“Don’t worry. Be ready.”
August 7: Proper 14:
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 & Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40
Draft text of the homily, please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.
There’s used to be a bumper sticker that I would see around occasionally that read: “Jesus is coming soon…look busy!”
Somehow, I don’t think that’s what he means today when he says: “Be dressed for action…; be like those who are waiting for their master to return…”
“You must be ready” is not the same thing “look busy.”
But, not being sure what it is that we are supposed to be ready for, I think we often mistake it for that. Busyness seems to be our default setting at times.
This passage from Luke is odd. It’s a bit of a hybrid. There’s maybe some mixed messages here.
The first line: “Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” is actually the end of a much longer passage where he encourages us to not worry about our lives, what we will eat, or what we will wear.” The ravens don’t sow or reap, and don’t have barns, and yet God feeds them. And aren’t you more valuable than birds!? (Yes!) The lilies of the field, neither toil nor spin, and yet look at the glorious splendor that God clothes them with? Won’t God do even more for you? (Of course!)
Stop running around hustling for all this stuff…strive instead for God’s reign, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Don’t worry…God has this covered…it is the father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
And then in the next breath he says: “Be dressed and ready for action,”…“for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Don’t worry…but get busy…
Stop striving…and be ready!
It’s one of those passages that could make people throw up their hands and say, “well, which is it?” Even Peter, in the very next line has to ask: “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” It just doesn’t seem to make sense. Are we supposed to be blissed out, or is it all hands on deck?
As usual, Jesus is talking about something that’s difficult for us to get our heads around. Especially because our heads that are so adapted to thinking in terms of dualities: right/wrong; good/bad; either/or…
And Jesus is talking about treasure in heaven, purses that don’t wear out… he’s talking about learning to see things not as either broken or whole, but broken and whole, not as fallen or saved, but as fallen and saved, not as either or, but both/and.
Don’t worry. Be ready.
He’s talking about acquiring a non-dualistic way of seeing, of thinking. To use some metaphors from other religious traditions: He’s talking about acquiring divine perception, seeing with our third eye…he’s talking about enlightenment.
When he says, you need to be alert, I think what he really means is, we need to be awake…awake and attentive to what is really going on (and not just our skewed oh-so-personal view of it)…but awake to reality and the movement and action of the divine all around us, and working through us.
Being awake in this deep spiritual sense is both something that you can’t work for, and you have to work for.
In the Sufi tradition there is dialogue where the student comes to the master and says: “Is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened?” To which the master replies: “As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.” There’s nothing you can do to make yourself enlightened. Just like there is nothing you can do to earn your salvation…it’s a gift…pure, 100% gift…“What good are the spiritual exercises you keep making me do?” “They’re to make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.”
Or in an even pithier aphorism: “No one catches the wild ass by running after him, yet only those who run after the wild ass ever catch him” (p. 53 in Breathing Under Water, Spirituality and the Twelve Steps).
There is nothing you can do…relax…And…you have to do all you can do. Waking up means catching the wild ass by running after him and not running after him at the same time.
Don’t worry. Be ready.
We’re not really good at this.
And religion over the centuries has fallen into either side of this far too often. Either we go down the road of works righteousness, and try to do all the “right” things and end up being puritanical or fundamentalists; or we fall into just sitting around getting our Kumbyyayas out and become completely ineffectual.
Spirituality and spiritual awareness is something that you cannot get by striving for it, but only those strive for it ever get it.
Creative types know that there’s really no way of controlling inspiration, or knowing when its going to show up, but they also know that a large part of what makes inspiration possible is showing up consistently and being at their task…their writing desk, their easel, their voice lesson, their rehearsal…that training their technique is vital to being open to that spark of inspiration.
It’s true of spirituality and becoming awakened as well. Spiritual practices, or spiritual disciplines, are vital to making sure we are not asleep when the sun rises…when the Son of Man returns.
Centering prayer, daily bible reading reading, keeping sabbath, are some classic practices and ones that are core to my own spiritual life, but there are many many others, tithing: or the practice of generosity. Fasting: or the practice of striving for greater awareness about what I let into my body…this can be food, or drink, but it can also be the kinds of technology or information you allow into your being. Hospitality, repentance, forgiveness…
There are meditative practices, relational practices, media practices, mind practices, body/movement practices.
A myriad of practices hinted at but not made explicit in the baptismal covenant…
remaining in the teaching, breaking of bread, prayers, resisting evil, repentance, proclamation, serving, loving, working for justice and peace, and caring for creation.
This is what we’re inviting Charlotte into, and what we’re promising to provide…This is what All Saints strives to be…a place to practice, a safe and welcoming place where we can hone our techniques, where we can be vulnerable and open, where we can learn how to hear and respond in ever deepening ways God’s voice reminding all of us, that God’s love is for ever and for all, God’s abundant gifts are for ever and for all, that it is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. So don’t worry, be ready. Keep practicing.