Hebrew 11.1-3,8-16; Luke 12.32-40
Last Sunday I got home in time to see the last part of the Euros final and the winning goal. Now most of those who know me are aware that in normal circumstances I’m not a great follower of football. But somehow this was different. What struck me afterwards were comments from some of the women who played years ago, who didn’t have the training opportunities the Lionesses have had; who recall times when clubs were unwilling to allow them to play on their pitches; when there was no financial support available. Nevertheless, they persevered, always hoping that things would improve in the future. Thanks to their faith and courage these dreams have come true. They kept their goal in sight (sorry!) and were full of joy at the success of this team.
We might say that their faith in the future is ‘the assurance of things hoped for’ as the unknown writer of the letter to the Hebrews put it. Faith is the theme of our first reading this morning. It is the conviction of things not seen. It’s not hope if we say ‘I hope it will be fine for our picnic later today’ when the sun’s shining out of a cloudless sky and there’s not a drop of rain showing up on the weather radar.
Here the writer reminds us how Abraham responded obediently and in faith to God’s call to set out on a journey, not knowing where he was going, to a place where he would receive the inheritance promised by God, including numerous descendants. All this seemed impossible, yet he kept faith, even when he was far too old to father a child with his barren wife Sarah. They did not receive God’s promises in full; that came much later with the arrival of the Messiah, of Christ. They continued to seek a homeland, a heavenly city, the new Jerusalem we hear about in Revelation which is symbolic of a time when God’s kingdom has finally come.
In our gospel reading, Jesus is telling his disciples to have faith. It appears that the disciples are anxious and afraid. Jesus reassures them of God’s intention to give them the kingdom – the kingdom that he has come to bring into being, not at some unknown date in the future, but here and now. He taught them to pray ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.’ He tells them to get their priorities right and not to focus on accumulating material possessions.
Then he tells them to be dressed and ready for action. Those hearing this at the time would most probably have been reminded of the exodus, of the time when the Israelites were told to be ready to leave Egypt at a moment’s notice to escape from Pharaoh.
Jesus compares this with the master of the house returning late from a wedding celebration and finding his slaves wideawake and ready to do whatever was required at whatever time he got back, whether it was the middle of the night or even near to dawn.
In a surprising twist, he then tells the master will fasten his belt, meaning he’ll hitch up his robe, ready for action – think of it as putting on an apron. He will tell the slaves to be seated and he will serve them. With the benefit of hindsight, this may remind us of the last supper when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. They found his action shocking. In their minds this was a task for the servants, not something that the host would do.
The good news is that in this topsy turvy kingdom of God, Christ has come as one who serves us. We tend to think solely in terms of us serving God. This is what happens when we centre our lives on God. This is the good news of the gospel. It is truly shocking. God, who loves us and desires only good for us, has given us so many gifts, We have no reason to be afraid. Surely our response is that we should be ready to serve others. How we do this will depend on our circumstances.
What does ‘being dressed for action and having our lamps lit’ mean for us today?
It’s a call to be alert, to be attentive to what God is saying to us now, today.
It’s a call to notice what God is already doing in our town and in this place.
It’s a call to seize every opportunity for joining in what God is already doing.
It’s a call to think creatively about what new things we might undertake.
Restrictions during the pandemic meant that much of what we were doing had to stop, and rightly so. Over the months most of us got used to these limitations. But now is the time to take stock. Some things may need to be done in a different way. Some may not need to be done at all. It’s a good time for all of us to review what we are able to do now, which may be very different from what we were doing pre-pandemic.
The vacancy has just begun. Yes, in one way this is a time of waiting . But it’s also a time for review. Equally it is not a time to sit back. It’s a time for trusting God, for praying , listening and then getting on with whatever needs to be done.
Generous and loving God,
in this time of vacancy we thank you for our blessings,
and for all who build up this community
and work with others for the common good.
By your Holy Spirit inspire our vision,
and give us patience and courage
as we await the new priest you are calling to High Wycombe.
Though Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Revd Jackie Lock, Associate Priest