesus, still thinking I had ‘it’. And I caught Jesus’ eye and realised that it isn’t just about him – it’s even bigger than that – because where does Jesus always point to?

The Christian message tells us to follow Christ to his Father; to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Our God is Trinity, the Trinity show God’s need to be in a interactive, interdependent, loving relationship; Mary is the one who proves that we are included in that relationship.

This immense, all mighty and all powerful God; beyond our imagining; beyond our comprehension is only interested in one thing – Love.

When God says; I will be your God and you will be my people; it sounds like an order, a command but it isn’t – it’s a desire.

How many of us have ever suffered from unrequited love? The pain where every atom of your soul loves every atom of theirs; where you live in constant anticipation of catching their eye and yet they don’t even notice you, or worse, think of you ‘as a friend’. That’s how God loves us, millions of times over and thousands of years long.

And you can’t say that God hasn’t tried.

He made covenants and we made excuses.
He dressed Jerusalem like a bride and covered her in jewels but she still turns away –
even God had to accept that you cannot make anyone love you.
Nevertheless since our exile from the Garden; it has been in God’s mind to redeem us – to get us back. But for us to be God’s people, the family that Christ spoke of - is our choice.

And he only needed one person to say ‘yes’.

The image of Jesus, as a tiny helpless baby in the arms of a human woman is astonishing but one we have become to understand as part of the Incarnation. How else could God become fully God, fully Man. That’s a big thing, we think, for God to do that.

But there is even more to it than that.

When the question was asked of Mary – it wasn’t just the offering of a part of God to humanity. It was all of God – God had nothing left to bargain with except himself.

Let me love you so much that I would give you my Son.

The Almighty Father bowed his Will, the Spirit held back her influences and the Word held his breath for this was not his word to speak – and waited.

God surrendered all that he was; all that they are, and Mary said ‘yes’ and she meant it; she will live and die it; there will be no turning back; no yes but.

The lowly handmaid says ‘yes’ and humanity rejoins the dance; she becomes the first step into our promise of redemption, that Christ will come and reconcile us to the Father; she is the first but by no means the last.

It has always be so important to me that she was so ordinary, so herself. Important that she made mistakes; that she didn’t always get it; that she grew; that she grew old; that she died and went to Heaven. The fact that she did it, means that so can I, so can you, so can we all. God wills that all will be saved.

God bless the human being who made it possible.


Friday, 13 August 2010

Evening Prayer - James 1:2-4

Trials and Temptations
Consider it pure joy, whenever life gets difficult, because you know that the trying of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance is always work in progress towards a time when you may be mature and complete, so that you may flourish.

 It is, what Winnie the Pooh would call, a blustery day. A wide sky with bright clouds racing to the horizon; some darker cousins challenging, armwrestling the sun; 'if I win it will rain'. And they try; but they don't.

It seems a good day for a walk in the churchyard, sheltered by the high sandstone wall and yew hedge; but it isn't. The cloud racing zephyrs are also chasing each other through the mature oaks, sycamores and chestnuts; roaring like thunder and sending down a torrent of leaves, twigs and immature acorns and nuts. The trees seem to shudder to their very roots, the weight of all the summer growth making them heavy like sheep waiting for the shearer. The paths full of unripened fruits, twigs and leaves are signs that the trees are making ready, willing to give up some of their summer efforts to the testing; trying their resolve against the capricious nature of the wind. Better to let go now than to fight the same battle under a flurry of snow or a downpouring of rain. Better to know where your strength lies.

At one time, when young trees were planted they were supported by wooden stakes and leather ties until such time that they were considered strong enough to stand alone. Strangely this always took longer than a wild sapling making its own way in the same ground. And unless someone remembered to come along and cut the ties the tree would die; strangled by what was supposed to protect it. The older trees exhibit the twists and turns in their trunks where they have played give and take with the wind and so found a place to grow and mature. Now the groundsmen plant them and leave them to God. What a good idea.

Blustery days, more than any,  make my think of the Holy Spirit; the dancing trees, the washing on whirling lines; the birds forced into aerial acrobatics as even they are caught unawares. On a late summer day it seems that She is having a good natured trial of strength with Creation. But good natured or not - it's a trial that teaches a lesson. We grow, we gather more than we need, more than matters. The trials come in wild currents bringing their challenge and it is up to us to decide our priorities; the frivolous additions to our lives or the protection of the heartwood; the deep roots of faith or the temporary dressing of summer.


Thursday, 12 August 2010

Morning Prayer - 1 Peter 4:10-11

God gave you your own special gift - so do what you are good at

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Evening Prayer - Ephesians

God can do anything, and He does it by working within us,
his Spirit deeply and gently in our hearts.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


 Love never reasons but profusely gives; gives, like a thoughtless prodigal, its all,
and trembles lest it has done too little. ~Hannah More

Morning Prayer - 2 Corinthians 1:4

May we be able to comfort those who are in  trouble, as we ourselves are comforted by God.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Morning Prayer :Ezekiel 37:13;

Then you shall know that I am God, I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Awake and ready for action

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.

‘Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

 Reviewing the beginning and the end of this reading, a awful lot seems to happen inbetween – from ‘Do not be afraid’ and ‘even more will be expected of him’.

Luke’s teaching on discipleship pulls no punches. The challenge speaks out from every line. Although Luke writes in everyday language with everyday examples, it is not meant to be comfortable; there is always this undercurrent of covenant; of vows made and missions accepted. But the promises that come from the Lord make us want to say ‘Yes, that’s the life I want to live! I want to do that!’

We are called to be knights seeking the promise of treasure beyond earthly price in the Kingdom of God. Leaving behind all that means security or worldly prestige. That sort of quest is not one anyone should take up lightly; that sort of quest is signed in blood.

There is no easy ride in being a Follower of the Way, the rules are clear; once you have answered the call it is as if you have been given a pair of magic slippers that will keep you always on the move and you will never sleep again. Even when the magic slippers have worn through – as long as you live.
For not the first time, I wonder at Christianity today; how comfortable and respectable it has become. How we can read the Gospel and say ‘Well it has been 2000 years; so we are probably safe to relax a bit.’

Jesus never gives us this option – ‘be ready always’ is the message that he preaches. Ands for those who stand up and count themselves as his servants, knights, disciples; his expectations are high. If we count ourselves amongst the chosen then we may already think we are doing enough - that we will be ready for the Son of Man whatever hour he arrives.

Yet we may have already missed him more than once. The Son of Man comes to us hundreds, thousands of times in our lifetime; in the poor, the old, the sick, the friendless, the hungry and homeless. As Matthew’s Gospel says

‘whatever you do for one of the least of these, you do for me.'
Oh dear, that certainly puts a different slant on things. There’s a good reason for having more than one Gospel in the New Testament – you can go looking for answers. Not always answers we want to find; not answers that make us able to sit back; to eat drink and be merry.

Staying awake and dressed for action, keeping the lamps lit and the door on the latch is not easy but it is what we are called to do.

But… do not be afraid; God has chosen us and we have the Kingdom already in our grasp. But with our other hand we need to reach out for the gift of grace, faith and wisdom that will enable us to be the sort of servant that the Lord himself will be pleased to wait upon.