Monday, June 19, 2017

Parable: The Absent Householder

I enjoyed my time at sea while in the Marine Corps.  You go to sleep off the shore of one nation and awaken off the shore of another.  Knowing where you are with relation to other nations is important.  That’s where Marines do most of their training and operations—ashore.  While embarked, the Navy keeps things afloat and headed in the right direction.

The sailors manned watches, generally 4 hours.  The ship’s intercom system—the 1MC—would announced the watch change. 

Relieve the watch.  Relieve the wheel and the lookout.  On deck, condition…

Condition IV was afloat and cruising not ready to shoot anything, aka peacetime.

Condition I was completely ready for action—ready to engage any enemy.

Condition IA was always fun.  That is ready to conduct amphibious assault operations.  If you are a land lover and a little squeamish, then this is not for you.  The ship purposely takes on water in what is called a well deck so that Marines who have been loaded into amphibious vehicles can be spit out into the open sea.

But when you are at sea and the Navy is doing all the driving and the Marines are just fighting to get time in the weight room, Condition IV is what you want to hear.

When you hit the rack, the 1MC will awaken you at midnight and 0400 but once you hear Condition IV, you go right back to sleep.  You know the watch is set and you know that all is well.  You know that the watch is set.

Reading this parable, you might think that Jesus is telling everyone that it’s go on—stay on from now until the second coming.  Nobody is getting any sleep.  But that’s not it.  He is not saying that we should do something so self-destructive.

The owner of the house gave everyone assignments before he left.  Everyone knew his or her responsibilities.  They knew exactly what to do in his absence.  Among those responsibilities was to keep watch.

Some might be assigned kitchen and household duties and others to work fields or winepresses or take care of livestock.  And some assigned to keep watch.  In a small household, few servants might do many tasks and the watch might be rotated. 

The important thing was that everyone continued to do what they were assigned to do and that they maintained a state of alertness.  If you are doing the things that you know to do and have a little security in place, you should be able to sleep at night.

If the watch saw the homeowner coming, he could wake all in the household and they would be ready to receive him on short notice.  It’s not like they didn’t know he would return.  They expected his return.

Visualize a fireman on a night watch sleeping in shorts and a tee shirt who can slide into his firefighting gear in a matter of seconds.  He sleeps but he is ready in a moment’s notice.

The Marine, the fireman, the Christian is ready not because he never sleeps but because he does the things that he knows to do all of the time.  When the condition of the ship goes from IV to I, it’s only a matter of minutes before everyone is ready to do what they have been trained to do.

You can’t do this unless your life is given completely to your purpose.  It doesn’t matter if the homeowner, commanding officer, or the fire chief is around or not.  You know what to do and you do it.  It is a way of life.

Our preparation for the return of our Lord is a way of life.  We sleep, perhaps better than much of the world, but we are ready for his return.

This short parable follows Mark’s text about the signs at the end of the age.  Read Matthew’s 24th chapter for similar context.  Matthew follows what I call eschatology for fisherman with the Parable of the 10 Virgins which again is about readiness.  Mark gives us readiness in the parable of the absent householder. 

We who have ears to hear this parable must keep watch.  We must be ready.  When Jesus returns in his glory, there won’t be time to get our affairs in order.  There won’t be time to get right with God.  There won’t be time to make some last-minute decisions about what really matters. 

We are to live in right-standing with God now.  The blood of Jesus has done this for us.  We simply live out our salvation as the most important thing that we will do in these bodies of flesh and blood and live in such a way as to bring glory to God.

That’s our readiness.  That’s our watchfulness.

Yes, we are tuned into the signs of the times.  We know the season.  We see the love of many growing cold.  We see followers of Christ being alienated in their own countries.  We have seen this happening here in our own country. 

The time is near, but we do not know the hour.  Jesus told his disciples that he did not know when.  That time belonged to the Father alone. 

Our charge is to be ready.  We are called to, “Watch!”
What does watch mean in the 21st Century?  Here are some synonyms for this part of western Oklahoma:

·      Pop Tarts and Peanut Butter
·      Chewy Tuesdays
·      Vacation Bible School
·      Monthly memory verses and extra readiness for actually memorizing them!
·      Prayer
·      More prayer
·      Continuous prayer
·      Living each day to God’s glory.
·      Being God’s love in action.
·      Feeding hungry people.
·      Sharing the good news.
·      Putting our gifts and talents to use.
·      Kicking worry and anxiousness to the curb.
·      Living in the joy of the Lord—yes even on our worst days.
·      Loving our neighbor.
·      Loving our enemies.  I still wish that one was a typo, but it’s not.
·      Being the light of the world.
·      Being the salt—the God seasoning—of the world.
·      Trusting in the Lord with all of your heart.
·      Regarding our own understanding with a grain or a truckload of salt.
·      Acknowledging God in everything!
·      Staying the course.
·      Pressing on towards the goal—of living for Christ and bringing others to him.
·      To know our Lord and make him known.
·      Visiting the sick and homebound.
·      Trunk or Treat
·      Walk A Block for Jesus
·      Even the Easter Egg Hunt, aka the love ambush.
·      F4
·      Sunday morning worship
·      Love offerings
·      Tithing
·      Loaves and Fishes offering
·      Worship in drama
·      Cooking, cleaning, and enjoying each other while we eat.
·      Partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
·      Making joyful sounds unto the Lord.
·      Rejoicing in the day that the Lord has made.
·      Being baptized and baptizing our children.
·      Fearing only the Lord while knowing that love, not fear is what he desires from us.
·      Reading his word.
·      Studying his word.
·      Knowing his word.
·      Living in his word.
·      Living in freedom.
·      Not being a stumbling block to others.
·      Casting off anything that we know is slowing us down in our race of faith.
·      Bringing food offerings of stuff that we would actually want to eat.
·      Bringing up our children—and the children that we have adopted as a church family—in the way they should go.
·      Staying awake for the whole sermon. 

The list could go on.  Some of these things have a local context.  Some are for every believer, but all have a common thread.  We know what to do.  These are all ways that we live out our salvation in this world as the most important thing we will ever do.  Paul would say that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  I might say we respond to God’s infinite grace with great gravity.

And these things that I have listed are not extremely difficult or complex or reserved only for a special class of people.
These are the things that I expect to be doing when Jesus returns.  I don’t expect to lose much sleep.  The watch is set.  I know my assignment.

If Jesus comes at zero dark thirty, I will be up and making coffee—good Kona coffee—for him by the time he walks in the door.  I will not be worried about anything else because I am living fully for him every day. 

The watch is set.  We are doing the things the Master has given us to do.  We are ready for his return.

Come Lord Jesus, come!

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