Meditation on Luke 12:32-40
The Presbyterian Church of Coshocton
Aug. 11, 2019
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 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. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be 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. 37 Blessed 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. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
39 “But 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. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Not long after we first arrived in Coshocton, I told you about Jim and I taking Mabel, our Pomeranian to the vet. She has diabetes and, though Jim was giving her insulin shots twice a day, she was drinking too much and having accidents in the house. The kindly vet held her for a long time and gave his diagnosis, “She seems stressed.”
We were back to the vet yesterday, this time with Mabel and Melvyn, our cat. It was to be a routine exam; they both needed shots. But we knew, before the vet examined him, that something was wrong with Melvyn. We had noticed that he was looking at us with big, black pupils and struggling to go up and down stairs and climb up on our bed.
He hasn’t always been an easy pet. He had certain annoying habits. When he first came to live with us, we couldn’t leave out any food on any surface in the house, even in a box or bag, without Melvyn eating through the box or bag. Butter in a covered butter dish mysteriously disappeared. It took a while for us to figure out what was happening and we kept wondering why the container was so clean on the outside. Homemade banana muffins, a gift from a church member, had bites taken out of them through a plastic bag. Once, he stole a large loaf of French bread from the counter, dragged it across the kitchen floor and gnawed off one end. It was a Saturday night, and the bread was for Communion the next day. And Jim said we could just cut off the end and use it, but I said, “No! Not my Jesus bread.” Melvyn was an early riser. He woke us up at the crack of dawn with loud yowling and knocking things off bedside tables. If we pushed him out of our bedroom and closed the door, he would scratch and meow, “Hawoo?” Until we laughed and let him back in.
It didn’t take long for us to realize that Melvyn wasn’t really our pet. We were his servants! Whatever his need, we would try to meet it, usually with love in our hearts. Even Jim, who has never had a cat before Melvyn and vowed he never would, grew to love this orange and white stray, cuddly and affectionate, a peacemaker, wanting no more than his meals and to climb into our laps or lie on our legs, purring loudly as we stroked his head.
On Saturday, the vet confirmed our fears for his health. Our cat is losing his sight. The vet spoke in a soothing voice, explaining that it is probably from old age and could not be restored. He told us how most cats can adjust to blindness. As he talked, I just kept thinking about all the years Mel has been with us, since that day he followed me home from church–a stray that someone had neutered and declawed before he was dumped in a Minnesota field and left to fend for himself. How he cried in our shrubbery in the rain that first night. In the morning, I opened the door, he walked in, and I fed him. He slept in our bed, purring so loudly that we worried he had a breathing issue. He has lived with us as an indoor cat, happily, ever since.
I can see the grace of God in the life of Melvyn, an outcast, who has brought us much comfort and joy in three different states, never complaining during the long car rides and hotel stops as we moved from Minnesota to Florida, then Florida to Ohio.
Being ready–prepared for our Lord’s return at an unexpected hour–is the message of our gospel in Luke 12. This is a continuation of last Sunday’s lesson, a warning to guard ourselves against greed and loving stuff too much. This is part of preparing ourselves to meet the Lord, face to face.
Being ready for Christ’s return means living by faith, trusting God our Father, and letting go of fear and worry. As Jesus says 12:22, just before today’s passage, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or about your body, what you will wear, for life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds then. Of how much more value are you than birds? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”
Jesus tells us that if we want to live a godly life, we can’t be conformed to this world in our thinking or behavior. “The nations of the world,” he says, “strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need these. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Today’s reading begins, then, at verse 32, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Isn’t that amazing–that Christ tells us to strive for the Kingdom, but has already given or entrusted it to us, just as Ephesians 2:8 assures us that by grace we have been saved, through faith. It’s not our own doing; it’s a gift from God!
Yet, there is something that can get in the way of living the Kingdom life now and hurt our witness to those without the hope of Jesus Christ. We are back to worry, fear–and stuff! “Sell your possessions, and give alms,” Jesus says, “Make for yourselves purses that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
Are you wondering how we make these purses that never wear out? By nurturing our faith through Word and Sacrament, worship and prayer, serving and giving; it takes faith to give and when we give, our faith becomes stronger. It’s up to us to choose how we respond to the gift of the Kingdom. What do you value most? Where is your treasure?
Jesus is speaking to all of us when he says in Luke 12:34, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Much more can be said about this intriguing parable, but for now, I hope that you will recognize that Jesus is talking about us in this story with layers of meaning! We are the servants or slaves–it’s the same word in Greek (doulos). We are the blessed ones. Our job is to be faithful, keeping our lamps burning brightly in the darkness. We are those whom the Master will, with the Spirit’s help, find alert; we are the ones who will be waiting in hope when he comes again, trusting in Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and not in ourselves or the things of this world that won’t last and won’t satisfy.
When the Master comes again, at an unexpected hour, though he will come with power and glory to judge the living and the dead as we say in the Apostles Creed, he will also come to serve us with love, nourishing us for all eternity.
I held Melvyn tightly in my arms on the way home from the vet, trying to comfort him, saying, “It’s OK. It’s OK. I love you.” But I am not sure that it IS OK with me that he can’t see. I am sad for him. Isn’t growing old hard enough without going blind? And we can’t even tell him what is happening and why. He must be frightened and confused.
Jim reminds me, not for the first time, that Melvyn has had, these 6 or 7 years with us, a very good life. And we will continue to care for him with love for all his days. I truly can see the grace of God in Melvyn’s life–how he came to us not just when he needed us, but when we needed him. He has always managed to adjust to whatever life holds, the ups and downs and joys and struggles, and remain a sweet, loving creature. He is an example to us of a life lived in gratitude, with grace. Thankfully, he hardly ever wakes us up at 5 a.m. anymore.
Friends, I pray that, when Jesus returns for His blessed ones, to serve and nourish us to eternal life, the Master will find us loving and caring for all the creatures–human and animals–whom God has entrusted to our care.
May the Lord, when he comes back at an unexpected hour, find us faithful.
Let us pray.
Holy One, we witness and experience so much struggle and suffering in this world, and yet we always turn to you during these times for comfort, wholeness, and strength to endure. Thank you for your faithfulness. Help us not to be distracted by possessions, the things that don’t last and don’t satisfy. Give us hope and courage to light our lamps and be dressed for action, and not become too comfortable or complacent with the way things are. Lead us to do the things you have planned for us. Speak through us your words that bring life and health to others. Teach us to give generously, with a grateful heart, and live so that we might reveal your peaceful, loving Kingdom to a hurting, broken world in desperate need of healing. May we become the people you are recreating us to be–the blessed faithful, through your Son, in whose name we pray. Amen.