‘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.