|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 16, 2020||Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Sirach 15:15-20; I Corinthians 3:1-9, I Corinthians 13: 11-12; Matthew 5:21-37; Psalm 119:1-8|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 9, 2020||Epiphany 5, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-9a, [9b-12];Matthew 5:13-20|
|The Presentation||February 2, 2020||Presentation of Jesus in the Temple||Luke 2:22-40|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 26, 2020||Third Sunday after the Epiphany||Matthew 4: 12-23, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational Meeting||January 19, 2020||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Congregational Meeting||Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2020||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 3:13-17|
|Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2020||The Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas 2, Year A||January 5, 2020||Christmas II, Year A||Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Psalm 84|
|Christmas Eve, Year A||December 24, 2019||The Eve of the Nativity||Luke 2:14|
|Advent 3, Year A||December 15, 2019||Advent 3, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10|
|Advent 2, Year A – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||December 8, 2019||Advent 2, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|Advent 1, Year A||December 1, 2019||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Pentecost, Year C||November 24, 2019||Last Pentecost, Christ the King||Luke 23:33-43|
|Pentecost 23, Year C||November 17, 2019||Pentecost 23, Year C, Proper 28||Luke 21:5-19|
|Pentecost 22, Year C||November 10, 2019||Pentecost 22, Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:38|
Pentecost 9, Year C
Sermon Date:August 11, 2019
Scripture: Luke 12:35-38
Liturgy Calendar: 9th Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 14, Year C
“Watchful Servants” – Eugène Burnand (1850-1921)
Sometimes before we celebrate the Eucharist here at St Peter’s, we hear this invitation.
“Jesus was always the guest. In the homes of Peter and Jairus, Martha and Mary, Joanna and Susanna, and Zacchaeus, he was always the guest. At the meal table of the wealthy where he pled the case of the poor, he was always the guest. But here, at this table, he is the host. Those who wish to serve him must first be served by him, those who want to follow him must first be fed by him, those who would wash his feet must first let him make them clean. For this is the table where God intends us to be nourished; this is the time when Christ can make us new. So come, you who are tired and in need of rest, those of you who hunger and thirst for a deeper faith, for a better life, for a fairer world. Jesus Christ, who has sat at our tables, now invites us to be guests at his table.”
The parable that Jesus tells in today’s gospel adds extra richness to this invitation to the Eucharist—like being a kid and having your mother not only serve you that bowl of ice cream you were hoping for, but surprising you as well with toppings like M&M’s, chocolate sauce, cherries, and whipped cream piled high on top of the ice cream.
So let’s dig in by journeying into Middle Eastern culture along with Kenneth E. Bailey, who studies the gospels through the culture of Jesus’s time and has published his insights in the book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels.
I’ve used his compelling commentary to help us delve into the parable that Jesus told today about the master who serves.
So today, let’s go back to the time of Jesus.
Imagine that we are all slaves in the house of a rich man, a wealthy Israelite. We slaves have our quarters in this house.
Here’s what the rich man’s house is like.
We come in through the entrance, a door in a wall that faces the street, and once we go through the door, the courtyard opens out in front of us. This courtyard is actually the central room of the house, even though it’s open to the sky. Our courtyard has some olive and lemon trees growing in it. Straight ahead is the guest chamber, which is raised above the ground level, and this chamber has a low wall running around the sides. Guests recline along this low wall to eat when the master has a banquet.
The private quarters of the master and his family are probably on the second floor, and then on the top floor there’s an elaborate upper room on the roof.
Everyone in our house has been busy lately preparing for the wedding banquet which is being held tonight.
Many guests have come and are celebrating the marriage of the oldest son. We, who are the personal servants of the master, are waiting in the master’s private quarters for his return after the banquet, so that we can take care of anything he needs as he prepares to rest.
So we are ready. We’ve belted up our long robes so that we can spring into action at the master’s command. We’ve lit the lamps, so that the master’s rooms will be full of light.
And we are expectantly waiting for the master to come.
We listen to the muffled sounds of the banquet down in the more public part of the house. The smell of roast lamb wafts through the air.
We wait. The master won’t be here any time soon, we guess, but we wait, and listen, just in case.
The party is in full swing when we hear a soft tap at the door!
Maybe the mistress is knocking so softly at the door to the family quarters at this time of night, coming to check on the small children who are sleeping.
One of us hurries to the door to let her in, but to everyone’s surprise, the master himself is standing there!
And not only that, but he has a huge tray of food from the wedding banquet in his hands—he must have carefully set this tray down to knock.
Surely the master must mean for us to serve this food to the family tomorrow so he’s brought it back to the family quarters now, before the hungry guests eat it all. He’ll have us store it away.
But without saying what we are to do with the food, he asks one of us to hold the tray and then disappears into his sleeping quarters, quickly returning with his belt, which he ties around his waist, and then tucks his wedding garments up, ready for action.
He takes the tray back, and then he tells us to recline along the low wall where he and his family usually recline for meals, and where we usually wait on him as we serve the food.
But now we realize that he intends to serve us.
“No, master,” we object. “We are supposed to be serving you.”
But he is insistent, and so we recline, and he serves us!
Our master has withdrawn from the wedding banquet and he himself has brought us food from the banquet in order to include us, his slaves, in the festivities, and he even waits on us himself.
This behavior is unheard of!
Truly, we are the most blessed of servants!
The people who heard Jesus tell this parable may have understood it in the way we’ve just experienced it.
When we hear this parable today, we may hear it in the following way.
We are truly blessed to be the servants of our Lord in our own time.
Our Lord is the Lord who comes into our midst every time we gather in the Lord’s name, who prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.
Our Lord is the Lord, who after feeding us, doesn’t even stop there but insists on washing our feet, too, and making us clean.
Our Lord is the Lord who presides at the heavenly wedding banquet and yet would leave that table to come to ours and to serve us here around this table with bread and wine, his own body and blood.
Our Lord is the Lord who will come for each of us at the time of our deaths, and who will seat us at that heavenly banquet table, where even now those we love are already at the table, and around this table, sorrow and sighing and tears are no more, but instead, joy and celebration.
So our privilege and our joy in this life, as the Lord’s servants, is to be dressed for action, to keep the lights on, and to wait patiently for the One who has already blessed us so richly.
Our privilege is to listen, so that we can throw open the door as soon as we hear the knock, and to find that the Lord has indeed come with hands full of blessing.
Bailey, Kenneth E. Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL, IVP Academic. 2008.