Archives: Feast of St. Ambrose

Paying the Light Bill and Jesus the Thief

Today’s sermon will be focused on two things: the light bill, and theft.

I mean, good morning, congratulations to our ordinands, etc., etc.  But what I really want to talk about is what Jesus is doing in these scriptures, because it’s honestly pretty weird.

In our gospel, Jesus illustrates himself in two different ways: the master coming from his wedding, and a thief who breaks into a house.  This is very strange, especially the second one. 

Images of Jesus as the bridegroom are strewn all over scripture, we’re familiar with those.  We know that we as Christ’s Beloved are constantly being invited by him to the Heavenly Banquet, often described as a wedding feast. 

But oddly enough, that’s not what’s happening in this text. 

The master is not inviting anyone to the wedding.  He’s coming home from it: “Be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet,” the gospel says. 

And we’d better have our lamps lit when he gets here. 

Then Jesus tells us he’s coming at an unexpected hour just like a thief. 

So not only do we not get to go to the wedding, we’re also waiting for a burglar to break into our house.  Great! What an encouraging scripture for an ordination day!

But let’s take a second look.

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.” 

That is a fantastic word to take into ordained life. 

It fully describes the readiness for anything that you need to have to serve God’s people as a deacon or a priest. 

Being a clergyperson is one of the last true renaissance occupations in the world, in the sense that you have to be a true jack of all trades. You will be called upon for anything from toilet repair to systematic theology and everything in between.

Flexibility, openness, both taking one for the team and being ready to ask for help are some of the qualities it takes to be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.

But I want to point out something that lies behind Jesus’ commandment to keep our lamps lit. 

In the story, it means having enough oil for the entire night, keeping the flame burning no matter how long it takes for the master to arrive. 

For us, both as lay and ordained leaders, it means keeping the lamp lit for our whole lives. 

You have to keep your house lit up 24 hours a day, all light switches on, all lamps plugged in, lightbulbs freshly replaced. 

And that, as any budget-conscious dad will tell you, is expensive. 

When you become a leader in the church, dear ordinands, you are looking at a significant light bill. And it doesn’t come due just once a month, it comes due every day.

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