“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” (Luke 12:36)
Sally is looking forward to her birthday in a fortnight’s time; in two weeks she’ll be nine years old; in fourteen days she hopes she will be given the birthday present of her dreams. What she’s longing for with such passion is for her parents to give her riding lessons at last. But mixed with that hope and expectation is an awful uncertainty. What if her parents, who promised to think about it, have decided against it? How will she cope with the disappointment and sadness. It even makes her angry with her parents just to think about not having that gift. How can she dare to hope when there’s the chance it won’t happen?
It’s two weeks later: it seemed to take for ever but her birthday has arrived and here are her presents. She only now wonders how you would wrap up riding lessons – what would that parcel look like, surely not like any of these in front of her. She opens the card her parents give her and there on the inside is the message: “Your first riding lesson will be on Saturday 8th September at 11 o’clock”. Her joy and excitement are more than thanks enough for mum and dad!
Now Sally’s looking forward with a hope and excitement that she knows will not be extinguished – gone is that uncertainty and fear that haunted her before. She has the assurance that what she has hoped for will be hers.
What a difference it makes when we look forward to something exciting that we know is going to happen. We can enjoy that delicious feeling of certain anticipation without the tension of doubt and anxiety.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus is encouraging his disciples to enjoy that sort of hope. He wants them to have the faith that is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”.
He speaks to them of the Father’s pleasure in giving them the kingdom; he talks about the unfailing treasures kept safely in heaven. He encourages them to be ready like servants who know for certain that their master will come back, they just don’t know when. He tries to make them understand that the Son of Man will certainly come – the only doubt is in the timing of that coming.
The words of Jesus also suggest that God, too, waits in the hopeful expectation that his people will be ready for him, that they will be waiting eagerly for his arrival. Jesus talks of the master returning from the wedding banquet and finding such joy in his servants who are prepared that he actually gets them to sit down for a meal and serves them himself!
While we long for God’s kingdom and do our best to prepare ourselves and keep alert, it may encourage us if we also have a picture of God longing for us to come home, to be at peace and to live in true fellowship with him.
If we are to live our lives with the faith that “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” we need to allow that faith to take root and grow within us so that we no longer put our trust in treasures that don’t belong in God’s eternal kingdom.
To build a foundation for that faith we can look back at the long tradition of God’s promises to his people and of the faith that has sustained generations of believers from the time of Abraham to the present day. It can often be the faith of people we admire that kindles faith in us, or the desire to have the sort of assurance they have.
We will each need to find our own ways of building our faith on these foundations. Some of us may want to spend more time with the scriptures and in prayer alone with God; some may prefer the fellowship of other people and discussions around faith that can feed and nourish all who take part; others may need to express their thoughts through writing, art or music. Perhaps some of us need all these things.
One thing we can be sure of is that as much as we are searching and longing for a richer experience of God’s presence with us, God’s longing for true fellowship with us is stronger than death itself and he will find ways of reaching us – we just need to be ready to welcome him.
1. Sometimes we wait and hope for things without the certainty that our hopes will be fulfilled.
2. The promises of God and the words of Jesus speak of hope and faith in the assurance that God’s promises will be fulfilled.
3. There is a long tradition of faith and trust in God to be our inspiration and the foundation for our faith.
4. While we wait and hope for the coming of God’s kingdom, God also waits and longs for his children to come home and to be at peace.
With faith in God’s assurance that he will hear our prayers, we bring to him our thanksgivings and our concerns for the needs of others.
We give thanks to God for his gift of faith: the faith that has enlightened and inspired men and women in all generations. We thank God especially for those whose faith and conviction have encouraged and strengthened us in our journey.
We give thanks to God for this world he has created. We pray for greater wisdom and responsibility in our stewardship of this earth.
We give thanks to God for his assurance of life in his eternal kingdom. We pray that in faith we will store our treasures in heaven so that our lives will speak to others of heaven’s love, joy and peace.
We give thanks to God for the gift of life and pray for those whose lives are troubled by illness, grief, poverty or injustice. We pray that in the darkness of their suffering and pain God’s light will shine to bring them the assurance and hope they need .
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your promise to hear our prayers. Strengthen our faith in that promise so that our lives might proclaim your love, mercy and goodness made visible in the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.