8/11/2019 3:50:13 PM
Being Ready is Exhausting: What Jesus Talks about the most [sermon manuscript]
[Jesus said:] 'Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
'Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
'But know 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, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.'
Pastor Marc's sermon on the 9th Sunday after Pentecost (August 11, 2019) on Luke 12:32-40. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below.
What did Jesus talk about the most during his three year long ministry from the Sea of Galilee to Jerusalem? Now, we know Jesus talked about a lot of things. The four gospels attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - are filled with his quotes, conversations, and teachings. Some of those conversations are found in only one of those books while others can be found in up to 3 of them. Scholars have argued that before the four gospels were written, a document was passed around that was just a long list of things Jesus said. Because Jesus was a talker - and what he talked about was varied and vast. So as you reflect on every piece of Jesus’ story that you remember and on every biblical book that you’ve read, what do you think Jesus spent the most time talking about?
Now, if you said the kingdom of God, then congratulations - you’re correct. The thing Jesus talked about more than anything else during his three year long ministry was about what happens when the kingdom of God comes near. The kingdom of God wasn’t, according to Jesus, something that matches what we imagine a kingdom to be - like a nation or a country with a capital city, borders, political leaders, and the like. Since God holds the entire universe in God’s own hands - if the kingdom of God was just a place, then we’d already know we’re a part of it. Yet God’s kingdom is, according to Jesus, something more: God’s kingdom is really a way of life. It shows up in the relationships and interactions we have with each other. And it’s when the very systems and structures that support our life are reconfigured and re-ordered, so that, in the words of Rev. Matthew Skinner, our whole new reality “[reflects] God’s intentions [for] human flourishing.” God’s kingdom was personified and given flesh in the person of Jesus - who showed us what happens when God’s kingdom comes near: the poor are raised up, the sick are healed, the unwelcomed are included, the hungry are fed, and the brokenness of life is resurrected into something new. God’s kingdom, for Jesus, was always something that was lived out which is why it's sometimes, so hard to see. God’s kingdom shows up every day - through the big and small interactions we have with one another.
So now that we know what Jesus talked about the most during his ministry, can you imagine what was number 2 on his list? I’d like to believe that what Jesus talked about after the kingdom of God was some kind of how-to guide so that we could integrate his words into our everyday life. We know that showing love, mercy, and forgiveness can sometimes be really hard - which is why Jesus, several times, reaffirmed our call to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. God’s kingdom is reflected in how we treat, care, and value those we know and those we don’t. So I want the number two thing that Jesus talked about the most to be something that I can use. And the annoying thing is that Jesus gave us exactly that. What Jesus talked about the most after the kingdom of God was about our money and our wealth.
Today’s reading from the gospel according to Luke, in its first two lines, gives us the number 1 and number 2 thing that Jesus talked about the most. Jesus re-affirmed that God wanted God’s kingdom to “take root in the real, lived experiences” of those who followed Him. When we love, serve, and honor the dignity of others like Jesus did, we gain a sense of purpose and joy in our lives. This purpose is rooted in a generosity that begins first in God but is translated through our work and our hands. God’s kingdom, according to Jesus, is built on generosity which why, I think, Jesus spent so much time talking about one of the primary ways we show generosity - through the choices we make when it comes to our money. This is, according to Jesus, part of his how-to guide when it comes to God’s kingdom. After reaffirming that God’s promise of the kingdom is given to those wrapped up in the body of Christ, Jesus told them to “sell your possessions and give alms.” That isn’t the most easy command to follow so we might latch onto the fact that Jesus didn’t say that we should sell all our possessions, giving us an out when we look at all the things we possibly own. But when we spend our time trying to make Jesus’ words easier for us, we miss noticing what he has to say about being generous. The command to sell our possessions and give alms is intimately connected to Jesus’ statement in verse 34. How we spend our money ends up shaping “our [will] and [our] ways of thinking.” If we spend our money only on ourselves, we end up falling into a cycle where we, and no-one else, becomes the focus of it all. Yet when we give to those in need, we can train our mind and our heart to see our neighbors and our world in a new way. When we give, we experience more than just a warm feeling that we’ve done something good. We actually, without realizing it, end up meeting God. Because, as articulated in another gospel, what we do to the least of these - to the poor, to the marginalized, and to those who are truly oppressed - we do Jesus himself. The act of giving is one of the tools we can use to help ourselves see that God is already all around us.
Yet God’s generosity doesn’t end with money. The almsgiving Jesus had in mind was more than just donating our excess funds to those in need. Generosity, according to Jesus, should be at the core of everything we do and be reflected in all our relationships and interactions. There are other things we can be generous about. There are sacrifices we can make - other kinds of possessions and advantages we can sell - so that all people, friends and strangers, can flourish. This kingdom of God way of life admits and names the inequities and indifference in our world and chooses not to accept that as the status quo. We choose to be generous because God’s kingdom is different from our own. The choices we make when it comes to our money shapes and forms who we are. Yet we already have a different model and experience of life that should do that shaping, instead. We have, through our baptism, our faith, and through the body and blood of Jesus we share each and every week, the promise and the reality that God’s kingdom has already come near. Jesus’s generosity towards us is what shapes, informs, and redefines everything that we do. So We are invited to embrace that generosity - to integrate that part of God’s kingdom into every interaction of our lives - so that our will, our soul, our minds, and even our hearts discover a new treasure where love, mercy, and grace always shines.