“It’s About Being Prepared”
August 11, 2019 – 9th Sunday after Pentecost – Year C
There is a story about a person who was not much of a handyman but tried hard nonetheless. He decided to save some money and change the oil in his car himself. He prepared very carefully for this “big event.” He went to the store and bought a pair of vehicle ramps to run his car up on. They were on sale for only $27.95. Next he bought a special mechanics “creeper” so he could roll under his car.;
The ‘creeper” cost $15.95. He decided it would be best to get a special flat oil pan which cost $3.50. And he got a super special oil-can spout, guaranteed not to leak for only $2.95. He bought a special oil-filter, wrench, $3.25 and of course the filter itself, $5.49. So far, he had invested $59.09. He then drove his car up those special ramps, took out the oil plug and drained the oil into the special pan. He unscrewed the oil filter and replaced it . Suddenly he realized with all his preparations, he had forgotten to get the oil. No problem. The Walmart was only 2 miles away. So, he simply started up the car, backed it off the new ramps and drove towards the Walmart. Cost of engine overhaul – $895.00. Total cost of the oil and filter change – $954.09.
With that picture in our minds, let’s jump to the Hebrew scripture text. The letter to the Hebrews comes from an unknown author, is addressed to a Christian community that has grown passive in their faith. The chapter begins by defining faith as an inner conviction within a person that is not accompanied by tangible evidence, “assurance of things not seen,” it says. The following verses name some things that faith does, and goes on to give examples of things that have been accomplished in history because of faith. Where are we being called to go? Are we aware of unexplored places in our lives that need to be visited? Who are some women and men whose active faith has encouraged you? Where has your faith taken you?
Perhaps your faith has pulled you into approaching some of your neighbours and you formed a neighbourhood clean-up group. Perhaps your faith has directed you to get together with some like minded friends and study the Truth and Reconciliation report. Perhaps your faith has nudged you to sign up for an international working experience in a developing country. Perhaps you made a pilgrimage to a Holy site.
The letter of Hebrews offers a wonderful recitation of people who have been faithful down through history. They are people whose lives expressed “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” They were faithful stewards of the vision and promises of God. Abraham and Sarah left their homeland to journey to an unknown land that God had promised to their descendants, and they continued to believe in the promise long after Sarah had passed child-bearing age. And although they died before they saw the promise totally fulfilled – descendants as numerous as the stars or grains of sand – they had the vision of what would be, and that was enough to be faithful stewards of the present moment. Their lives were focused not on the past and what had been, but on God’s future in which they trusted.
Do you hear the repetitive refrain: “By faith…By Faith…By Faith.” As we hear this directive, we find ourselves wondering, how? Mary Hyatt writes, “Come now, let us argue it out. Faith is a process that we work at all our lives. It’s our dialogue with God. Our faith is a dialogue with God and our living is a dialogue with the world.”
A wealthy woman, once felt that God was calling her to the religious life. She thought she would be able to give up everything in order to follow Christ, with one exception. She had a garden that was very important to her. It was a place for her to be alone, to be at peace with herself and to find refreshment. She was unwilling and unable to give up the key to her secret garden. Her privacy was too precious even to share with God.
Are you willing to give up your garden so that you might follow Christ? Will you give up 3 coffees a week and give that corresponding amount of money to your church offering? Will you engage a street person in meaningful conversation each time you walk by one? Will you invite three persons to church, sometime this year?
If someone had come up to Jesus when he was on the cross and asked him if it hurt, he might have answer like the man in the old joke, “Only when I laugh.” But he wouldn’t have been joking. Faith dies, as it lives, laughing.
Faith is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process than a possession. It is an–on-again–off–again rather than once-and-for-all. Faith is not being sure where you are going but going anyway. A journey without maps. Tillick, a 20th century theologian, said that doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.
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 on 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.
That brings to mind the wonderful movie “Dead Poet’s Society.” “Seize the day” is the advice given by Mr. Keating to his students in this wonderful movie of the 1990’s.
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit,” reads vs 35 in the Gospel of Luke chapter 12. Be prepared! Start your engines! Ready, set, go!
Jesus is giving instruction to the disciples about what they are to do after he is gone. Above all else, they are to be active in living out their faith. This faith is based on trust in God, who will take care of them. We are reminded that where we invest our lives – our time, our energy and talents, our money – is where we will be focused. If our primary concern is to serve ourselves and amass personal possessions, we have little time for God or others. If, on the other hand, we invest ourselves in God and God‘s realm, we are freed to live our faith.
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 own 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.
Are we prepared to see Christ in our neighbor who is living with cancer? Or in the teenager whose life on the street is safer than the home she ran away from? Are our hearts and spirits prepared to respond faithfully to the needs of the day?
We are only able to see and meet the needs around us when we place our love for God above all else. This is where our hearts need to be, embraced in the treasure of God’s grace, ready to love and serve God’s grace, ready to love and serve Jesus – wherever we meet him.
Throughout this passage Jesus speaks to the disciples about a different kind of wealth – investments that cannot be stolen, will not wear out, or deteriorate. They are asked to share what they have and not be anxious about financial security. Their true wealth is of a different kind. The passage reminds us that where we place our investments – our time, our energy, and talents, our money – is where our life will be focused, and will show what we truly believe in. Jesus’ followers are left as stewards of the new community until Jesus comes again. They must 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 own lifetime. We are reminded 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.
We are people who have been gifted in so many ways. Do our grandchildren and neighbours see us living lives of thanksgiving and trust in God’s future? What is our vision? Are we faithful stewards of God’s gifts and promises? Are we blissful about the coming age?
One of my colleagues preached a wonderful sermon about heaven. He said heaven is the response to the question that we’re born asking, which is, “Do you love me?” We ask our mothers and fathers if they love us; we ask that by crying when we’re babies. It’s a question we ask constantly of the people around us. Do you love me? Do you love me? But really, it’s an ultimate question. Does God love me? And we ask God every day of our lives in one way or the other, “Do you love me?” Heaven is the response that comes back that says, “Yes, I love you.”
Victor Frankl made 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’s heaven.
May we live each day fully. May those who encounter us experience God’s grace. And may we be blessed with deep faith. Amen.