If you live in the U.S. and have been at all interested in the major party conventions of recent weeks, surely you were impressed by the amount of work that goes into preparing such a gathering. Months (years, even) of planning, weeks of execution, days and nights of setup and teardown. Imagine all the signs, food, lighting, audio-visuals, and discussions about content and people who will deliver speeches. And there were, by estimates I heard, somewhere in the neighborhood of three million balloons. Three million! Who had to tie all those balloons?
All of this over-the-top preparation, in every convention, leads up to what we already knew was going to happen: a nominee is presented to the gathering and to the whole country.
After all the days, weeks, months, and years of getting ready. It’d be super weird if the candidate walked out on stage to deliver the acceptance speech, to find that the lights were out and everyone had gone home, that people got tired of all the preparations and went to bed before the anticipated arrival.
I know it’s a big metaphorical leap, but it would have been just as weird for Jesus’ listeners to think about unprepared characters in this brief parable about faith communities and individuals.
Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 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. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. [from Luke 12]
The right thing for the servants to do is to be prepared. Any other option would sound ridiculous to people in a culture where hospitality—even to strangers, and certainly to the boss—is one of the most important social mores.
But there’s a turn, and it’s the thing I love about this parable. The people are ready for the coming one in the metaphor, but that one is even more ready for them.
They’re sitting by lit lamps, watching out the window, waiting. You know what waiting is like. Waiting can be boring. It can be angering. It can be frustrating. Spiritual waiting may mean we’ve spent a long time grieving, wondering, aching, longing. Waiting is difficult, maybe even impossible. But we still hold out hope, even if hope is small and sometimes feels ridiculous. A tiny lamp, but it’s still lit.
Jesus says that spiritual waiting will be rewarded. Because when God shows up, God is the one who will feed and serve.
That’s the parabolic turn. We are a hungry and thirsty people, waiting for renewal, peace, hope to return. And God feeds our waiting, hungry, angry, hurt souls. It may take a lot of patience to see it, a lot of longing and hoping (and sometimes despair) to realize it, a lot of time for its fruition.
Someday, God will feed your waiting heart. God will nurture your yearning heart.
Just wait. And see.
© 2016, Melissa Bane Sevier