11 August 2019
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
“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.”
Fear is a powerful motivator.
Fear has been a tool of many:
Nations, dictators, and their military,
Law enforcement and criminal justice,
Schools, nuns and principals, even
Fear of going to hell
Has been effectively defining what is
and what isn’t
For Catholic and Christian Conservative cousins
Hell and damnation
Drove the Church to the
Altar of indulgences, and to the
Golden calf of wealth.
Two early Church Fathers,
St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom,
Are credited with the observation that
“The pathway to hell is paved with the skulls of priests.”
Clergy who fail to take notice of these words are either ignorant or dead.
This is the humble fear I experience
Every time I place the yoke of the ordination stole
On my shoulders and around my neck.
Many long for the benefits of ordination;
Few recognize the deadly risks and dangers.
Crucifixion is for keeps.
Fear is a two-sided actor performing on the stage of life.
The positive results of fear include
A fight or flight neurochemical response that serves self-preservation.
Healthy fear contributes to
Discipline and conformity.
Healthy fear leads to faithful diligence.
There are some negative, unintended consequences of fear.
Chronic fear can lead to normalization;
Eventually, the adrenalin rush just wears off.
We let our guard down and in rush the wolves.
Fear can drive people over the edge.
People can be pushed an inch too far,
Throw in the towel and just walk away.
Fear can lead to decline and failure.
Empty are the cathedrals of Europe and
Many mainline churches in America.
In the Gospel of Luke
Begs us to ask the deeply existential question,
“What is it that we fear?”
What do you fear?
Aging, disease, suffering, death?
The safety of loved ones? Yourself?
Running out of money?
The humiliation of getting fired, caught, or dropping down the socio-economic ladder?
What do we fear as the Rush United Methodist Church?
Decline in membership or attendance?
Not able to pay our bills? Raise enough money? Keep the property in repair?
Disengagement from missions and ministries that are central to our culture, identity, and faith?
Division in the denomination that demands a divided and contentious response?
What is it that we fear?
When we peel back the lid containing our deepest fears
And honestly examine what we find,
The Gospel sings the tender assurance of Jesus saying,
“Do not be afraid, little flock.” (12:32)
Do not be afraid,
Jesus echoes the familiar reframe of Old Testament / Hebrew prophets;
Casting the tapestry for his audience
(including all of us here today)
Of our Heavenly Father’s greatest characteristics.
It is God’s desire to give us God’s greatest gift;
So, here’s the deal:
God good pleasure is to give us his kingdom.
The King wants to give his servants everything!
Have you ever heard of that?!!!
Therefore, we need of nothing.
Baptism claims our status as citizens of God’s kingdom.
We need nothing of this world
Other than a connection with God,
A personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Kingdom living isn’t about obtaining more;
God is already giving us everything.
Kingdom living is all about being good managers,
Of what God has already given.
Kingdom living is abundant living.
The grace and love of God,
Demonstrated through the words and deeds of Jesus,
Meets our needs and
Exceeds our needs!
God’s grace and love floods into our life,
Spilling over into our neighbor’s lives;
Floating us from this life
To the life that is to come.
Christian discipleship is living in a seller’s market.
Sell possessions, Jesus tells us. (12:33)
We don’t need them, anyways.
Give alms, Jesus tells us. (12:33)
Alms are gifts of charity to the poor.
When giving to the poor,
There is no expectation of reciprocity.
The poor can’t pay you back.
Nor should they.
Sell, and it’s gone.
Give. No strings attached.
Give it away and don’t expect anything to be returned.
Kingdom living radically separates us
From the wealth and possessions of this world
And ropes us into relationship with our neighbors,
Specifically, our poorest neighbors,
In God’s kingdom world.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” Jesus correctly observes. (12:34)
I never knew how many Subaru Outbacks there were on the road
Until I bought one of my own.
Now, that’s all I see.
It seems like everyone is driving an Outback!
In a similar way,
Jesus recognizes that when we
Use the proceeds from our garage sales and
Give the proceeds to the poor,
Our heart follows.
The heart follows the gift.
We begin to notice the poor more.
We begin to see the poverty that was always present,
But it was the (Jesus directed) gift of charity
That removed the scales from our eyes.
Invest in charity,
Time, talent, money, and
God’s kingdom comes into laser focus.
The kingdom reveals itself.
Our heart follows and is forever the Lord’s.
When Luke knits this all together with
This simple parable about the unexpected return of the master
There is revealed in today’s Gospel one additional essential truth about God:
Faithful discipleship demands diligence.
Waiting is not idling.
Waiting is firing on all cylinders,
Revving the engine,
Kicking in the turbocharger,
Popping the clutch, and
Squealing the tires.
Waiting is working with diligence,
Taking the best care of the Kingdom we’ve already been given.
Waiting means leading by serving,
Serving those who would otherwise be expected to serve and
Serving those who could never repay you.
Faithful diligence in kingdom living
Removes the fear of the unexpected return of Jesus
And the outcome of our forthcoming judgment.
Fear of judgment is gone!
“Do not be afraid, little flock,” Jesus said.
God is happy to give you everything.
God is giving us his kingdom.
It’s up to us to take care of it.