It is hard to wait, even for something we know will be wonderful. It's tempting to give up, and maybe accept something different — something quick and easy to attain — as a substitute.
retold by Deborah
“Don’t worry that there only a few of you; your Father wants to give you the kingdom.
“Let go of what holds you down, be generous, value what is lasting: a reliable, holy treasure that no thief can steal and no moth can devour.
“For what you treasure is its own reward.
“You must also be ready for action at a moment’s notice, like servants awaiting their master’s return from a wedding reception so that they can welcome him as soon as he sets a foot inside the door.
“And those servants will have it good, I can tell you, because the master will seat them at his own table, and prepare a meal for them and serve it with his own hands.
“If he gets home in the middle of the night, or at the crack of dawn, and finds those servants waiting, they will truly be blessed.
“But know, too, that if the owner of the house had known when the thief was coming, he wouldn’t have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man could be here at any time.”
We went to a wedding reception last Saturday, and when we returned home our dog Nellie was waiting. She met us as soon as we got in the door with joyful barks and a wagging tail — and we, too, were delighted: there’s nothing quite like a canine welcome greeting.
After the initial excitement we all settled in. John and I slipped off our uncomfortable shoes and plunked ourselves down on the family room sofa. Nellie came in and stood in the middle of the rug; she looked first at one of us and then the other, and then lay down with a deep sigh and promptly fell sound asleep.
All was well.
That’s how it is for those servants in Jesus’ parable: now that their master has arrived, they no longer have to wait anxiously for the sound of his footsteps on the path. They know that he got home safe, and is none the worse for wear; now everybody can relax.
Moreover, the master is glad to see them, too. He’s so grateful for their continued presence that he prepares a meal for them and serves it to them himself. This is no late-night snack in the kitchen, but a full-on meal in the dining room!
Together again, all were happy, well-nourished, and content. All was right with the world. The wait had been worth it.
Luke’s Gospel was written when Jesus’ followers had been awaiting the return of the Messiah for a long time. All of those who had walked with the Lord in person had died, and their oft-repeated memories had achieved a mythic status: amazing stories of long ago — of a Man who was no ordinary man, and of a kingdom that hadn’t (yet) materialized.
Those who persisted in their faith needed encouragement to continue to hope for that kingdom, and to believe in that man Jesus. They needed assurance that the wait would be worth it.
We still do.
Waiting is hard.
We humans are, by our nature, impatient creatures — and our modern culture hasn’t improved on that situation. Credit cards enable us to buy things before we can pay for them, and package delivery services bring those things to us the very next day.
What is called “delayed gratification” is almost unknown to us. But when we do have to wait, we get antsy; annoyed at waiting in line for our fast food, driven nearly to distraction by slowed traffic, counting down the seconds until the microwave timer rings.
We want it now.
And as far as that “heavenly kingdom” business, what’s the problem? If it hasn’t got here yet, maybe it’s never coming. The kingdom Jesus promised us sure isn’t here yet, and we’re tired of waiting. After all, it has been nearly two thousand years.
It is frustrating and heart-wrenching to have this amazing, beautiful, holy vision of how things ought to be — but never see it come to fruition. A glimpse here, a hint there, a whisper of possibility, a few steps forward… then a tumbling backwards into anger, antagonism, greed, and violence. Of course we’re tired of waiting for the kingdom of the Lord: it feels as if it’s never going to happen!
Perhaps that is why this passage begins with Jesus’ assurance to his followers: “Don’t give up, little flock: although you are small in numbers and the task is great, our goal can be reached, for God is on our side.” Don’t give up. Keep the faith. Easy to say, but hard to do.
The servants in the parable had been working for their master for who-knows how long, keeping the place running, day after day. They knew what needed to be done and continued to do their jobs — for as long as was necessary. And when he came back, the master was delighted with those workers and what they had done.
Our Master’s estate is a place where peace and justice abound. It is a holy land shaped in the image of Christ’s Gospel: with compassion, kindness, generosity, fairness, and mercy. It is up to us to keep it running by doing what we have been called to do. No one said it was going to be easy: that’s why it is called the work of the kingdom!
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
"Don’t give up, little flock. Though we are few and the task is great, God is on our side."