LUKE 12: 32-48
Rev. Ron Robinson
Scripture: Luke 12:32-48
Read through slowly, each sentence at a time, and read backwards taking the last sentence first and reading it and then the next to the last and reading it; all so that you can trick your mind into paying attention to each part of it and not skipping and passing over what we think we know, so that we can encounter it freshly, so that some words will jump out to us as they would have those who heard them in the oral tradition in the time and way of Jesus.
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.”
41Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” 42And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? 43Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 44Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 45But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. 47That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. 48But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. 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.
Reflection on Scripture:
What treasures lay hidden in this text. One of the reasons I love being a Christian is having a particular path to go deep into (where the deeper you go, of course, the closer you draw toward the hub of the Spirit toward which the other paths are going deep along their spokes) and in our scriptures there are openings galore where you can live and seek and find sustaining meaning. These words from Luke's gospel are one of those portals. Ready made for meditating and focusing on one sentence or one word and letting it lead us into where we need to act, letting it guide our prayers this week.
Do not be afraid. This is not said unless there is a reason to be afraid. Before you can not be afraid, you need to face what you are afraid of. Just as Jesus asks Peter later if he loves him, if he loves him, if he loves him, calling him to go deeper and deeper and not skim the surface of his replies, so we are called as disciples of hope to pause and ponder and ask ourselves, what do we fear, what do we fear, what do we fear, until we know it enough to walk with it and see our fears for what they are, not the sum of us. The sum of us that has been given to us, and yet our fears keep us from seeing it, sharing it, serving it, is the kingdom of God.
What is the kingdom? The opposite of Caeser's kingdom, the opposite of that which our culture, our families, our own tapes inside our head, say that it is, that we don't have enough to share and to serve to help others have more. Sell your possessions. Give alms. Get rid of what possesses you. Relocate from the kingdom of appearances, achievements, affluence to the kingdom of the heart where the treasure of everlasting abundant life is found. What do we fear that keeps us striving for the kingdom that builds us up instead of building up others? What keeps us from turning our worlds, our communities, upside down and inside out so that the master is serving the slave, and in doing so erasing the identities and roles that the kingdom of Caeser puts on them?
Opportunities for getting outside of ourselves and our safe spaces, of facing our fears and letting love emerge, are all around us if we have the eyes to see and can help others to see them. They will most likely happen when and where we least expect it, but we have to be open for that to happen, relocating our attention spans and gazes and value systems and in many cases physically going to be with others that are different from us. This is a hallmark of the missional church movement, to see the church realized in others and not in our own sense of self identity, and it is a way of love for all our relationships. Over and over again in the scriptures Jesus points out that it is the way, the narrow way, we meet the presence of God.
Many of us have been given much in terms of physical safety, financial safety, emotional safety; much is required of us now to see this, to share this safety, and to serve others in the spirit of the kingdom that breaks down the haves and the have nots. In the community where I live it is the one with the lowest life expectancy in the Tulsa, OK area, fourteen years lower than those in the zip code just six miles south of us on the same street. My community has the highest health care needs, but we have the least resources for health located where we are. Because our residents are the sickest their costs are the highest; because our residents are the poorest there is not the pool of the insured to help offset the costs; just this summer almost all of the clinics for all that were located in our wider community have been closed because of funding cutbacks. The only clinic remaining open is the one in our community center created by our church, our small group of UU Christians and others who join with us,and our hours have been cutback and we have been placed on a year's notice if funding doesn't turn around. But at this very time and because of this situation, as terrible as it is, we have found strength in collaboration and in dreaming of new ways to become a healthier community, one that does not rely solely on the kindnesses of strangers and faraway funders (even as we need and want them), but ways that will draw us closer together, turning us into healers of sorts in our own neighborhoods, redefining "clinic" away from its default mode as an institution that attracts the sick to it, and into an incarnational movement of people trained to help one another.
In order to begin to make this happen, one of the first steps we have learned is that with all we have, or with as little as we have, we may never feel we have enough on just our own, and that void always before us is that we are in need of relationships with others, especially those different from us. Living in this deeper sense of shared abundance is what keeps it growing and spreading and what allows healing and imagination and creativity and that which Jesus called "God's kingdom" (and in our situation in my local area we might call "God's Clinic" 'to emerge). Follow along with our story at www.progressivechurchplanting.blogspot.com and www.turleyok.blogspot.com.
The opposite of poverty, as it is said, is not wealth but community. And being in a community of those freely following Jesus is a key way to prepare ourselves for seeing those moments and people and places, especially in the Ordinary, where God is, calling us to share and serve, and in doing so to see more.
Prayer: O God of love so everlasting that allows us to fear and to move through it, help us to open our eyes and to see what we have been given, help us to see what we have not seen, even of You, even of ourselves, as well as of those around us. Move us to share and to receive the sharings of others as a way to create relationships that will sustain us when all our personal possessions, of mind body and spirit, become insignificant in the light of the Eternal. In these days when we still feel the power of the Pentecost story of great abundance and diversity wellling up into our story, in these days known as Ordinary Time when we prepare our souls in routine regular tasks and disciplines so that we can know how extraordinary your gifts to us are, come knocking on door, knocking on our door, knocking on our door, and even when we don't recognize you at first, and even when in our fears we do recognize you and will have none of you, sometimes for all good reasons, Dear Lord, don't turn away from us, but keep knocking, until we say so be it, it is so, Amen.