Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 – Yahweh condemns Sodom and Gomorrah’s sins: injustice and oppression to the orphan and widow.
Genesis 15:1-6 – The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23
Psalm 33:12-22 – Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16– Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God. By faith Abraham obeyed. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old.
Luke 12:32-40– Have no fear. Sell your possessions. Give alms. Be prepared like the householder and thief. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
In June we were in Luke 7-9. In July we were in Luke 10-11. In August we are in Luke 12-13. Luke 12-13 falls in the “Journey to Jerusalem” section of Luke. Jesus is no longer in Galilee. He is on the move toward his destiny. Along the way he discusses what it means to be ready for the coming judgment.
One of the options for the first reading is Isaiah 1. Here Isaiah rails on Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaiah 1:10 says,
“Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!”
After giving them a thorough chewing out for being sinful and rebellious, he clarifies himself:
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
This Sunday our gospel reading picks up where last Sunday’s reading (The Parable of the Rich Fool) left off. The stewardship issue is still in the front burner. In the gospels, Jesus depicts God as an absentee landlord who is on a journey. We are stewards taking care of the ranch while the landlord is away. When he returns, what will he find? What might he expect from his stewards while he is on holiday? How should we conduct ourselves, prepare ourselves for the landowner to show up?
Last week’s message was clear. Don’t be consumed by greed. Your life is more than stuff. There is a clear, “You can’t take it with you” message here. I like to say to people, “The bad news is you can’t take it with you. The good news is, you won’t be needing it.”
This week we are told that God wants to give us the kingdom. This may be a good point to emphasize that the kingdom of God is not depicted in the gospels as a place you go after you die. The kingdom of God is something that God gives us. Freely. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray for God’s kingdom to come to us, not the other way around. Jarring people out of an old metaphysical paradigm might help them hear Jesus’ words freshly, for the first time.
This free gift of God’s kingdom can be tied back to the first lesson (Genesis 15:1-6) in which Abraham believes God, and God counts that faith as righteousness. God’s grace is a free gift, apprehended through faith.
So if the kingdom is a free gift, given by God’s good pleasure, rather than earned, how then shall we live in this interim time? Well, first of all, off load your stuff. Give it to the poor. Sell it and give the money to the poor. Less is more. Instead of accumulating earthly treasures, accumulate spiritual treasures. Collect the intangible things that make life worthwhile. Purses that won’t rot and that cannot be stolen. What are these intangibles? Let’s steal from Paul in Galatians 5:22. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…
Brian Stoffrefen points out the proper use of possessions [ta hyparchonta] is of special interest in Luke/Acts:
- Luke 8:3 – women provided for Jesus and the disciples out of their resources.
- Luke 11:21 – When an armed, strong man, guards his castle, his property is safe.
- Luke 12:15 – Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
- Luke 12:33 – 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.
- Luke 12:44 – Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions.
- Luke 14:33 – So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
- Luke 16:1 – Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property.
- Luke 19:8 – Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”
- Acts 4:32 – Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.
The author of Luke cannot imagine any following of Christ that does not care for the poor and involve some sort of constant divestment from possessions.
Then we get the “be prepared” speech. Be ready to roll. Don’t get caught with your pants down. Are you prepared for the householder to return?
What’s the master going to do when he returns? Here comes the surprise in this part of the reading: When the master returns, he will have the slaves sit down and… he will serve them. He will serve them. Classic Jesus.
“For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27). As usual, Jesus turns a common image on its end. Jesus hints that he himself is the householder who is returning, and serving.
Jesus takes a common saying and turns it on its end. And here’s the rest of the surprise for his listeners, the master is already here, secretly in the form of Jesus, watching, serving.
So if Jesus came to serve, what should be the church’s posture be as we await the master? What should be the attitude of those who follow Christ? When you return to your routine tomorrow, regardless of the hierarchy where you work or study, what will be your attitude? What will be your attitude toward your possessions? What will be your attitude toward those with less? What will be your attitude toward those lower on the totem pole, coworkers or underclassmen?
Think carefully about your answer, because the householder is secretly among us, and he is here to serve. Let the party begin.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Michael Rinehart