Blessed are the Working Servants – August 11, 2013 – Luke 12: 35 – 48

Going to try preaching from an outline instead of a manuscript. We’ll see how it goes. Here’s this week’s outline.

There seems to be 4 parables in the reading today. It can be difficult to interpret one parable because parables are so rich in meaning and allegory. However, these 4 parables convey similar meaning along with blessings and warnings. I think this reading then is very important if Jesus taught 4 parables to convey one message. He must have thought this message was pretty important.

First 35 – 36
35 “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps lit. 36 Be like people waiting for their master to come home from a wedding celebration, who can immediately open the door for him when he arrives and knocks on the door.
* The servants’ master has gone to the bride’s house to be married. His servants wait for the master’s return so they are ready to open the door to him when he returns from the wedding. They must be watchful and ready because they do not know when the master will return.
* be dressed, ready for service and keep your lamps burning
* gird your loins or be dressed for action “literally means drawing up the outer garment and tuck it into the sash around one’s waist so as to be prepared for vigorous activity.”
* The exhortation to be ready is a common message throughout the Bible, appearing in Exodus, 1 Peter, Leviticus, Matthew, Mark, and Revelation.

37 – 38 is a beatitude or a blessing for the faithful
37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds waiting up when he arrives. I assure you that, when he arrives, he will dress himself to serve, seat them at the table as honored guests, and wait on them. 38 Blessed are those whom he finds alert, even if he comes at midnight or just before dawn.
• We know in the Gospels that Jesus reprimands the Disciples for falling asleep on different occasions when He has asked them to be on the watch.
• Watchfulness is marked by prayer while sleep indicates that they have neglected their post.
• Jesus promises that the Master will serve the servants for their faithful work when He returns.
• This image of the servants seated at the table as honored guests of the Master is a reminder that when Jesus returns and we are ushered into Heaven, Jesus will set a feast before us. Luke refers to this banquet 2 other times in the Gospel. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of that coming banquet.
• We are reminded that we are to remain watchful for the Lord’s return. 2,000 years after the Resurrection, we know that the Lord’s return is much delayed compared to the expectation of the Disciples; however, we still know He could return any day.

Second 39 – 40 – is a parable of the householder and is warning of the judgment of the unprepared.
39 But know this, if the homeowner had known what time the thief was coming, he wouldn’t have allowed his home to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at a time when you don’t expect him.”
• This second parable reminds us that there is an alternative to blessing. The parable warns against the coming thief that could steal from the Master’s household.
• Preparedness to defend oneself against the thief is trust in God, being a faithful steward of one’s material possession, obeying the commandments, and leading a life of prayer.

Third parable 42 – 46
42 The Lord replied, “Who are the faithful and wise managers whom the master will put in charge of his household servants, to give them their food at the proper time? 43 Blessed are the servants whom the master finds fulfilling their responsibilities when he comes. 44 I assure you that the master will put them in charge of all his possessions. 45 “But suppose that these servants should say to themselves, My master is taking his time about coming. And suppose they began to beat the servants, both men and women, and to eat, drink, and get drunk. 46 The master of those servants would come on a day when they weren’t expecting him, at a time they couldn’t predict. The master will cut them into pieces and assign them a place with the unfaithful.
• Here Luke looks beyond the servant to the manager of the Master’s household. This might be seen as Jesus’ warning to the Disciples specifically which can be related to the church’s leadership calling leaders to be faithful and prudent.
• The oversight of food is lived out when deacons are appointed to roles of leadership in Acts who manage the communities food and money to assure the poor are taken care of.
• We are also warned against giving up hope in the Lord’s return because we have waited so long.
• We are called to do work to bring about the Kingdom of God, kingdom work, as we wait on the Lord.

Fourth parable 47 – 48
47 That servant who knew his master’s will but didn’t prepare for it or act on it will be beaten severely. 48 The one who didn’t know the master’s will but who did things deserving punishment will be beaten only a little. Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.
• These final verses are both a parable and a warning. The faithful are reminded of the consequences of not being a good servant

The master calls its servants to be at work waiting for His return. In order to be working and ready, we must know where we are working, what our mission field is. As part of the development of a 3-year ministry plan, the Board officers reviewed a demographic study and presented 10 bullet points to the Board for consideration.

It is important for a congregation to understand the context in which it does ministry so that it can plan to do the right work. A couple of stories about congregations not understanding their context. One church wanted to open a food pantry. This church was in an upper-middle class neighborhood. There were no people in the community who needed food assistance and people who needed assistance would have to travel for the assistance. Another church mourned that they didn’t have any kids. That church was in a gated retirement community. The church wasn’t in a neighborhood that had any children. So, as part of our planning we need to know who our neighbors are before we can begin to offer ministries that will show our love to Bethany.

Summary of the Bethany Demographic study
1) We live in “Mayberry”.
a. I grew up in a small town, but not like this small town community. I’ve had the neighbor stop by the parsonage to visit. I know the librarian, the post master and the grocery store and Café owner. It doesn’t take long to form relationships with people in the community. In a small town, I describe it as everyone knows everyone.
2) People don’t want door-to-door canvassing.
a. When it comes to Evangelism, people don’t want church people knocking on their door. The unchurched are looking for a personal invitation to Christ and the church.
3) College grads work out of town except teachers.
a. Those who live in Bethany with college degrees work out of town, because there are not a lot of job opportunities in town for educated people.
4) Growth of people looking for safe, inexpensive place to raise families.
a. Unlike many towns who are facing a decrease in population, Bethany is projected for a 1% growth in the coming years. This growth will be from families looking for someplace safe to raise their children.
5) People are middle-aged and middle-income.
a. The average population in Bethany are people in their middle-age and are middle-class working families.
6) High percentage of married households.
a. The US faces a divorce rate of about 50%. Though, Bethany has a high-percentage of households with a married couples. There are few single mother and father households.
7) High high school graduation rates. Average education level is high school.
a.
8) Small percentage of ethnic groups.
a. It doesn’t take a very hard look around town to tell that there are a lot of white faces and very little, hardly any, diversity among residents.
9) People want Bible study.
a. Even though the numbers of church-going Christians is generally declining, people are still hungry for spirituality. People want to study the Bible and pray. We offer Bible study on Sunday mornings and Wednesday mornings will resume next month.
10) Blue collar and suitcase community.
a. For reasons stated in previous items, the employed people of Bethany are either blue collar, especially because degreed-workers must travel for work. On the other hand, Bethany is a bedroom community meaning that people sleep here, but don’t work here.

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