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Gospel: Luke 12:32-40

[Jesus said:] 32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell 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. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   35“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be 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. 37Blessed 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. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.   39“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. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

In the world we live toay, Jesus’ words “Do not be afraid, little flock,” seem like a pretty tall order just now. Mass shootings, economic issues, political divisions, anger and bitterness are cause for fear, and worry, and uncertainty. And that is a small piece of a long list of other things that cause us to be afraid.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there – he continues with the commands: Sell your possessions. Give alms. Store your treasure in heaven. Be dressed for action. And if we’re going to be perfectly honest – understanding exactly what each of those means practically, these, too, can be overwhelming, to the point of wanting to ignore this passage altogether. And I wonder just how often our folks hear a passage like this, get ready either to be made to feel guilty or confused, and then wonder why, exactly, they got up to go to church.

What often happens is we hear a passage like this, and what we hear is what I, ME, I need to do. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of good news in these words – “Trust Me, Sell Your Possessions, Give your stuff away!”

So let’s back up a little bit.

  • Last Week’s lesson. What will I do? I will build bigger barns and store more of MY stuff, and I will be all set.

  • Totally ignoring the neighbor.

  • Forgetting who is the giver of all that is good.

  • Focusing solely on what I can do to get more, have more, live more comfortably, trusting solely in me and my stuff.

From Eugene Peterson’s transliteration, The Message, these words come right before today’s Gospel –

29-32 “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.

Hear it again - “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Except that it’s not just a line, it’s a promise. And one incredibly mind-boggling one at that! God wants to give us the kingdom. God plans on including us as heirs – “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,” Paul writes (Rom. 8:17). God wants and works for all good things for us!

Two elements of this promise stuck out to me in this fearful time.

1) It’s God’s good pleasure. That is, God takes delight in giving God’s children good things. Any parent or grandparent or aunt or uncle – heck, anyone who’s bought a special gift for someone they love – understand this intuitively. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, better than doing a kindness for, giving a gift to, or taking care of someone you love. Nothing. What’s amazing is that this is what God is like. Not a rule-enforcer or power player or monarchial ruler, but a parent who delights in giving gifts.

2) God gives the kingdom. We don’t earn it. Can’t, in fact. We can only receive it as a gift. And that changes the rest of what we hear. If our inclusion in the kingdom is by gift and invitation – and it is, in fact, God’s good pleasure to give us this gift – then what follows aren’t conditions, but the invitation to set our priorities in line with what we’ve already been given. That is, we’re invited to live into the identity and reality we’ve been given.

Let us pray: Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church. Open our hearts to the riches of your grace, that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

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