Servant… or served? A Homily by Deacon Jim Hyatt

I have this recurring stress dream, or I should say a version of the same stress dream for what has seemed like many years. Not every night, but every once in a while. It is probably when I am feeling stressed in life that my subconscious mind decides to cook up another one of these dreams to either stress me out more or make me laugh when I wake up. Here’s what the dream is about.

I am back in school and as I am walking through the hallways of school, I remember that I have a test today. And I haven’t studied at all. In fact, I haven’t even been to the class itself except for the very first day of class when I got the syllabus. That’s how I know that the test is today, but because I haven’t been to class since that first day, I have no idea where the classroom is either. I am racing the clock trying to find the classroom so I can get in there and try to take this test even if I am totally unprepared. Or maybe if I can just find the room, I can talk to the teacher about getting a reprieve for a few days until I get my act together.

Talk about stressed! Unprepared because I did not realize until right now that the test was today, up against the clock and I can’t find the room. I just need some more time to study! Has anyone else had a dream like that before?

In last week’s Gospel, Jesus focused on people who were more worried about their earthly possessions than getting ready for the kingdom of God, and how our time can be called very unexpectedly. And in the Gospel today, we see Jesus building on that theme with a lesson for the disciples on being surprised, but being spiritually prepared. He teaches the disciples that they need to be like the servants who are prepared for their master’s return from a wedding, “ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” He is urging them and us to be spiritually prepared so that he can welcome us into his and our heavenly homeland.

So, this got me thinking. When, besides in my crazy dreams, am I unprepared for his coming? What traps do I fall into that leave me unprepared and what excuses do I use, like when I try to talk the teacher out of that exam, or I am asking for just a few more days to prepare? 

When I thought about this, I realized that there are many times when I am not well prepared for him calling my name. Maybe it is the same with some of you also. Maybe we have let some ill feelings about someone, or some event, linger too long without addressing it. Or maybe we have not spoken to someone in a long time because of a fight or disagreement we had… years ago. Or maybe we are holding on to some anger or jealousy or envy… and we just need to let it go. We all probably have some of this lingering within us.

Which then gets me thinking about those traps we fall into. Why do we get trapped or leave ourselves in these situations or predicaments? Here are some of the favorite excuses: I’ll get to it soon, maybe after Labor Day, or when things slow down or maybe next year or I’m too busy right now… leaving us unprepared for something that we really should be very prepared for. When we recognize these traps, we may be taking the first steps to put us on the road to being prepared.

But there is another line that is easy to miss in this Gospel that I find really stunning and which may help us realize that we have got to stop with the excuses and get prepared. In the Gospel, Jesus is talking about the servants that are prepared and what I find amazing is when he says what is waiting for them and us. It reads, “Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have the servants recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.” The master, Jesus, will have us recline at the table in heaven and he will wait on us. I feel like I should be serving and worshipping Him in heaven, but he says what he has said elsewhere in the Gospels, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” And as we know, many images in the Bible of heaven refer to heaven as a banquet or a feast that we are invited to. I am pretty certain that I do not want to miss that!

But to be there, to be at the feast to end all feasts, to bask in his glory forever, to cash in on that invitation, we need to be prepared. Not like me running through the hallways of school desperately looking for the door to get in and desperately begging for more time, instead we can be prepared. It is up to us, we have to choose to take that step… and not let time slip away from us. Make no mistake, he wants all of us there, all of our family, all of our friends, all of us. So maybe today and this week that is what we need to think more deeply about – what do we need to do to be prepared for His call, to accept His invitation so that we too can recline at His table for eternity.

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