Luke 12_32-40

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TITLE:  He'll Find Me Hoeing Cotton When He Comes                   Luke 12:32-40

 

When I sat down to study our Gospel lesson today, it reminded me of an old Negro spiritual.  African-American slaves used to sing spirituals as an expression of their faith in God.  They sang them for the pleasure of singing.  They sang them to encourage each other.  They also sang them to express thoughts of hope and rebellion that they couldn't express any other way.  They could sing openly of Moses going down to tell old Pharaoh, "Let my people go!" when they could not talk openly about wanting their own freedom.

 

But the spiritual that came to mind didn't have to do with coded messages or rebellion.  It had to do with Jesus coming again.  The words are simple --but it's an elegant simplicity.  Listen:

 

 

      (Animated) There's a king and captain high,

      And he's coming by and by, (Pause)

      (More subdued) And he'll find me hoeing cotton when he comes.

 

      You can hear his legions charging

      in the regions of the sky,

      And he'll find me hoeing cotton when he comes.

 

      There's a man they thrust aside,

      Who was tortured till he died,

      And he'll find me hoeing cotton when he comes.

 

      He was hated and rejected,

      He was scorned and crucified,

      And he'll find me hoeing cotton when he comes.

 

      When he comes!  When he comes!

      He'll be crowned by saints and angels when he comes,

     

      They'll be shouting out Hosanna!

      to the man that men denied,

      And I'll kneel among my cotton when he comes.

 

I love the contrast in those short verses: 

     

-- They speak of "a king and captain high (who is) coming by and by" -- and then they say, "And he'll find me hoeing cotton when he comes." 

 

-- They speak of "legions charging in the regions of the sky" -- and then they say, "And he'll find me hoeing cotton when he comes." 

 

Don't you hear the high and low of that?  Listen once again, "He was hated and rejected, He was scorned and crucified" -- and then, "And he'll find me hoeing cotton when he comes." 

 

I love the image of a man or woman hoeing cotton hoeing cotton in the fields -- but able in the midst of it to imagine "legions charging in the regions of the sky."  Isn't that wonderful!

 

I also love the upbeat note of the last few lines:

 

      When he comes!  When he comes!

      He'll be crowned by saints and angels when he comes,

 

      They'll be shouting out Hosanna!

      to the man that men denied.

 

Can't you imagine a group of slaves singing that song around a fire at night!  Can't you imagine their enthusiasm as they sing, "When he comes!  When he comes!  He'll be crowned by saints and angels when he comes!"

 

But then the last line shifts once again to a softer tone.  It says:

 

      And I'll kneel among my cotton when he comes.

 

I am neither a poet nor a musician, but I count those words as high art.  Some would call it primitive art, but it is a masterpiece.

 

Like most good poetry, this spiritual creates an image that provokes us to thought -- and leaves us some room to consider its meaning.  I have always thought that the author was saying, "When Jesus comes again, he'll find me at my post -- at my place of duty -- doing what God has called me to do." 

 

But I found a story that gave it a new slant.  It said that some of the slaves decided that, if Jesus were coming, they could quit working -- and that's what they did.  Their owner couldn't get them to work.  But soon they began to feel the effects.  Soon they were running out of food.

 

So one of the slaves found this verse from our Gospel lesson -- "Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes" -- and used it as the text for this song.  So the slaves began to sing, "And he'll find me hoeing cotton when he comes" -- and they began to work -- and they began, once again, to eat.

 

"Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes."  Those are Jesus' words.  Jesus wasn't condoning slavery, but he was describing himself as the master and his disciples as servants committed to doing his will.  And so he says, "Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes" -- Blessed are those disciples whom Jesus finds doing what they are supposed to be doing. 

 

And then Jesus gives us an idea what his blessing will look like.  The master will gather his faithful servants together and seat them at his banquet table -- and then he will serve them dinner. 

