By Dane Neufeld
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 12:32-48
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell 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. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves 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. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” 42And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? 43Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 44Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 45But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. 47That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. 48But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”
The philosopher George Berkeley famously argued that “to be, is to be perceived.” There is something true about this. We find ourselves often rehearsing our lives before real and imaginary audiences, and it matters a good deal who it is we are trying to impress. Part of what makes modern life so insecure is that we have been lead to believe that our lives are perceived cinematically by the rest of the world, when in reality the number of people who care what we are doing is terribly small.
The parables Jesus tells in the final verses of Luke 12 talk about the wisdom of servants who live as though someone is watching. But the result is different, because that someone is their master. Though it is not easy to anchor our lives in God’s perception, we are called to live as though the master were here. The servant who disregards this quickly becomes subject to his own passions, frustrations, and impulses. The steadying expectations of the master are replaced by a confused and dissembling set of aspirations and goals. When the master does return, it feels to the servant like an intrusion, as though a thief were entering his home.
Our lives are known and seen by God. This may not be satisfying in the manner of fame or recognition, but because it is true, it gives us the grounding that we need. Even in the privacy of our homes, Jesus is our Lord, the one for whom we live, whose life forms the standard and measure of our own. The deeper this reality sets in the less likely we are to play for the volatile and illusory audiences that surround us. The servants who watch for the Lord are alert and attentive, ready to serve and quick to forget themselves. Let us be watchful and ready for our Lord’s return.
The Rev. Dane Neufeld currently serves as the incumbent of St. James, Calgary, after serving 7 years in Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta.
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