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08.02.15 While we Wait and Watch Luke 12:35-48 Sermon Outline

by on August 3, 2015

Want spiritual renewal for your church? Read this and share it with your pastor.

Summary Points

  • The hard question for pastors: What, how, and when to feed our congregations
  • Beyond Eucharistic feeding: The Five Competencies of a Christian
  • The question for congregations: What it means to be “blessed”

In this section of Luke, Jesus toggles between assurances and warnings. He seems to be saying that because of the assurance of God’s providence, we can risk living in a new way. And in the passage for today, there are clear warnings and invitations to this new way of living for both pastors and their congregations.

As pastor of a church, I have to answer to special questions. Hebrews 13:17 says church leaders are to keep watch over the souls of their congregations, and that we will give an account. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Jesus’ answer to Peter makes this dramatically clear.

Peter, spokesperson for the disciples and the symbolic stand in for church leadership (why do you think the Roman Catholics figure he’s the first Pope?), wants to know: “Jesus, are you saying these parables for us or for everyone?” Either he’s hoping everyone’s on the hook, or perhaps Luke is specifying two audiences—church leaders and church members.

Jesus’ answer, a further parable about the Faithful and Prudent Manager, suggests he is addressing Peter and other church leaders. There is a Managing Slave in the Master’s household. This person is still a slave, but one with responsibility for other slaves—namely feeding them their allowance of food at the proper time. Recall that in the Gospel of John the resurrected Christ tells Peter to “feed my sheep.”

So this parable asks a simple question of me as a pastor: “Am I feeding my congregation the right food at the right time?” The parable includes some compelling images that demand an answer. Unfaithful Managers will be “cut into pieces” and “put with the unfaithful.” The distinction of “light” versus “severe” beatings isn’t much comfort, since the possibility of “no” beatings isn’t an option. Every pastor, it seems, will fail and be judged. What we have some control over is how badly we fail.

Of course I hear Eucharistic overtones with the question. I can answer confidently that, “Yes, Lord. As you desire, I feed my congregation every week from the Lord’s Table.” And the earlier parable about the master arriving home from the wedding banquet to find his slaves waiting for him, then dressing himself and serving them a meal confirms the importance of our weekly Eucharistic feeding. It appears that I’m serving my congregation from the Lord’s Table, but in fact more often than not I see Christ staring back at me through their eyes when they receive the bread from my hands. It is Christ the Master (“Lord”) who is serving us all.

But the answer really must be bigger than the Table. More particularly, the parable asks me as pastor the question: Am I listening primarily to the Master’s will? Not my own will, not the culture’s, not the expert’s, and not even the congregation’s–but the Master’s.

In the words of the parable: Am I balanced in listening, preparing, and doing? Or to paraphrase: in prayer, study, and serving?

Together the elected leadership of my congregation and I have formulated “Five Directional Goals” in order to answer this important question about feeding our congregation the right food at the right time. You might think of these as the “five competencies of a Christian,” and we look to these for guidance as we lead the church.

Our Five Directional Goals are: (1) knowing what’s in the Bible and how to apply it to our lives; (2) the ability to pray for ourselves and others; (3) enjoying relationships in the community of faith; (4) responding to the needs of the church and the world with service; (5) appreciating how and why we worship together.

As challenging as these questions and answers are for pastors, the text also includes challenging questions for congregations. The primary question is: Are we like those “blessed” slaves whom the Master finds waiting, alert, dressed for action, and with their lamps lit? Will God find us “at work” when he comes and knocks on the door?

The fact that in this parable the Master “knocks” is telling. Unlike other parables where there are trumpet blasts or forewarnings of the Master’s return, in this parable the Master returns to his own house and knocks. Very unassuming. It seems God is eager to dignify us by creating opportunities for us to respond.

Some time ago Jesus came knocking on our church door. I was preparing to leave when I heard him walking down the hallway. When I opened my door, I saw him—a family passing through. They were seeking help, but I could tell what they really would like is a shower. Because someone in our past was “dressed for action” and made us ready, we have showers. I offered this to them, to which they responded with tremendous gratitude. Hearing the toddler laughing in the bathroom was the highlight of my week.

Earlier that same week someone from our congregation handed me a ten dollar bill. “Dressed for action,” I bought lunch for this family. I wrote the person and said, “Guess what I did with your ten dollars? I bought Jesus lunch!” When my wife heard this story, she created shower bags so that we would be “dressed for action” the next time Jesus comes needing a shower.

These parables tell us that God wants us to be ready to take a journey. We’re to be dressed, waiting, with our lamps lit. Why lamps? Because he may come in the middle of the night, or near dawn when it is darkest. It might be scary, we might not see very far down the road. But follow we must if we are to be “blessed” slaves.

The question for us as a congregation is: “How else might it look for Faith Church to be ready?” I wonder, do we appear ready to “open the door” to our neighbors? I think about the hundreds of people every day who buy coffee at the drive in across the corner from us. Do they think we’re ready to open the door to them? What do they think when they see our weed infested lawn and temporary vinyl sign? Do we appear ready to them? After a long day’s road-trip, would you be excited to drive into the parking lot of a motel with weeds and a temporary sign?

What would it look like for us to be watching and waiting? Because while we’re supposed to be watching and waiting, dressed for action with our lamps lit, our neighbors are waiting for God’s deliverance. In our neighborhood there are children who only get a third meal when school is in session. We are surrounded by elderly who can’t keep up on their housework. We replaced the furnace filter for someone who hadn’t done it in three years! (I check mine every three months.) There are many single people in our neighborhood—young unmarried, recently divorced, widowed, renters.

These people may not know the words of Psalm 59, but they know the feelings. They feel surrounded by predators who threaten their physical safety and financial security. They sense that life is hostile all around them.

And these neighbors, who are familiar with the feelings of Psalm 59, need us as their neighborhood church to pray for and with them the words of Psalm 59, “I will watch for you, O God, for you are my fortress.”

So the question for us is: Do our neighbors drive by Faith Church look and see a fortress of God, a place of refuge? We have been given this church. We have been entrusted with this church. And Jesus’ final words are clear: Much is required of us.

I have to think about feeding us at the proper time. All of us have to be ready to open the door when the Master comes.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • In what ways is your church leadership trying to ensure that you are being fed spiritually? How could they do a better job? How often are you “eating” what your church is offering?
  • In what ways is your church “dressed for action, with lamps lit, and waiting to open the door” to Jesus when he comes, especially when he comes at unexpected hours and in disguise? How can your church be more ready?
  • How are you one of the “blessed slaves” from Monday to Saturday, when Jesus might “knock on the door” of your office, car, house, or heart?
One Comment
  1. This is the 1st time I’ve read a blog n I’m glad this was it. I really enjoyed the experience of slowly reading, pausing to think, and prayng on how to apply the ideas into my own life.
    Thanks for blogging – it’s another way for those of us who are hearing impaired or unable to be at church to
    “Get the message”

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