By The Rev. Sherry Crompton
August 8, 2010
Read: Luke 12:32-40
Imagine being in a restaurant with me right now. You come into a restaurant of your imagination. A host or hostess immediately welcomes you and greets you. Before you know it, you are escorted to your table. Immediately, a server comes to your table to take your order for beverages. Immediately, they are back with your drinks and within moments are ready to take your orders. They are smiling, engaging and friendly. Your food is prepared and after a brief interval, your waiter or waitress serves you. Talk about good service. What is good service? What makes someone say they had good service? I think it has something to do with the people who serve having the right attitude. They have the right demeanor. They have the right uniform or dress. They have the right actions. They are communicating to you that they are there to serve you and meet your needs. Those with a good and energetic attitude before the job actually do the job exceptionally well.
On the other hand, you come into a restaurant and nobody is there to greet you. You and your family stand around for a while and then you finally get someone’s attention. A person finally tracks down a table for you, and you wait for what seems like an eternity for someone to come and take your order. A waiter or waitress finally takes the order for your beverages. It seems to take forever for them to come. You wait to order the meal. When the meal finally does arrive, it is served poorly. Talk about bad service. And now what is bad service? Such people have a slovenly attitude. They have a lazy demeanor. They are dressed sloppily. They are communicating to you that there are many other more important people than you. And they will meet your needs when they get around to it.
What are other similar examples from our everyday lives? You can tell when a teacher has prepared his/her lesson and that teacher is ready to teach. You can tell when a preacher has prepared his/her sermon and he/she is ready to preach. Experienced surgical nurses “in the know” can tell when the surgeon is prepared and ready for surgery and they can tell when he/she is not. Experienced conductors of symphonies can tell when the musicians in the orchestra are ready and prepared to play and when they are not. Much of life is the same: people come with good attitudes and prepared to work and other people come with bad attitudes and “not prepared” to work. Those with good preparation and good attitudes do the job; those with poor preparation and lousy attitudes often don’t do the job. There is a connection between prior attitude and subsequent behavior. This occurs in many different facets of life.
So what does this story tell us? What shall we learn from it? Where shall we go from here? What does Jesus want us to learn from these parables?
We are to be alert for the coming of Jesus at all times in our lives. Jesus is forever coming unexpectedly into our everyday lives and we are to be alert, sharp, ready and prepared to see him, receive him, welcome him.
The presence of God, the presence of Jesus is forever dropping in on us and intersecting with our lives. A telephone call, a chance encounter with a friend, a conversation with a parent, with a child, grandchild, friend. There are thousands of ways each and every day that the Lord God unexpectedly comes near to us. We are to be alert for his coming, with eyes open, with our senses being sensitive to his presence in and around our lives.
Let me explain by a simple analogy, which is a Christmas drama. The play is entitled, WAITING FOR THE CHRISTMAS GUEST, by Edwin Markham. In this Christmas play, there is an old shoe cobbler by the name of Conrad and his wife, Martha. In his dream, Conrad the cobbler, had a vision that he was going to be visited by Jesus himself before Christmas day. Conrad the cobbler believed his vision/dream and Conrad was waiting for his special guest to arrive. This special Christmas guest was to be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself coming on Christmas Eve. And Martha, his wife, had prepared a gorgeous Tom Turkey banquet for his expected guest. But Jesus didn’t show up that night.
Instead of Jesus, the first person so show up on the doorsteps of the cottage was a bum, a homeless person, a castaway who wandered into Conrad and Martha’s home that Christmas Eve. Shortly, this homeless person found himself eating a portion of the feast that Martha had prepared for the anticipated special guest. The homeless man also received a set of shoes from Conrad the cobbler. The homeless man left the cottage with a full stomach and a pair of new shoes on his wrapped-in-rags feet but Conrad was still waiting for his special Christmas guest to arrive at his front door steps.
Next, a little old lady rapped on the door of Conrad and Martha’s cottage. She had been evicted from her home and was lost as she was trying to find the way to her son’s home. After wandering around the streets of the village, the little old lady found the front door steps to the cottage of Conrad and Martha. Soon, the recently evicted widow was eating a portion of the banquet which had been prepared for Jesus himself and she was sipping on a cup of warm tea that Martha had specially prepared. Before you knew it, Conrad was taking this little old evicted lady by the hand and leading her to find her son’s house.
Next, Conrad the cobbler found a little boy who was lost as he was trying to find a baker that Christmas Eve. All the bakeries were closed that Christmas Eve. Conrad took the little lost boy home to his cottage and fed him some of the feast that Martha had prepared for the phantom Christ who was not appearing as Conrad had thought he would. They gave cookies and milk to the little boy. They discovered that the little boy’s father had recently died and the little boy belonged to the Widow Schultz. Martha herself took the lost little boy home that night with a loaf of Martha’s freshly baked bread, and Conrad was left all alone in his cottage.
All alone, Conrad the cobbler was wondering out loud why Jesus the Christ hadn’t come to his house that night. Conrad was so sure that Jesus would show up that Christmas Eve for the banquet that Martha had prepared for him. Conrad was mumbling to himself that night when he finally said, “Jesus, why didn’t you come to our cottage tonight? Why didn’t you come, Lord? Humm.”
Or maybe he did. Maybe Christ had come three times.
Christ came to Conrad and Martha’s house three times that night. Both Conrad and Martha had this expectancy that Christ was to come that night. Unexpectedly, Conrad and Martha helped the homeless man with food and shoes. Unexpectedly, they helped the evicted old lady with hot tea and then took her to her son’s home. Unexpectedly they helped the little boy who couldn’t find a bakery on Christmas Eve and Martha then walked the little boy home to the Widow Schultz. Time after time, Conrad and Martha were open and receptive to the Christ who unexpectedly showed up in their lives, uninvited, unexpected, and not looking very much like their image of Christ. Conrad and Martha had consistently shared their resources with Christ. Conrad and Martha had this deep conviction that Christ was coming to them that night, and Christ did.
Jesus, in his parables for today, is inviting us to always be ready for the bridegroom to come, for the kingdom of God to break into our lives. We Christians live with that expectation and alertness, that God’s kingdom, that God’s possibilities, that God’s opportunities are forever before us and around us, breaking into our lives.
We are always to be ready for Christ’s second coming, his third coming, his persistent coming, his relentless coming. The miracles of God’s presence is forever coming to us, and we need to be alert, sharp, ready for Christ’s in-breaking into our lives.
It is being filled with this Spirit, the Spirit of expectation that Christ is coming to us in the near future. It is having a spirit-filled attitude, the right and expectant attitude. Knowing that the bridegroom is going to show up sometime this night. Knowing that we are to be dressed and waiting for action. Knowing that we are to have the nightlight on and assuming Christ will come. Knowing that we are to have an ear listening for a knock at the door. These actions all signal an attitude of expectancy that Christ is going to come at any moment in our lives.
And Christ does. Christ consistently and unexpectedly shows up at our doorsteps to the doors of our hearts. Christ consistently and unexpectedly shows up all around us, especially through people in need.
Notice that Jesus does not say, “where your heart is there will your treasure be”, but “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Perhaps this means it is not about having the right heart and our actions/commitments/investments will follow, but that through the act of giving, of committing, of investing myself in the Good News of God in Jesus, that my heart grows to love him, to love the kingdom. We are formed often from the outside in.
Jesus begins by telling us, “do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It is His good pleasure to give us the kingdom. Amen.
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