There was once a blacksmith who worked hard at his trade. The day came for him to die. God sent his angel to the smith, but to the angel’s surprise, the smith refused to go. He pleaded with the angel that he was the only blacksmith in the village and it was time for all his neighbors to begin their planting and sowing. He would be needed. The blacksmith did not want to appear to be ungrateful and was looking forward to having a place in God’s kingdom, but could he put it off for a while? The angel went and made the blacksmith’s case before God. And God agreed. Sometime later, after the harvest, the angel returned to bring the blacksmith to heaven. But again the smith requested that his return to God be delayed. “A neighbor of mine is seriously ill and it’s time for the harvest. A number of us are trying to save his crops so that his family won’t be destitute. Please tell God I am grateful for his blessings to me. But could you come for me later?” And the angel returned to heaven.
Well, it got to be a pattern. Every time the angel would come to bring the faithful blacksmith to heaven, the smith would shake his head and explain to the angel that he was still needed by someone on earth. Finally, the blacksmith grew very old and weary and so he prayed to God to send his angel to bring him to heaven. Immediately the angel appeared. “If you still want to take me home, I’m ready to live forever in God’s kingdom.” The angel laughed and looked at the blacksmith with delight and surprise. “Where do you think you have been all these years?” (Keith Wagner, Do You Have a Backup Plan?)
We hear every day about someone who has died. It is a natural part of our human experience, because we were created to be with God in a place he prepares for us, and that place is not here. Often, when someone leaves this world we are not surprised because of their age or the condition of their health. But, think how often a death is unexpected – someone young and strong is taken or someone loses their hold on life because of violence or an accident.
As we listen to the gospel passage today, Jesus warns us to make sure we are always ready to be called home, even when it is at a time we do not expect. It seems logical. After all, we are planners. We have bandages and ointment ready in the First Aid Kit, just in case there is an accident. We have a spare tire for that moment when our tire loses its battle with the streets of Dallas. We save money and make plans for some important occasion we know is coming. But, whether we are young or old, at the peak of health or struggling along, we are always like the blacksmith, expecting that our time to stand before God is delayed in coming. We hope to be ready, just not today.
The invitation of Jesus is that we be like the conscientious, hard-working servant, doing what is expected all the time. It can become our life’s habit. When someone asks for our help, our decision to give them the gift of our time and attention becomes the habit of generosity. When we are offended or treated unfairly, our decision to forgive and move on, our gentle spirit becomes the way we always deal with such unavoidable situations. As we move through the week continuing the prayerful spirit of our short time at worship, or open the Bible to reflect each day on what God has to tell us, or decide that today we will welcome each person as a brother or sister in Christ, we discover something important. The key to being ready for that moment when we leave this world to live forever with God is not discovered in long-range planning. If we do our best to live with him today, we will be ready.
–Fr. Stephen W Bierschenk