Mind Your C's and 2's
Everyone knows that mind your P's and Q's' means mind your manners, but does it refer to a child's difficulty in distinguishing P's and Q's, or a shop owner confusing pints and quarts, or something evening more exotic like navy pee coats and queues or the French for foot (pied) and queue (http:// blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/01/origin-to-mind-your-ps-and-qs/)? Whatever the origins of the phrase something like it is found in our difficult text. On this the Church's New Year's Eve, I call you to mind your C's and 2's.
There are twos all the way through our text: two managers, two slaves and two cases of getting much. When the Lord comes for them, one manager is faithful and is put over all the Lord's possessions. One has given up and as an unbeliever he is cut in two. Upon the Lord's return the slave who knew His Lord's will but didn't prepare is beaten much. Another slave who didn't know the Lord's will and did contrary is beaten little. Finally from one of those getting much, much is sought; from the other having much entrusted to him much more is asked.
Mind these twos; they are to prepare you for the end of your life or the end of the world. One thing you see in these twos is that everyone must give an account. That's a fitting thing to think about today. New Year's Eve in every culture looks back, and is confronted with the question, how will I account for what I've done or failed to do? In our text, of the four for whom the results of their accounting are given one is cut in two, one is beaten much, and one is beaten a little.
There is not much good news in minding the twos of this text. That's why not only mind your twos but your C's. Christ is speaking here, but you must take His words in context. The context begins with verse 22 where He tells us not to be anxious. Then right before this section begins He says, "Don't be afraid little flock; it's your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." So this rising tide of anxiety at the prospect of giving an account of all our days on our last day would seem to be out of place.
God the Son took on our flesh and blood to rescue us. If He wanted to keep us in anxiety and fear, He didn't need to become incarnate in the Virgin Mary's womb to do it. He could have thundered and threatened from heaven just fine. If He wanted us anxious about standing before His judgment throne, why would He have descended into our flesh to take our place under God's Law? Christ finished keeping the Law. No Law given by God can bring condemnation upon us in Christ.
But I haven't been the manger I should. I have doubted whether my Lord will return at all. I have thought, "What does it matter what I do or don't do? I might as well do what I feel like?" I deserve to be cut in two and thrown in hell with the rest of the unbelievers. I'm the slave who knew full well the Lord's will that I should fear and love Him above all things; that I should pray, praise and give thanks; that I should hold preaching and His word sacred and gladly hear and learn it, but I haven't done that. I feared what men say more than what God has said. I pray little and praise less. I don't hold preaching or God's Word sacred. I don't hear or learn it, let alone gladly. I "will be beaten with many blows," says the text.
But Christ, in my flesh and blood, covered with my sins steps between me and God's judgment. The blade that should cut me in two slices through the holy flesh of Jesus on the cross and He goes to hell right then and there for 3 eternal hours. The blows that should land upon me land upon Him. "By those blows we are healed!" That's what Isaiah says. "The punishment that brought us peace was on Him," he says in the same verse.
Two verses before our text Jesus says that He is "coming at an hour that you don't expect." This evidently bothered them because Peter speaks up asking, "Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?" Christ clears up who the "you" is by saying, "The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect and at an hour he is not aware of." It's the servant who despairs that the Lord is ever going to return. It's the servant who says to himself, "My Lord is taking a long time in coming," and then begins to beat the men and maidservants and to eat and drink get drunk." It's that servant, that slave, that steward, for whom Jesus comes unexpectedly.
Do you see? Do you get it? It doesn't start with drunkenness, gluttony, and beating those under him. It starts with despair. It starts with the pall that darkens my thoughts at every Church Year's end. This pall is found in the mouth of unbelief in Peter's prophesy about the last days. "Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation'" (2 Peter 3: 3-4).
But they don't, do they? After creation, God stepped into His creation to redeem it from Sin, from Death, and from the power of the Devil. He didn't use gold or sliver, but His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. I think the fact that God has blood and that He suffers in flesh and blood for guilty flesh and blood is enough to set the whole created world on it head. I think the fact that He takes created Water and makes it life giving and rich in grace is also proof that things don't continue as they are. And certainly the fact that He takes created bread and wine and uses them to come back to us in the very same Body and Blood He gave and shed on the cross shows He has not forgotten His promise to come to us.
The battle in these last days is against despair. This has always been the battle of God's people. The despair that is preached to faith in the Old Testament lesson is the same that we hear: It is futile to serve an invisible God. This was met by the Old Testament Church the same way we do. By going to church, by gathering together, by taking to each other. "Our help is in the name of the Lord." "Who made heaven and earth." "Lift up your hearts." "We lift them up unto the Lord." "Bless we the Lord." "Thanks be to God." The Old Testament Church met the despair in the world around them the way we do. By praying to God to be remembered, and by the Lord reclaiming them by putting His name on them in blessing and benediction.
Mind your C's and 2's in these last days. The 2's we mind lest our sinful nature gallop away with us. The 2's remind us there is a day of reckoning, and that not one of us can meet it successfully without C, Christ. But when we despair we step outside of our Baptism, outside of our Absolution, outside of our Communion, outside of Christ. Christ never bids His people to despair but to hope, to trust, to certainty. Christ has not forsaken or even forgotten us here. You can't forget what you have engraved on your hands as we are on God's. You can't forget the pupil of your eye. Scripture says we are the apple or pupil of God's eye. Think how carefully, naturally, automatically you protect your eyes. That's how God in Christ cares for you.
However, you will still despair if you dwell on how frequently you don't do God's will. Yes, it is sin, but sin is to be confessed not stored up in your heart to feel bad over. Confess your sins and God is faithful and just and will forgive them for Jesus' sake. Dwell not on how you fail to do God's will but on what the will of God is concerning you. Galatians begins with Paul telling them that the will of God is to deliver us out of this present evil age. In John 6 Jesus says the will of God is to save you through faith in Christ. Don't believe me? Hear how explicit He is, "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
Did you hear that? God's will that you are to know and do according to is to rescue you from this present evil age and to give you eternal life. His will is not to sneak up on you on the Last Day like some wretched hall monitor who delights in catching people off guard. His will is not to see you cut in two or beaten whether with many or few blows. His foremost will is to do for you. He doesn't come to you whether in Water, Words, Bread or Wine so you can do something for Him. Christ comes in these to do His will for you which is to separate you from this present evil age and deliver you to ages without end when this age ends or your time in this age does.
Why then do we hear the last lines of our text only as a threat? Why can we only hear, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" as threat and not promise? Because we're minding first and foremost the twos and not the C's.
Don't you realize that in Christ you have been given everything? That's what Paul says, "All things are yours, whether the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours" (1 Corinthians 3:21-22). Everything that is demanded of you, or asked of you is first given to you. Forgiveness, faith, hope, joy, grace, mercy, and peace are first given to you for Christ's sake. Even the good works. That's what Paul says in Ephesians. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10). Of course we're the ones from whom everything is to be sought and asked because in Christ we have everything.
So when it comes to the Last Day, your last day, or this last day of the Church Year, mind not just the twos of this text but the Christ who speaks it, and not just it but all Scripture. Don't be like the young C.F.W. Walther who only read the Law portion of books thinking he wasn't pious enough to hear the Gospel. Whoever is struck down by the Law is ready for the Gospel. Whoever is accused by the twos is ready to mind the C's. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Last Sunday of the Church Year (20131124); Luke 12: 42-48