Scripture transcends time and space. It was meant originally for the primary readers, but it finds a way of translation into our given contexts through the power of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus says the words given to us in the Gospel reading for the Lectionary this week, they are words given to the weary world of today just as much as those primary readers who first heard the words given through the Gospel of Luke. The news headlines of late paint a dreary picture where violence has once again come to the forefront in a remarkably clear way through acts of terror around the world; most recently in Nice, St. Paul, Baton Rouge, Aleppo, Dallas, etc., etc., etc. It is in this violent world that we as preachers must find our prophetic voice. We cannot simply avoid violence, but we must courageously address it and empower our people to be the hands and feet against violence and for peace in the days ahead. We must call our people to tangible acts of peace that are clearly visible in our communities. We must be like the Good Samaritan who physically did something about an act of injustice that he came across. And it is in this confrontation of good and evil that we find these words of hope this week: “Do not be afraid little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” Is that proof-texting a verse into our context of today? No. Not in the least. The Gospel is Good News for all people, at all times, and Jesus had just spent the previous ten verses telling his disciples of the anxieties of life and how God will take care of all of them. It is there that we as preachers and our congregations find ourselves naturally thinking of the anxieties in our own lives – and there are many. As long as humanity has existed, we’ve experienced anxieties, because being anxious is natural in a world where we simply have to partake in activity in order to survive and care for those around us as humankind. For us today, violence has become one of the main anxieties we face. And it is here that our little flock finds hope in the fact that it is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. When the world points to giving us fear and hatred, God points to love and peace. The lectionary seemingly bridges two unrelated passages into one for us this week. Instead of a single passage, we’re given two pieces of two passages; however there is a vital connection that our congregations must pay attention to that lets us know that these are very related passages instead of fragments of two separate ones.
The conversation Jesus is in with his disciples switches from anxiousness, to financial stewardship, to being ready for the return of Jesus. The simple connection is that as humans, our anxieties (including financial) can get in the way of our being ready and available to be ambassadors of the Kingdom ethic. Our anxieties can also get in the way of us being awake, including spiritually, mentally, and physically. Beyond that, our bent towards consumerism and materialism can get in the way as well. Jesus’ first calling in our passage is to relinquish a life of anxiety for a life of devotion by providing for the needs of others. In a world where we have a huge desire for control and possession, a call to letting go and giving away is a clear indicator of part of the prescription for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. It is here that the connection with the rest of the passage is made. Our true security is not found in the gathering of possessions, but in relinquishing our very selves to the Lord who is the giver of life. Being ready for the coming of Jesus is not found in anxieties and possessions, but in being devoted to a Kingdom lifestyle.
Jesus moves on and shares a parabolic teaching in order to get to the heart of what a Kingdom lifestyle of preparedness is all about. Being dressed for action takes the reader back to a familiar term in scripture that deals with girding ones loins in preparedness. This same term is the one used to describe the Father waiting for the prodigal son to return. It literally means to
“draw up the long outer garment and tuck it into the sash around one’s waist or hips so as to be prepared for vigorous activity.”
I don’t know about you, but that language excites me! It makes me think about the process of being ready for the vigorous activity we find ourselves in as Kingdom citizens. Naturally, that imagery can take one to anything sports related: a marathon, a hike, or some sort of actual match between teams. In each of those activities there are specific tolls necessary both train for and play that sport. The Kingdom of God is on the move, and we need to be ready for the Spirit’s leading to where we are called to be agents of the Kingdom. So how do we gird up our loins for such a movement of the Kingdom?
Jesus continues on to say that lamps should be burning, and that the servants should be waiting to open the door for when the Master returns. Luke has painted a picture elsewhere of sleepy disciples when they should rather be awake, watching and praying. So another picture is clearly painted here of what Kingdom preparedness looks like – it is marked by prayer. Watchfulness is marked by prayer, while sleep indicates neglect and unpreparedness. The promise for those who are prepared and awake for the Master is that the roles will be reversed, and the Master will in turn gird his loins and serve the servants at the table. This is a clear picture of the eschatological hope found in this passage. Jesus makes sure that the disciples know this is a holistic preparedness. Not just the first watch in the night – but all of them. Jesus has shown through this passage that Kingdom readiness means trust in the heavenly Father to take on our anxiousness, it means we handle our possessions faithfully, it means we live out a Kingdom ethic, and it means that we make life a matter of constant prayer. How will you share this prescription with your congregation this week? How will they have their loins girded through your communication of the Gospel in faithful preparation for Kingdom living in a sometimes violent world? Peace be with you as you seek to effectively communicate this Good News to your contexts that surely are feeling the anxieties of our world.
Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom!  R. Allen Culpepper, “Luke,” in Luke; John, vol. IX of The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 263.