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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

Be Prepared

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost


“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Luke 12:32-40


When I was in school, I loved taking exams. I would look at the questions and say to myself, “This is a piece of cake. I know all these answers.” And I’d answer the questions in a breeze, hand in the exam, and think, “There’s another ‘A’”.


When I was in school, I hated taking exams. I would look at the questions and say to myself, “This is terrible!” And I’d guess at what the answers might possibly be, hand in the exam, and think, “There’s another ‘F’”.


You know why I had two different reactions to exams, don’t you? Sometimes I was prepared, and sometimes I wasn’t. Sometimes I’d done my homework, and sometimes I hadn’t. That made all the difference!


“Be prepared!” That’s the Boy Scout motto, isn’t it? “Be prepared.” It’s also the motto of the followers of Jesus. Be prepared. It’s like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet. They’re expected to be ready at their posts so when he knocks on the door, they can open it immediately for him to come in. If they’re prepared for his coming, he’ll reward them by serving them and waiting on them! If they’re not prepared, the master will deal with that, too.


“Be ready,” counseled Jesus. “Be dressed, ready for service, and keep your lamps burning,” He said. Be prepared. It’s wise advice in terms of our relationship with Christ. It’s wise advice in our everyday lives, too.


Preparation is often the difference between success and failure. Jesus wants us to see that. This simple parable of His contains a great truth of life: People who are prepared have an advantage over those who aren’t.


Some of you have probably heard of the Boston Red Sox. And a few of you may have heard of Ted Williams. Was he the greatest batter of all time? Some think so! Do you know why he was such a good hitter? In an article about Ted Williams some years ago, he was reported as saying that in the course of a game he expected to see only one perfect pitch – perfect from a batter’s point of view. Only one perfect pitch among the 20 to 50 pitches per game that a batter is likely to see. Ted Williams said that because he had no idea when that one perfect pitch would appear, he knew it was crucial to be both patient and prepared. He waited for that one perfect pitch. And when it came, he was prepared!


It's not hard to see that preparation is one of the keys to a successful life in any field. Many of our young people will be quite successful some day in their chosen profession. Why? Because they work hard in school and will go out into the world prepared. Some of you will get off to a roaring start in your work this week. Why? Because you’ve set your priorities, done your homework, and know what you need to do. You’re prepared. Preparation is the difference between the amateur and the pro, the star and the also-ran, the winner and those who trail behind. Preparation is often the difference between success and failure.


Preparation is sometimes the difference between life and death. In any situation where there’s a good chance of failure, and the cost of failure is high, preparation becomes even more important. Sometimes it’s a case of life and death.


A commander in the elite aerial team, the Blue Angels, gave an account of how important preparation is in that risky occupation. Flying the lead plane in a show, the commander felt a sudden thump to his plane’s tail. Thinking he had been bumped by another plane, he struggled to keep in line, knowing the formation of the other planes was dependent on him. Hours later, at the debriefing, he learned of the danger the pilot behind him had experienced.


What the commander thought was a bump was actually air turbulence created by the thrust of sudden change in the flight pattern of the jet plane behind him. That plane’s throttle had frozen, leaving the pilot to make an instantaneous decision. There was only one choice really – to fly straight up and out of the pattern to keep from crashing into another plane, and that’s what he did. He could quickly recover and correct the situation because he was prepared to expect the unexpected. The available reaction time was only seconds but he was ready to respond. Seconds between life and death.


How do you prepare for such critical decisions? Study, study, study; practice, practice, practice. You do it over and over again until your reflexes respond instinctively. If you have to think for a while before you act, you’re in trouble. People who excel in any field know it’s crucial to prepare.


If the organist has to look at the keys and think, “Now the white key without a black one to its left is ‘C’ – or ‘F’ – our hymns are going to drag! The surgeon who has to think, “Now where did my textbook say that artery is supposed to be?” isn’t the person you want operating on you! You want someone who’s so proficient at what they’re doing that right actions come naturally. Preparation is the difference between success and failure. And sometimes it’s the difference between life and death.


And preparation is the difference in receiving the blessings of the Lord. That’s what Jesus is saying to us in our Gospel lesson today. If the master finds his servants ready for his coming, then he will bless them more than they can imagine. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” Jesus says, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20) “If they hear his voice and open the door.” Only if they’re prepared. Only if they’re to the point in their spiritual lives that they respond as he would have them respond. And that takes work – and it takes practice. “You also must be ready,” Jesus says, “because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” (Luke 12:40)


Can you see that the same principles of preparation that apply in our work, and in school, and in athletics, and the arts, apply to our living the Christian life? People who are prepared are better equipped to experience the blessings and the benefits that faith has to offer. People who aren’t prepared are at a disadvantage.


For example, we shouldn’t have to do much thinking about right and wrong when we’re tempted. I attended a lecture by Dr. Henry Brandt, a noted Christian counselor, some years ago. He told of a counseling session with a young lady who, he said, was very attractive. She started to tell him about her marital problems when suddenly she stood up, came over to him, and sat on his lap! What did Dr. Brandt do? He stood straight up and dumped her on the floor! He said he didn’t dare sit there and think about what he should do. He said, “You better know that at the right place, at the right time, under the right circumstances, you let your guard down and you’re in trouble!” If you just said to yourself, “I’d never have to worry about anything like that,” you just made Satan smile! If we’re prepared, right action will come naturally.


Those who have studied the life of Abraham Lincoln know what made him one of our great Presidents. It was the strength of his character. Lincoln prepared himself for this high office by not only knowing the law of the United States, but also by knowing the law of God. He knew both the word contained in scripture and the word that gives counsel in times of prayer. Lincoln was a man of deep faith. He was spiritually prepared. The key to receiving the blessings of the master is preparation.


Did you know that the average reader can read the Bible through in a year if he or she will read it for only 12 minutes a day? Twelve minutes a day! Could you make a commitment of 12 minutes of your day to better prepare yourself as a man or woman of God? Who knows what word God might speak to you through a few minutes spent each day reading His sacred word and listening prayerfully for God’s counsel for your life!


The Russian people are begging for Bibles and gathering in large numbers wherever the Gospel is being presented. They’re hungry for God’s Word – and too often we just take it for granted and ignore it. Not thinking of how we will benefit, and God’s Kingdom will benefit if we’re prepared when God calls on us.


Are you ready to do your part? Will you be ready to greet Him when He knocks on your door? Preparation is often the difference between success and failure. Preparation is sometimes the difference between life and death. Spiritual preparation is most certainly the key to receiving our Master’s blessings. Time spent each day reading our Bibles. Time spent each day in prayer. Time spent each day listening for the voice of God. Time spent in Bible study, in worship, and in fellowship with other Christians.


Are you prepared to receive the Master’s many blessings? I pray that you are – or will be!


Amen.

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