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Pentecost 12 August 7, 2016 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
PENTECOST 12  Proper 14 Year C
Gen. 15:1-6; Psalm 33:12-22; Hebrews 11:1-3; 8-16; Luke 12:32-40
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, August 7, 2016
The Rev. Canon Janet B. Campbell
Early Christians
expected the return of Jesus
in their own lifetime.
It was this they eagerly awaited,
this they looked longingly toward,
this that shaped their daily lives in hope.
The things this world deems indispensable,
the treasures of wealth, position, power,
held little importance
for those expecting a new creation
          established in God’s justice.
“Sell your possessions, and give alms,”
Jesus told them,
“Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out,
an unfailing treasure in heaven,
where no thief comes near and no moth destroys,
          for where your treasure is,
          there your heart will be also.”

The parable of the slaves
waiting for the master’s return
urges and warns
those waiting early church communities
to be alert and ready,
“. . . dressed for action and [with] lamps lit.”
Their ancestors in faith,
the Jews,
believed the long-awaited Messiah
would finally come to redeem God’s people
on the night of the Passover,
          the ritual meal celebrating
          God’s liberation of Israel
                   from slavery in Egypt.
the early Christians
expected Jesus to return
at the Paschal feast,
the Christian Passover,
          (what we now call the Easter Vigil),
          which celebrates
          God’s liberation of God’s people
          from the power of sin and death
                    through the dying and rising of Jesus.

Versions of the parable
of the waiting slaves
appear in the gospels of
Matthew, Mark and Luke,
but Luke, as he often does,
has added allusions
to the church’s liturgy,
for it is in the liturgy
that the waiting community,
gathered around Word and Sacrament,
          experiences the presence of Christ
                   in its midst.           
We’ve seen that
in Luke’s story
of the road to Emmaus,
which clearly reflects the shape
of the Church’s eucharistic celebration.
The disciples recognize
the risen Christ
in the Scriptures he opens to them
          on the road
and the bread he breaks for them
          at table.

In a similar,
although more subtle way,
Luke links the parable
of the waiting slaves
to aspects of
the Paschal liturgy
and the community’s hope
for the final coming of Christ.
“Be dressed for action . . . “
or as some translations have it,
“Let your loins be girded . . .
God’s instructions                                                          [Exodus 12.11]
to the children of Israel
about to embark on their exodus from Egypt:
“This is how you shall eat
[the Passover lamb],” God said,
“your loins girded,
your sandals on your feet,
and your staff in your hand . . .”
The crucifixion of Jesus, the lamb of God,
which happened at the Passover,
was also referred to
          as his “departure,” or his “going out”
                   or his “exodus.”                         [e.g. The Transfiguration  Luke 9.31]

“ . . . have your lamps lit;”
for it is the dark night of vigil, of waiting,
          for the Sun of Righteousness to arise,
          and for the knock on the door.
“Be like those who are waiting
for their master to return
from the wedding banquet,”
The wedding banquet,
another name for the heavenly banquet
the kingdom feast
to which the risen Christ ascended
and from which he would return,
and another name
for the Church’s Eucharistic feast,
a foretaste of that banquet.
And so the early Church kept vigil
on the night of the annual Paschal Feast
expecting, each year,
the final coming of the Christ
at midnight.

And when he did not return literally,
          once and for all, when expected . . .
(for hadn’t he said he would be coming
          at an “unexpected hour”?)

the Church celebrated the Eucharist,
his continual coming
          in the sacrament of his Body and Blood
          to feed with his own self
          a people hungering for justice and peace.
And so the promise was fulfilled:
“. . . [the master] will fasten his belt
and have them sit down to eat,
and he will come and serve them.”
Every Eucharist,
Sunday by Sunday,
week after week,
that promise is ever fulfilled.
Through the bread and the wine,
things seen and tasted,
God’s waiting people
receive the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.

Like our ancestors of old
and all their descendants,
as many as the stars in the heavens,
we live by faith in a promise:
“Do not be afraid, little flock,
for it is your Father’s good pleasure
to give you the kingdom.”
And yes,
“All of these ancestors died in faith
without having received the promises,
but from a distance they saw and greeted them.”
“By faith,
Abraham obeyed when he was called
to set out for a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
and he set out,
not knowing where he was going.”

By faith,
like Abraham,
we travel through life
not knowing moment to moment
where we are going . . .
yes, we know we are going
to church, or to school, or to work,
or to the movies, or to the park, or to brunch . . .
But where are we truly going?
Through a world of turmoil
we journey by faith toward a promise:
the kingdom it is God’s good pleasure
to give us.
It is not here yet in all its fullness,
but as from a distance,
through the eyes of faith,
we see it,
and greet it,
and, in hope,
we live as if it were already here.

The risen Christ has still not yet returned
finally to establish God’s reign
of justice and peace,
yet in every Eucharist
he is already and always with us.
In this the promise is already fulfilled:
“. . . [the master] will have us
sit down to eat,
and he will come and serve us.”