homily preached at the EPIC Visioning Day
by the Rev. Josh Hosler, Campus Chaplain
Saturday, May 19, 2018
A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew.
Jesus, said, ‘Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
‘Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions.
Today’s Gospel reading is appointed for the Feast of St. Dunstan, a fascinating character you can read about sometime, not now. In the short time I have with you today, I’d like to focus on the reading instead.
You never knew when or how your life will change. I mean, some things you can plan for, but I’ve heard it said that if you want to hear God laugh, tell God your plans. This doesn’t mean that God thinks your plans are stupid—only that we so often claim more control over our lives than we can ever truly have. It is good to plan, but it is better to learn how to adjust.
Jesus is not saying, “Be prepared for every eventuality,” or, “Control the situation.” Quite the opposite, really. He’s making clear what qualities you’ll need to cultivate in order to be spiritually ready for all the things you can’t control.
Be faithful: that is, trust that God’s presence and guidance are certain even when you can’t perceive them.
Be wise: that is, look beyond yourself and your loved ones and their immediate needs.
Be responsible: that is, communicate clearly and do what you said you would do.
Care for others: that is, go out of your way to be present to people, to listen to them, to befriend them, to pray for them, to make sacrifices for their sake.
Work diligently: that is, be willing to invest your money, your time, your lifeblood in things that matter.
When you do all this, you’ll find that you are given greater responsibility.
Now, you might joke that you don’t want greater responsibility. But I know you: you’re not lazy people. You’re conscientious people. You’re responsible people who are frequently under a lot of stress. So I get it: the last thing you want is for more work to be laid on your backs.
But remember, too, what Jesus says in another place: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Yes, Jesus places a yoke on our shoulders. Jesus gives us work to do. The paradox is that he promises us rest—our souls will be able to be at rest in the midst of that work. The Christian life isn’t something we tack onto our regular lives. It is a different kind of life, a method for prioritizing the needs of the world above our own ambitions. It may mean that you will have more work or less work, easy work or exhausting work, but it will guarantee that the work you do will be transformed work—holy work, work that will reveal God’s love to the world.
The contemporary paraphrase of the Bible called The Message puts the passage this way:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
And what is “grace”? It’s a word that means a number of things in English, but which also carries a particularly Christian meaning. Grace is how God works. Grace means that whatever happens and no matter how bad things get, there is a way forward. Grace means that even when we are not in control and our anxiety is spiraling us downward, God is there, whispering, “Shhh. It’s not over yet.” Grace is unforced, and it is God’s path to peace and reconciliation.
So relax into the music. Ride the waves of the Holy Spirit through the rapids of life. Fuel up on bread and wine, Body and Blood, and then get back out there, where the Holy Spirit is showing you the work that is to be done. Have you been baptized? You have been given a mission. Not sure what that mission is? Go about your life following your passions, following what gives you life. Along the way, notice what the world does not have but needs desperately. Find the place where those two things meet, and dig in deeply, with reckless abandon. The Spirit will not abandon you. Jesus will give you rest. Your Creator is helping you create.
As I prepare to leave EPIC in my past, I want you all to know, first and foremost, how much I love you — each and every one of you. It has been a distinct honor to be able to walk alongside you for this brief but crucial time in your life. As I go, I will need to make intentional space, an absence from you, so that others can fill the role I have tried to fill. But after a time and a season, if you want to reach out to me again, please do so. After a time, we can reconnect.
As for today, enjoy the work, and enjoy each other. Pay attention not just to your own feelings in this process, but also to what the others around you are going through. Love one another.
Those aren’t just my words to you. They’re the words of someone else who was preparing to leave his friends for a time. First he washed their feet. (I’ll spare you that today.) Then he said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” I try to do just that, and I hope that you who have also joined in that work will continue it together. Amen.