It was word puzzles before dinner tonight. The afternoon had turned rainy and we were only planning pasta anyway, so there was time on our hands. I started with newspaper’s WordWheel as usual. It’s a simple idea: 8 letters in a ring, one in the centre and you try to make as many words as possible. Usual scrabble rules apply. The big win is finding the one 9-letter word. That’s usually what I start with. The kids like to start small, rack up the points and then move on to the word search.
Funny how long you can stare at something and then suddenly see something new.
It’s that moment that waits in the gospel reading this week. In the preceding chapter, we read about the rich fool followed by Jesus’ strong teaching against worry. This week’s story acts as the promise that seals the deal. Jesus tells his friends that they should wait because kingdom will come. Suddenly and without warning, like a thief in the night, something gloriously will begin new.
So be ready, Christ says. As ready as if your livelihood relied on it. Ready and alert.
But he doesn’t start there. Christ begins with these words:
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Luke 12:32 -34
He begins by recognising our littleness. Because we are a little flock, aren’t we? In the wide world where it feels like faith is a strange minority decision, his recognition is comfort. He knows we are going to gather in small numbers. That we are going to do things differently from the world at large. That we need a good shepherd or we’re going to get lost. And he tells us not to fear.
Then he shows us the kind of preparedness we are called into. Open-handed, giving, trusting love. Give gifts. Life lightly. This is what faithful waiting looks like. It isn’t just staring out into the world, or even into the minutia of our lives, looking for God at work – it is actively working to make open Kingdom spaces in whatever small ways we can. It is putting one foot in front of another again and again on this confusing walk of faith.
When the Spouse and I walked the pilgrim route in Spain, the hardest days may have been on the meseta, that flat endless prairie where there is nothing to look at but open space, empty road and the vast sky overhead. On one particularly hot and tiring day, the guidebook indicated that the day’s walk would end with a church spire. Glory be. All day, I watched for it and saw nothing. Not a strong day of courage in my books, I must say. It felt like I could see three weeks’ worth of walk ahead of me and there wasn’t a shadow of a spire anywhere at all.
Then suddenly, we saw it. Not ahead or up high, but strangely at our feet. The town was hidden away in a valley and we were suddenly there. It felt like a parable or a symbol to hold onto. Christ’s servant church was suddenly present when we focussed on the road.