This week I decided to try and make some orange marmalade as we had some left-over oranges off our trees. I read the recipe and made sure I had the ingredients, set my kitchen surface out with all the equipment and started. Its not something I’ve tried before and I have to tell you, that I stood over that jam once I started cooking and I was seriously paying attention. Testing, stirring, watching the heat, making sure the jars were ready, testing, testing so that I could catch it at the setting point. I was paying attention. I refused to be distracted. I did not leave the kitchen. I was ready and waiting.
I thought of this when I read Jesus’ instructions to us as his disciples.
Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit: be like those who are waiting for their maser to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.
What does this look like for us today? What does this mean for you?
We can think about what Jesus is saying in a way that recognises God breaking into our lives unexpectedly, God becoming visible so that we are shaken up, changed and transformed, creating a crisis in our lives, in the very depths of our human existence.
For some of us that may have been your experience; for others perhaps instead, it’s a slow realisation that God has become visible, important, essential and critical in our lives and a recognition we can no longer live without God. My journey to becoming a priest has provided me with both types of experiences, those that leave me shaking and bewildered, those that comfort and reassure, and so imagining separation from God has since become a nightmare.
But what does ‘being ready’ look like now for you? Is church purely a Sunday activity with the rest of the week busy with other things, other priorities, family, grandchildren, work, social commitments, with God tucked away neatly into the corner of your mind and your heart, to become visible again next week, when you’ve time to pull God out again for the weekly airing.
Jesus said: (Luke 12:40)
You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Do you remember last week’s reflection when I asked what are our priorities? Where do I put my energy and attention?
As I made my marmalade, I also thought about how hard it is to be constantly on alert, staying vigilant. I was weary at the end of the activity. I thought about what I do to keep myself prepared for God. I try and look after myself as best I can. I try to eat a healthy diet, get some exercise, say my daily Offices, read, pray without ceasing, and share God’s love with others. Often, I do all this badly, I do need plenty of practice, but I am practicing. Like my marmalade, I will keep on trying and doing, learning and practicing with God.
And also, I am reminded that Jesus will return. Faith and belief are not about an imagined event in the distant future, so vague I don’t need to think about it except on Sundays, but about the present times, now, today and tomorrow and yesterday. This is because Christ is presently establishing the final stage of the kingdom of heaven and in the meantime, we are to be busy now, living this earthly phase of the kingdom and helping to transform this world.
We say it at each communion: ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!’
And we are joyful at the news because God is joyful too. Jesus said:
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.
Last week I reflected on the privileges we enjoy living in this country and how much we rely on what we think are our rights and entitlements. We become very angry when we think we are being taken advantage of and someone may do better at our expense. Where our treasure is, that is where our hearts and minds are focused and busy.
Martin Luther reminded us about this issue somewhat assertively:
If I profess with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages, the loyalty of the soldier is proved.
God’s love is forever inviting us into the feast, asking us to look around and see God’s children everywhere, and all are invited. Its worth asking ourselves the same question again: what are we ignoring, or supporting and colluding in that God is at the moment, attacking?
If our priorities are not focussed on what is important for God but simply on what is important for us, we will not be ready to open the door. We will not recognise God when God comes knocking.
We may be proficient with the practices of a church service, but we will not necessarily be proficient in sharing God’s love and our God-given resources. And I am not talking about those resources we have taken as a right or been given to us at the expense of others or been privileged to receive due to the accident of our births and lives.
Jesus is challenging us to recognise that time is not ours to pick and choose, but is everything to do with God’s grace, and what we do and where we go is not ours to choose if we are paying attention, but to see where we are needed and go there to lend a hand.
We live in a time where people will trample over others to get to a sale to get the best deal, where we spend more time on our phones or ipads that we do with our children or one another. We live in a time when we think we have to get what we can before someone else does, while we can, while others are hungry, homeless, desperate and lonely.
This stands in contrast to where we see God at work if we take the time to look around us. Our faith shows us God’s forgiveness, healing, justice and hope are also alive in the world. We have experienced these things, each and every day and seen God at work with others. Jesus is reminding us to be watchful and concerned for others. Do not cling to possessions or anything else, while others are in need. We are invited to live day to day as someone who knows there is life beyond this life.
Blessed are those whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those. (Luke 12:37-38)
Let us be among those who are alert. Let us help each other to be so. Let us be ready to join the feast.
The Lord be with you.