August 7, 2016 – 12th Sunday after Pentecost – Year C
There is a story of a conversation between a young and ambitious lad and an older man who knew life. Said the young man, “I will learn my trade.”
“And then?” asked the older man.
“I will set up in business.”
“I will make my fortune.”
“I suppose that I shall grow old and retire and live on my money.”
“well, I suppose some day I will die.”
“And then?” came the last stalking question. (William Barclay)
And then? Seems to be the question, concern and hope that every person must face. You would think that for us as people of faith, there would be no hesitation in answering. But true to our very humanness, we wonder. It is difficult to hear Jesus’ advice to us. It is a life long challenge to follow the way of Christ.
Today’s scripture encourages us to look at our own readiness and alertness because we do not know when Jesus will come again. So, Jesus gives instruction to his followers about what they are to do after he has gone. “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit,” Jesus says to his disciples. “Seize the day” is the advice given by Mr. Keating to his students in “Dead Poets’ Society”.
Have you ever gone to sleep thinking that your day was lacking in some way? There is every chance that opportunities were missed to meet God in the human faces around us because of an overdeveloped sense of worry and anxiety. Opportunities missed may occur when we are turned in another direction or are unaware of the possibilities of transformation in a certain situation. Jesus encourages us to seize the day, be ready for action and service, and to trust God into the future.
Eugene Peterson writes in “The Message” saying ”keep your shirts on; keep the lights on! Be like house servants waiting for their master to come back from his honeymoon, awake and ready to open the door when he arrives and knocks.” I’m not sure that you and I can relate to being like house servants, but we sure can understand, keep your shirts on; keep the lights on! It is rather like waiting up for your teenager who is on a date. You are worried if they are going to be home on time. Will they be safe. Will they be smart. That is how it is for God with us. Are we ready? Are we going to be home with God, sure and secure and non-anxious?
The disciples are urged to be vigilant, like faithful servants, always ready for action and service. We remember that the early church looked forward to Christ’s return within their lifetime. This passage reminds them, and us, that being faithful cannot be measured on a clock or calendar, and doesn’t give immediate results. It is a way of life, a journey of trust into the future.
“Do not be afraid,” opens todays Gospel text. You’ve got to be kidding, Jesus. Surely there is lots of which to be afraid. The Canadian dollar is decreasing in value. Our American neighbours are soon heading to the voting polls and the candidate choices are pretty frightening. The European attacks that have taken place over the past few months have been horrifying. Ethiopia is yet again facing famine. Many of our families are facing crises. Some of you, or your loved ones, have health challenges. And the list goes on.
15 years ago I stood outside the burning home of a friend. We had been woken in the wee hours of the morning and quickly fled the burning building. Dressed only in bedtime attire, I was anything but dressed for action. It was an incredibly vulnerable and anxious feeling. She did not have contents insurance on her treasures. We were not prepared for a fire. And that is in part what makes fires, robberies and accidents so traumatic. There is little doubt that faith is tested when the unexpected crisis occurs.
After such a traumatic experience I realized how sentimental I am. Most of the things I own have a story behind them. Realizing that my friend had lost virtually everything that she owned helped me to reprioritize my belongings. As long as I have my faith, my friends and family – I have all I could ever need or want.
Jesus reminds us “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I have just purchased a small ½ duplex and am busy sorting my treasures. By the end of October, my move date, I know I will be moving far less than I currently have laying around my home. I have too many things. Not all of them are treasures, and certainly, not all of them are essentials. Faith, friends and family are my treasures. What about you?
Victor Frankl, a survivor from Auschwitz makes the point that someone can take away everything you own, everything that belongs to you, but there’s one thing that they cannot take away from you and that’s your attitude toward what’s going on – your choice to live in spite of death and destruction all around you. To me, that, heaven, Frankl suggests.
We hear Jesus directing us to invest our lives – our time, our energy, our talents, and our money in the gospel way. Rather than gathering many personal possessions we are to invest ourselves in God and God’s realm. This frees us to live our faith joyfully and confidently. We are encouraged to be ready to receive blessing.
We as a congregation have been profoundly blessed by 2 saints of the church who together have left bequests totalling over $100,000. It is not just the amount of money that these 2 women left that humbles us, but the fact that Blanche and Shirley thought so much of their church that they wanted to give it a lasting legacy. These financial gifts are their heart treasures. They have blessed us richly.
Our Council has done much good work this past 7 months seeking to discern a direction and plan for our congregation. Each month we worked on assessing our mission and how we are living out our declared objectives. We sought the help, support and wisdom of resource people who guided us in ultimately coming up with 12 recommendations that came to the congregation on June 5th. Since then we are putting in place those 12 recommendations. We are acting with courage and faith. We know we are well blessed. We know where our treasure is. We are letting go of fear and are acting faithfully.
Audrey West, a theologian who writes for “Feasting on The Word” suggests the following: “The less we want to have, the less we need to have. This fact is itself one of the blessings God offers, with compound interest. The less we need to have, the less we need to fear. The less we need to fear, the more we know that a life of giving allows us always to live, not on the brink of destruction, but on the brink of blessings, where we can more readily hear the promise that the “Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour,” desiring not to punish but to bless.”
The scripture texts for today are challenging, encouraging, and full of blessing. We are called to rest in the assurance that we are God’s beloved. It is in that deep faith that we set aside our anxieties and put our trust in God’s loving grace. Our hearts are full of blessed treasures. Amen.