 

That thought pretty well stopped me in my tracks.  I have always thought of us as being called to serve Jesus -- but I never thought of Jesus as serving us at his banquet table.  But that is what it says.  Jesus says that he "will fasten his belt and have (his faithful disciples) sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them." 

 

That's an amazing thought, isn't it!  I am not completely comfortable with it.  I want to say, "No, Jesus!  Please!  You sit down and I'll serve you!"

 

But then I remember that Peter already tried that.  We find the story in John 13.  During supper in the upper room, Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe, tied a towel around himself, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet.  But when he came to Peter, Peter said, "You will never wash my feet."

 

Now that sounds uppity, doesn't it!  If Jesus wanted to wash your feet, would you say, "You will never wash my feet"?  Probably not!  But Peter would -- and Peter did!

 

I can sympathize with Peter.  I wouldn't be all that comfortable having Jesus wash my feet -- or serve me at table -- or take some other role that placed him below me. 

 

BUT THAT WAS WHAT JESUS DID ON THE CROSS, ISN'T IT!

 

Jesus said, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve" (Matthew 20:28).  He loves us, and calls us to love one another.  He serves us, and calls us to serve one another.

 

So Jesus said to Peter, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me."  And Peter responded, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" 

 

You have to give it to Peter.  When he was for something, he was for it all the way!

 

So Jesus talks about the day when he will return again.  He says:

 

      "Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit"

 

And he says:

 

      "Blessed are those…whom the master finds alert when he comes."

 

And then he says:

 

      "Truly I tell you, (the master) will fasten his belt

      and have (his disciples) sit down to eat,

      and he will come and serve them."

 

That is no small invitation.  It is Jesus' invitation into the Kingdom.  It is his way of assuring us that we will enjoy a wonderful life with him in eternity. 

 

If you don't think that is important, just imagine not getting that invitation.  Imagine being on the outside looking in -- knowing that you didn't get an invitation -- and knowing that you never will get one.  Talk about a sinking feeling! We don't want that to happen!

 

So what do we need to do to insure that we get invited?  Jesus says:

 

      "Blessed are those…whom the master finds alert when he comes."

 

Blessed are those whom Jesus finds hoeing cotton when he comes.  Blessed are those whom Jesus finds at their post, doing what God has called them to do.

 

So what is it that God has called you to do?  I can't answer that for each person, because God has called each of us to some particular calling -- some particular service.  But in our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus gives us an idea what he expects of us.  He says:

 

      "Sell your possessions, and give alms."

 

That is another way of saying, "Love your neighbor" -- and "Help your neighbor" -- and, in the process, "Help yourself."

 

We have to be careful here, lest we make it sound as if we can buy our way into heaven by giving money.  That isn't true!  It isn't true, because that would be selfish charity --heartless charity.  Christ wants generosity, not selfishness --and Christ wants our hearts. 

 

But Jesus also says,

 

      "Where your treasure is,

      there your heart will be also."

 

And so he challenges us to love and to give -- to love as he has loved us and to give as he has given to us.  He calls us to use the treasure of our time and the treasure of our money and the treasure of our lives to help those in need -- just as he stopped to help those in need as he walked the dusty roads of Galilee two thousand years ago.

 

I said that Christ wants our generosity -- and he wants our hearts.  If we give him our generosity, little by little we will find that we have given him our hearts as well.

 

When Christ comes again, he will come with blessings in his hand.  Prepare yourself now by developing a generous and loving heart so that you will be ready to receive Christ's blessings when he comes.

 

 

=Amazing Grace (BH #330; CH #546; CO #447; CP #352; ELW #779; GC #612; JS #460; LBW #448; LSB #744; LW #509; PH #280; TH #671; TNCH #547, 548; UMH #378; VU #266; WR #422)

 

I Know Whom I Have Believed (BH #337; UMH #714; WR #407)

 

Take Time to be Holy (BH #446; CH #572; UMH #395; VU #672; WOV #744; WR #483)

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