The Pas 12th Sunday after Pentecost – BAS Proper 19
Proper 14 – Ordinary/Lectionary 19 – Pentecost + 12
7 August 2016
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Hebrews 112:1-3, 8-16
Watchful God, kindle a new flame in our complacent hearts and take from our hands the burden of worthless things, so that we may be ready to receive a greater gift: the love of Jesus Christ, our Servant King. Amen.
In today’s gospel, the first line, the first words that greet us are: “do not be afraid” (Lk 12:32a)
Have you ever noticed, in the gospels, that whenever God or Jesus does something unexpected, something that isn’t easy for us to contemplate for our lives, for our journeys as the children of God, we’re told not to be afraid?
We find these messages of assurance when we encounter the divine, like when Zechariah encounters God’s messenger in the Holy of Holies. “An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.’” (Lk 1:11b-13)
When the angel comes to Mary to tell her she will give birth to the Messiah, that she will be the one to appear to break tradition and custom. “The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.’ (Lk 1:30-32)
Then there is the occasion when the same angel comes to Joseph. “19Because Joseph [Mary’s] husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’” (Mt 1:19-21)
Or, how about the time when Jesus is born, and the angels appear to the terrified shepherds on the hillsides outside of Bethlehem? “10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”” (Lk 2:10-12)
But, the most memorable is when Jesus is resurrected in Easter Sunday moring. The gospel of Matthew tells us: “9Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’” (Matt 28: 9-10)
Where we find a messenger of God using the words ‘do not be afraid,’ we find that God is participating directly in human existence, in our existence, in our lives. In every example, God has done this intervention for the benefit of those of us who believe, those who yearn to believe, and for those who don’t yet believe.
So, in today’s gospel, when Jesus tells us “Do not be afraid,” then we need to pay attention. He’s given us a verbal clue that something has just changed in our lives and we need to take note of that change in our lives, in our perceptions of the way the world works.
Something has just occurred that is so big, so life changing, that it requires us to change how we look at the world, interact with the world, how we see ourselves in the world, all because God has just done something as dramatic as bringing the Messiah into our lives, today.
Today, Jesus tells us “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Lk 12:32)
“Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”
This follows directly on the heels of last week’s gospel. It follows directly after Jesus assurance that God loves the sparrows of the air and the lilies of the field, and God loves us so much more than both of these.
Jesus tells us, “don’t be afraid … for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” He is reassuring us of our place in God’s creation, our place in God’s heart at all times.
The letter to the Hebrews assures us of the role of faith, every day, in and for our lives. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1) and we know this quote as much as we know “16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)
And we’re really good at remembering the eternal life part, but not so good at remembering the saving the world, rather than condemning the world part.
Still, these are the verses we rhyme off when we want to reassure ourselves that our faith has value; when we want to remind ourselves that God has a plan for those who believe.
What we easily forget, is that God loves us when we believe, when we struggle to maintain our belief and faith, and even when we don’t believe or have faith, and there are times in our lives when we experience all of these sensations.
This is when and where we find ourselves challenged, and we sometimes fall into the trap of commercialism. It is when we are challenged in our faith, in our assurance of God’s blessing, in and for our lives, that we tend to believe the lie that ‘stuff’ will fill that hole in our hearts where God lives, when we have trouble believing.
And, this, then, leads us to the rest of the gospel, where Jesus tells us how to focus, to not be attached to ‘things’ around us. And, if we stop and think about this this is the 2nd gospel passage in a row that focuses on encouraging us to realize that “where [our] treasure is, there [our] heart will be also.” (Lk 12:34)
Jesus reminds us that our wealth is not only a gift from God, but it also gives us the ability to help each other, and to look out for the poor.
And the poor come in many shapes and sizes. We hear the word poor, and we think the homeless. But what about the unemployed, yet still in their homes, striving to make ends meet, cutting corners every way they can and failing?
What about the single mother working 3 jobs in order to make sure her kids have a roof over their heads and food in the house, but never has enough to be able to take an evening and revel in the love of her children?
Or, what about the family who spends all of their time focused on their finances, and on the acquisition of ‘toys’ so that they can spend ‘quality time’ with their kids, but has absolutely no idea that our true wealth comes from God, as they worship that ‘family time’ spent surrounded by their acquisitions.
These people all come under the qualification of ‘poor’, because what they haven’t got in their lives is the love of God, the love of Jesus, and the working of the Holy Spirit in and for their lives.
One question I came across, while randomly perusing the internet this week was: should we have only 5 minutes to evacuate our home, what would we take with us?
And this is a valid question in a world where we have seen fires, floods, and tornado ravage homes and families in the past 4 months alone.
At the same time, remember, when answering this, that Jesus tells us” where [our] treasure there, there [our] heart will be also.” (Lk 12:34)
We keep this in mind in a world where climate change has introduced tornados into Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the height of the summer, not just a spring phenomenon.
We keep this in mind where job opportunities change with the drop of a hat, any hat, anywhere.
When I lived on Vancouver Island, the community radio announcements would regularly remind people to have an emergency box in case of earthquake. Now, I’ve lived in several places in Canada, and actually felt a tremor when it passed through Toronto, one day (I happened to be on the 12th floor of a high rise at the time), but this was the first place I lived where families were actively advised to keep an emergency box on hand at all times, and to restock it regularly.
Today Jesus tells us our future is assured. That we have nothing to worry about in regards to any future God puts in our path, because the “Father has been pleased to give [us] the kingdom.” Jesus reminds us “where [our] treasure is, there [our] heart will be also.”
At the same time, although we are to support and encourage the poor, where ever or however it is we find them, we are also reminded that the master “will dress himself to serve, will have [his servants] recline at the table and will come and wait on them.” (Lk 12:37b-38)
In another way, we’re told “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:26b-28)
Once more the tables turn. Once more Jesus puts things in ways that challenges our perceptions of the world, and our place in it.
Our future is assured; our treasure is not here on earth, so our hearts are not here, on earth. We are loved more than sparrows in the sky or lilies in the field.
Hebrews reminds us “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (Heb 11:1-3)
Jesus tells us “do not be afraid … where your treasure is, your heart will be also … the Son of Man will come … when you do not expect him.”