Jesus said, ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. 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.‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
‘But know 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, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’ Peter said, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?’ And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them 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 slave says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming”, and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 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, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
This teaching of Jesus should make us all sit up and take serious notice. He has taken us into his household. He has made us his little flock. We are invited guests in his home, his church, rather than mere servants. He warns us today that we must always be busy about our vocation, about the reason why he invited us into his home. If we grasped clearly what that call of Christ means, what our Christian vocation is, we would hardly need today’ warning.
We are Christians, we are members of his church, for our own eternal good, God through Christ’s incarnation has put us on the road to heaven.
He is ever helping us on the way. Could we be so blind to our own welfare that we would risk losing the eternal life that God has in store for us, and for which he went to the extreme lengths of love? In our saner moments we would give an emphatic no to this question. Yet, we must look the real facts of life in the face. There are many Christians who are destined for heaven but who, in their folly, have left the only road which leads there, and are now travelling in the opposite direction.
Some of us here present may be among these foolish ones. We may have let this world get such a grip on us that we have not time or thought for the world that is to come. For such foolish people, and indeed for all of us, today’s warning is that our call to judgment will come on each one of us like a thief in the night, at a moment when we least expect it. This need not be a sudden death. Of every thousand who die after long illnesses in our hospitals, there rarely is one who knows and admits he is about to die, so actually all deaths are sudden, that is, unexpected.
However, the unexpected death, which we are sure to get, need not worry the ordinary good Christians. It is the unprepared, the un-provided for, death which must cause us anxiety. It need not, if, when it comes, it finds us living in God’s grace, living the ordinary Christian life, doing our daily tasks but doing them as part of our duty of God. We have to take an interest in the affairs of this world, but the interest must never exclude our eternal interest. Instead it can and must help us toward the one real interest that man has in this life, that is, to earn his eternal life.
Take a serious look at your way of living today. Is our behaviour in the home, in your place of work, in your recreation, in your relations with God – prayers and church attendance – and with your neighbor, it is such that you would change nothing in it, if you were told by God that you were to die tonight? If it is, thank God for it and keep on going; you are on the right track. If it is not, don’t wait for God to tell you when or where you will die; he will not tell you. Put things right today, and then you need not worry when your call to judgment comes. Death will be graduation for the good Christian – not examination day. Amen.