‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
‘Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, “My master is delayed”, and he begins to beat his fellow-slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It is the occasions of ‘not knowing’ in life which I find difficult. Once something is known it can be dealt with, but the ‘not knowing’ is hard, when my mind can wander down all sorts of paths about what may or may not unfold.
Today’s reading concludes Jesus’ description of the chaos that the disciples find so threatening as they await the coming of the Son of Humanity. Jesus finally offers a direct answer to the ‘when’ part of their questions, though it is not the answer they had been hoping for. Only God knows the ‘when’, not even Jesus is privy to that knowledge. Jesus goes on to stress the importance of wakefulness and readiness.
I wonder if reading this passage in Lent rather than Advent encourages us to think about it differently? Instead of focusing on the triumphant second coming of Christ at some point in history with the chaos and destruction the Gospel writers predict, what happens if we understand this sermon more in light of the events of Good Friday and Easter Day, so we live as those who are ready in light of death and resurrection of Jesus?
Being awake and ready is a hallmark of discipleship, a norm regardless of the circumstances of the world or our individual lives. Wakefulness is a sense of heightened attentiveness to the signs of God’s presence and power, as well as the signs of the times.
We are called to watch for the signs of God’s presence in healing the sick, standing with the broken and suffering, bringing sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. This is Jesus’ message in the final parable of this sermon. So we discover that in this time of not knowing, is it only the ‘when’ that is unknown, the ‘who’ ‘what’ and ‘how’ of being awake and ready is set out for us, we simply need to ensure our eyes are open and our hearts are ready.
We may not know when, but you have told us how to be ready, what and whom to be ready for. Crucified and Risen Lord, ready us now to be your disciples in the world, attentive to your presence in our world and in our lives. Amen.
The Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson, minister, East Kilbride and Hamilton Joint Pastorate.