August 11, 2019 at Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Castle Rock, Colorado
Wisdom 18, 6-9 + Psalm 33 + Hebrews 11, 1-2, 8-12 + Luke 12, 32-48
We spend a lot of time waiting in this culture. We wait in line at the grocery, and if you go to Costco where I live, you might as well have dinner, because the check-out line so long! We wait in the doctor office, we wait at the airport either to leave to meet someone, we wait for babies to be born, we wait to get out of the parking lot of this church! Someday, I’m going to track how much time is spent every day just waiting. I do not know how you handle it, but I’m not too good at it yet, but I have discovered that if I know what I am waiting for or why I have to wait, it’s a little easier. The other day, I was third in line checking out at the grocery, and the lady ahead of me spent as much time digging in her purse for a credit card as it took to ring up her purchases. Meanwhile six of us were waiting! Did she not know that when the clerk was finished she would have to pay? So, Jesus gives us three parables about waiting and readiness, because, in the end that is exactly what this life is all about, waiting and readiness. What we do while we wait is at the core of these parables, and it an essential part of discipleship.
It seems to me after more than 50 years as a priest that there are two kinds of people who have different ways of waiting. One is either a planner or a pilgrim. The planner likes to have things under control. They take their cue from what society considers success, and they spend most of their time trying to match the life-style and values of others. If they don’t achieve these goals, they are bitterly disappointed, and there are a lot of bitter people around. You might be sitting next to one. Well maybe not in Castle Rock! The pilgrim is someone who accepts life as a gift that unfolds as it is lived. They know that no matter how hard they try, there will never be complete control over what happens. Failures do not disappoint them, and they never feel quite comfortable with the values of society. The planner does not live by faith, but the pilgrim does. They know that life is full of risks, and can still be joyful in the midst of life’s ups and downs. They celebrate the present moment, and they live life to the full.
These parables speak to pilgrims more powerfully than to planners. They give us patience while we wait because they remind us why we wait because we pilgrims who live in God’s time, not by our time. In the middle of these verses, Peter asks: if the parable is meant for them or for the crowds. Without answering his question, Jesus moves right on into another parable that speaks about watchfulness while waiting. The eat, drink, and be merry, attitude is not quite in harmony with what Jesus proposes. The apostles had been planners. They had an idea about what the Messiah should do restoring Israel to its power and glory. Jesus slowly but steadily is changing them into pilgrims who are patient in their waiting and know what to do while they wait.
These parables remind us that we should be found doing our jobs when the master arrives. If we are doing our jobs, our reward will be great. But, if we relax, neglect our duties, and begin to act like the greedy rich man, eating, drinking, and making merry, we will not have place in the kingdom. Watchfulness means living in a such a consistently more and obedient way that we are always ready to give an account to God of how we have lived, and we are not afraid to do so.