Pentecost 9C - Luke 12:32-40

LUKE 12:32-40 (NIV)

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand 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. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”

          On a scale of one to ten, how worried are you about your finances? One, means you’re okay and have enough for everything: your bills and daily living expenses, a holiday from time to time, your tithe to the Lord and gifts to other charities.

          On a scale of one to ten, how worried are you about your relationships? With your family, your friends, your neighbours. Your fellow church members, your Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ? Do you spend enough time with those who are important to you? If you needed their help would they help you?

          On scale of one to ten, how warried are you about the future of St Matthew Lutheran Church? For the last eight years we’ve averaged between 26 and 28 people at worship most Sunday’s. Our buildings could do with a paint and our budget is slowly declining with reserves slowly being eaten away.

          On a scale of one to ten, how worried are you about the state of our nation with high homelessness, drug abuse and further liberalisation of abortion laws on the cards. Are you worried about climate change and fear of being consumed by a global heat wave?

          Jesus’ disciples were worried about many things when He was speaking about the many concerns humanity has. Jesus addresses corruption in all its forms, especially the hypocrisy amongst community and religious leaders.

          In Luke chapter 12 Jesus addresses the violence of one person against another. He address the threat from those who would challenge and accuse you because of your faith.

          Jesus addresses the selfishness of the human heart when He spoke to the young man who wanted a share of the family inheritance.

          Jesus addresses His disciples, His followers, and He addresses you and me in the verses preceding today’s Gospel reading – reminding us that God provides for His creation. Luke 12:22–31 (ESV): 22 And He (Jesus) said to His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek His Kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

          Then Jesus says, 32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom.

          We are consoled, in our worry, that even though we are small and somewhat insignificant in the scheme of the large and threatening world we live in we have all that God promises.

          Even though, as Biblical scholar Frederick W. Danker says, “Measured by human standards, Jesus’ disciples are unsuccessful.” Our wealth is not to be counted as the world counts. “…those who endorse the power of things seek control through wealth. The true power or Kingdom is God’s to give, not one to gain through standard channels.”

          Our faith and thrust is being tested. God is calling us to keep our material possessions and our finances in their right place. They are to be shared when the need presents itself.

          Jesus tells us to, 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. This command was taken literally by the Early Church. But as one Biblical scholar, Leon Morris, comments, “To produce a class of holy paupers in this way would be to sin against love, for these paupers would be a charge on their hard working neighbours.”

          It’s clear from the context and Jesus’ teaching about wealth and its use throughout the Gospels that Jesus is not criticizing personal property and wealth – He is, however, emphasizing that Believers are not to be dominated by their possessions.

          St Paul picks up this thought in Romans 12:6–8 (ESV): Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

         We do need to take Jesus seriously when He speaks about our priorities. As I mentioned last Sunday, the “stuff” you accumulate will one day be given to someone else when you no longer need it – that is, when you are called to your heavenly home.

          If, like the rich fool, your are more interested in your accumulation of wealth a the expense of those who you know to have a need you can meet, there is an accountability Jesus calls us to.

     We are to repent of our selfishness and greed and be ready for the Lord’s return. The return of the Lord does test our faith and trust in Him. To whom or what do you trust? If your faith is first placed in God then every choice you make will be governed by God’s relationship with you. 34 For, as Jesus says, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

          If Jesus is your treasure, you’ve got it made for eternity and He will provide you, His Church and the world with all that we need until we reach Heaven.

          The Christian ideal is to use what you have, not to let those things use you. We do this best when we are close to God, listening and talking with Him regularly. There are, of course, times when Jesus seems quite distant from us. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?”

          When we’re not close to God we easily become spiritually lazy and self- indulgent expecting others to do what we are responsible for doing in God’s Kingdom.

          Jesus calls us all to obedience and constant readiness. This voluntary obedience, “ … goes with a vital live faith in the reality of the future heavenly  life that we cannot as yet see and the fulfilment of the promises for which we hope.”

          Jesus has already saved you, His servants, through His death on the cross and your being Baptised into that death so that you may rise with Him.

          Jesus expects you all to be eagerly waiting when He knocks – like the Good Samaritan, we may be called on at any hour to offer a helping hand, a leg up, a word of encouragement and/or a commitment of time and energy beyond what we are naturally, because of sin, inclined to give.

          St Peter encourages us in 1 Peter 1:13–14 (ESV): 13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, …

                 And, when you don’t feel holy, remember God’s grace is sufficient for you. He promises to help all who call on Him.

         Amen.