Watching and Waiting

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Posted on Monday, August 12, 2013 by Chris Meigh

Introduction

First reading – Psalm 33:12-22

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
13 From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth —
15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

  • God watches from heaven all mankind
  • He made all mankind
  • He formed the ‘hearts’ of us all: heart = our ‘centre’.
    ‘Heart: the seat of life, or emotion, or reason, will, intellect, purpose or the mind.’
  • He considers all we do, sees how we choose to act.
  • Deliverance does not come from men or great strength
  • God looks after those who fear him
    Fear = respect, obey, trust, revere…)
  • Who hope for (look forward to) his love to deliver them from death and famine
  • In bad times, wait in hope for God
  • Rejoice and trust in God
  • Pray his unfailing love will be with them.

In this passage, God watches, his people wait – in trust that God will save them.

Second reading – Luke 12:35-40

35 Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning,
36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.
37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.
38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak.
39 But understand 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, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

  • Servants have been given their orders:
  • Be ready for the moment the master arrives, whenever that may be. It may be a long wait but they have to be ready at a moment’s notice, continually watching out for any indication he is arriving.
What is a ‘waiter’?

At a banquet, a large party, a restaurant, they take orders, serve food and drink, and while the diners get on with the meal the waiters… wait!

Their job when there is nothing specific for them to do is to be watchful and alert in case any of the guests want to attract their attention to get something done for them and then act quickly to get it done.

Sonnet “On His Blindness” by John Milton

The 17th century poet John Milton (perhaps best known for ‘Paradise Lost’) went blind in his forties, and wrote a sonnet about how this restricted him in using his gifts.

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

In the Luke 12 passage, their job as a waiter is extreme – there is for a long time very little for them to do except ‘be prepared’ so they are ready to act at a moments notice: ‘be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning’.

Their job is to wait, stay properly dressed, keep the lamps burning, and stay awake and alert.
The danger is that they will
– snooze
– let the lamps burn out
– stop paying attention and get on with something irrelevant, distracting them from detecting the arrival of the master.

Continuation after the second reading passage: Luke 12:41-48

Another parable on the same theme…

41 Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”
42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?
43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.
44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk.
46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.
48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Now it’s a manager in charge of the servants while the master is away.

The good manager feeds the servants at the proper times, however long the master is away, but the bad manager focuses on himself, mistreats the servants he’s been put in charge of, and eats, drinks and gets drunk.

And there are several other teachings of Jesus about watching and waiting.

Some of them relate to the coming destruction of the Jewish Temple by the Romans, which eventually happened in AD70. When people see the signs they should run away at once so they don’t get caught up in the violence.

Some relate to the end time, the coming of the Son of Man. These are of great interest to many, who can be in danger of obsession, forming end-of-the-world cults etc.

But Jesus says, False messiahs, false prophets will arise. Don’t go after them – when the Son of Man comes it will be obvious.

Matthew 24:23-27

23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.
24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
25 See, I have told you ahead of time.
26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.
27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

The Day and Hour Unknown – Mark 13:32-37

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.
34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.
36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.
37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’

‘I say to everyone’:

It’s as if you’re reading the Bible and suddenly Jesus turns to look at you directly. It’s not just ‘reading about what happened then’.

Here we are, in the in-between. What do these and many similar passages mean for us, now?

We can’t stay awake all the time – have to sleep.

We can’t just sit waiting all the time – most of us have lots of things to do each day.

What’s behind the parables is the idea that as ‘normal life’ continues day after day, Christians – and maybe particularly Christian leaders – will drift away from our commitment to follow Jesus – and fail to watch and be alert for tasks he wants us to do.

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