This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
AMERICAN QUAKERS CREATE “UNDERGROUND” ESCAPE ROUTE FOR UGANDAN GAYS
32 Learn the lesson taught by the fig tree. As soon as its branches are full of sap, and it is bursting into leaf, you know that summer is near. 33 And so may you, as soon as you see all these things, know that he is at your doors. 34 I tell you, even the present generation will not pass away, until all these things have taken place. 35 The heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 36 But about that day and hour, no one knows — not even the angels of heaven, not even the Son — but only the Father himself. 37 For, just as in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 In those days before the flood they went on eating and drinking, marrying and being married, up to the very day on which Noah entered the ark, 39 taking not notice until the flood came and swept them one and all away; and so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 At that time, of two men on a farm one will be taken and one left; 41 of two women grinding with the hand-mill one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore watch; for you cannot be sure on what day your Master is coming. 43 But this you do know, that, had the owner of the house known at what time of night the thief was coming, they would have been on the watch, and would not have allowed their house to be broken into. 44 Therefore, you must also prepare, since it is just when you are least expecting him that the Son of Man will come. 45 Who, then is that trustworthy, careful servant, who has been placed by their master over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Happy will that servant be whom their master, when he comes home, will find doing this. 47 I tell you that their master will put them in charge of the whole of his property. 48 But, should the servant be a bad servant, and say to themselves ‘My master is a long time in coming,’ 49 and begin to beat their fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, 50 that servant’s master will come on a day when they do not expect him, and at an hour of which they are unaware, 51 and will flog the servant severely, and assign them their place among the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.
Jesus emphasises that although the critical signs of the tmes can be interpreted, the day when God’s justice, the day of the “son of man”, that is, the day when God’s true human beings will rule on earth, that day in unknown and is meant to be unknown. All the door-to-door evangelists who think they know are sad deluded souls or arrogant clowns. But Jesus uses the unknown-ness of the event to urge his diosciples to stay awake. Jesus will come like a thief to take away the householder’s ill-gotten gains, meaning he’ll release the prisoners from the power of evil.
Faithful wide-awake servants will be rewarded when the absentee landlord returns while violent dishonest servants will get what’s coming to them. The implication is clear for those in positions of authority who forget that their living space belongs to One Who Will Return and ill-treat their neighbours instead of caring for them: flogging and eviction will be their reward. Does this parable refer to all in positions of authority or to only to those who have responsibility in the household of faith? Perhaps it refers to all, but ecclesiastical bullies – for example those who deny women or gay people their God-given places- should be sure that God is marking their card. Those who ultimately find themselves outside God’s household nursing flogged backsides will know that they’ve “found a place among the hypocrites.”
As we interpret these teachings of Jesus we should note that God/ Son of Man is being compared to the hated class of absentee landlords who had become common in Palestine. This can only have been done with a certain black humour for which the only justification is that if the crooked landlord will eventually turn up to his neglected estate, it is much more certain that God / Son of Man will return to his world. The image of the Son of Man as a burglar is also unconventional. Those who imagine that parables like these were invented by Jesus’ followers have missed the scandalous humour which I see as Jesus’ hallmark.