“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 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. 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. 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. 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. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”                  Luke 12:35-40  (NIV)

Over the years I have thought the word for this parable was “vigilance.” Kind of a “Be ready or else…” message. I recently heard a Richard Rohr homily that put a different perspective on this story that more closely aligns with my current understanding of God. It is actually offering a surprise and an opportunity. It is saying God always comes unexpectedly. If you are not expecting it, it won’t happen. If you are not allowing it, it is not going to happen. It has the Lord as it were reversing roles and proceeding to wait on us. We think of ourselves as waiting on the Lord. We are His servants and He is the Lord. But in this particular passage He says no, “I’ll be the servant and teach you how to do it. How to love and how to love rightly.” You don’t love by domineering. You love by vulnerability, waiting, trusting, serving. 

Jesus is presenting himself as the divine thief who comes in the middle of the night when you are only half expecting and steals your heart. If your mind, your body, your soul are too guarded, too defended - God doesn’t have a chance. He has to come by ambush. He has to come when you’re not so guarded. When you’re not so protected, so he calls it the second or third watch in the middle of the night. 

It is like a game of catch. Whenever you throw out the ball of love, there is someone there to catch it. The reason you know it was caught is because it is thrown back to you. You will experience that throwing back in that divine game of catch as mercy. Never judgement. Never. If it is God it is always mercy, always love, always forgiveness. It is always acceptance. 

Come Lord Jesus. Amen. 

Mark Autterson

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