Today’s Scripture Readings
Both of this morning’s readings have to do with waiting for Christ. As we can tell from the letter to the Corinthians this wasn’t any easier in the first century than it is today. In fact, the Corinthians had a challenge we don’t have, they were thinking that Jesus might be coming back in their lifetime. For us, the issue of staying faithful is a challenge since we live in a world that isn’t supportive of many of our values.
What I noticed about the readings this morning is they seem to take two very different approaches to staying faithful. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is addressed to people who live their faith. In fact my sense is that they have made their faith a part of who they are. Paul compliments them as having been enriched with “all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ has confirmed among you.” It is evident that they have faith because they are talking about Christ to their friends and neighbors. They are excited about being Christian.
It seems to me Paul knows these people are solid in their faith. All they really need is a reminder that, “God is faithful” and the relationship they already have with Jesus will “keep you firm until the end.”
The scene in Matthew’s Gospel is completely different. First of all, this is set at least 25 or 30 years earlier and there isn’t a believing community yet. Jesus is trying to explain what a relationship with God might look like. So in this story from Matthew, Jesus is literally trying to explain what it means to be faithful. The example is about leaving someone else in charge. That someone may act out of your wishes consistently, all the time you are gone. Or as soon as you are not there to oversee what is happening that someone may, in fact, act contrary to your wishes, since you won’t know anyway. In this situation, when the person is not following your wishes, he or she had better keep watch. The story essentially expects that people need some oversight, or fear of discovery to be kept in line. If you’ve raised children you understand the necessity for this approach.
These two stories are great examples of at least one difference in how people can respond to God. In the Gospel someone is following directions, rules and guidelines established by another. If he or she follows them faithfully then as Jesus says, the Master may well put that person in charge of more property give them more responsibility. The motivation for acting a certain way is from outside the person.
In our letter to the Corinthians, these people have long ago been put in charge of more property, they have more responsibility. They have come to take charge of their own lives because they have developed a relationship with Jesus that has resulted in their confidence about life and the values they try to live. They have received spiritual gifts that enrich their lives. They are “in Christ Jesus.” They have a fellowship with Christ. Which doesn’t mean they have all the answers or don’t find keeping faith a difficult task. Rather there is no question about how they want to live and how they are trying to live. It is a part of who they are and what they are about. They may be challenged by situations from the outside but that is not the source of their motivation. The motivation, the desire, the care they exhibit is their own, from the deepest part of who they are, because of a love, a connection to God and Jesus. There is no need in this situation to stay awake as if God’s coming would be a surprise. For these people of God who were in Corinth, God is already there. Jesus has already come.