Sunday 7 August 2022 | All Saints Margaret Street All Saints Margaret Street | Sunday 7 August 2022

Sermon for Sunday 7 August 2022

Trinity 8 (Year C)

“See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit.  Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.”

What does it mean to be “ready”? The Oxford English Dictionary reads as follows, “with preparations complete, in fit state, with resolution nerved, willing, apt, inclined, about to, unreluctant, fit for immediate use.”

Being “ready” is regarded today as a great virtue.  Like being punctual, or efficient, or cooperative, it is seen as a good quality at the work place.

We all know how frustrating it is when someone isn’t ready – a friend or a colleague who’s always late or forgets their tickets for the theatre, or hasn’t got their passport at the airport.

But have you noticed how often we think of being “ready” as something which is reliant on our efforts.  It’s a series of things we do to make ourselves self-reliant and self-sufficient.  It’s a whole load of preparations and acquisitions that we make – having the right sort of equipment, or getting in enough provisions. It’s about the things we buy or get so that we are ready for whatever task lies ahead.

Jesus speaks in our gospel reading today about being ready, being ready for his return when he will judge the whole world. But he seems to have a very different notion of what it means to be ready.

“See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit.  Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.”

Being ready for Jesus is not about having the right sort of equipment, or having achieved the prerequisite number of goals. It’s simply about being expectant.  Being expectant and awake and waiting for him.

Being ready for Jesus is also about being open to what the Master will do when he returns. It means being open to surprise and reversal. For the Master turns everything topsy turvy when he arrives and starts waiting on his own servants. Being ready in Jesus’ terms is about welcoming new possibilities and the reversal of what we thought we expected.

“I tell you solemnly the Master will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them.”

So how do we embody this kind of readiness in our lives?

It can sometimes be useful to find a practical example of what this looks like rather than just thinking about it in the abstract.

The more I’ve been thinking about this, the more it dawns on me the best example we have of the kind of readiness Jesus talks about is in fact someone we will be spending quite a lot of time celebrating next week – Mary his Mother.

For next Sunday, we keep the great feast of the Assumption, and I can’t think of a better Gospel reading to have a week beforehand in preparation.

The reason Mary stands out as the foremost example of discipleship in the Christian imagination is that she is above all things ready and open to God.

At no point in the gospels does Mary bargain with God with what she has earned or made or acquired. She simply presents herself ready and open to God’s action, even though it will mean heart break and hardship for her: “Be it unto me according to thy word.”

We also see in her life the kind of topsy turvy reversal Christ speaks about in today’s gospel, in which Masters serve their servants. It lies at the heart of Mary’s song, the Magnificat. The mighty are thrown down, the hungry are fed, and the rich go away empty.

For if the Assumption is about anything, it is about celebrating the triumph of God’s grace in one who was perfectly ready to do his will. It is the natural consequence of her being obediently open to the possibility of giving birth to the Son of God.

And in that, she is the best example I can think of of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, open to God, ready for his call, yearning for the in breaking of his kingdom, expectantly watching, waiting for his return.

So for once don’t worry about not being ready as the world understands the word – having provisions packed, or the right outfit on, or the correct equipment with you.  But do make sure you are ready in the way Jesus speaks about today – like Mary, awake, waiting and expectant, joyful, certain and prepared to be surprised by the love of God. Because as Jesus tells us this morning, “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Fr Peter Anthony