Year C, Pentecost 12 August 11, 2019 Luke 12:32-40
I try to find comfort in Jesus’ first sentence? “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” I do. I often feel we are “a little flock” on the edge of survival and a spasm of fear shoots through me. But then I hear Jesus saying, “Do not be afraid, little flock”.
It’s interesting that Jesus refers to us as “his little flock”. It suggests we are like sheep who don’t know what to do until a shepherd comes along directing us to the green pastures for which we hunger. Without a shepherd, we herd together, each looking to the other for guidance, but all of us are lost. Individually we feel vulnerable and small; defenseless in the face of all the wolves we know want to eat us. Our only hope, as we ban together without our shepherd, is that our neighbor will be eaten instead of us. Jesus says “Do not be afraid, little flock” and we wonder how he could say that in view of our vulnerability.
Maybe the answer lies hidden in how Jesus completes his sentence. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Your Father has something he wants to give you and there are no strings attached, no hidden clauses, no quid-pro-qua requirements. It’s for his good pleasure, just because, no other reason. This is not a business transaction and functions outside our usual transactional way of living.
And whatever it is our Father wants to give us, it is contained in “the kingdom.” We often say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven.” We are only a few verses beyond where Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples. This is in fact a follow-up to his prayer instructing us on how to be on the inside of what God wants?
What is the kingdom? We know it comes from a place other than here. We know it to be profoundly different and outside the possibilities we can even imagine were it not for Jesus. Could it be a place of peace, a place not characterized by rivalry, a dwelling place where all is well and we know it? Could it be a place where we feel safe; where there is no “in” and “out”. If this is what it is, it is a very good place. I think we live in a really beautiful place. It is so green and flowing with living water. But maybe living in the place Jesus describes would be even better. Maybe it would be worth moving to live there? But how do we do that?
Last week I tried to make the point that Jesus was talking more about the way we value things rather than about whether or not it was ok to have things. In this week’s lesson I think that Jesus point is not really about selling all you have and becoming a wandering hippy. Rather I think this lesson should be translated: “sell all that possesses you and give away the proceeds so that not even a monetary remnant of your bondage remains? What would that look like?
Possessions are anything from which we attempt to grasp our worth, value and self-esteem. They constitute attempts at giving ourselves worth in lieu of living in the worth we have already been given as children of our heavenly Father—the Father as who wants to give us his kingdom for his good pleasure. It is only by letting go of those things upon which we depend for self-esteem that we discover we don’t need them and have room for something different. In fact, it is our needing them that has us in bondage.
I think that it is good guidance to get rid of and to let go of all the traces of bondage to things and expectations so that we can enter God’s kingdom of peace.
The next sentence gives us a huge hint on how to move toward “the kingdom” but to see it we will have to change how we think about ourselves. Here is the sentence. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The “romantic” view is that our hearts define our treasure. But I’m no longer certain that what I think I want comes from deep inside myself. I’m pretty sure that what I want has a lot to do with having others envy me. My heart’s desire does not come from the center of my being; it comes from someone out there. Someone has given me my desires. They are not generated from within.
So Jesus comes along and he knows our desires come from a place outside ourselves, either from our neighbor or from the place from which the kingdom comes. Since the other we choose to follow is the source of our desire, that other is our treasure and will determine what we want. Our desires come from the model we choose and not from some place deep inside. Jesus has just reversed our usual way of thinking and opened the door to great hope and good news. If I want to participate in the kingdom, I don’t have to change my desires by trying harder to be good. All I have to do is decide to follow Jesus with as much of myself as I can muster and the rest will take care of its self. Gradually my desires will just naturally change because of who I am following. I don’t have to burn the candle at both ends to make it happen. I am free
When I understand what Jesus means when he says: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also?” Do you see how it is good news? Make Jesus your treasure and your heart will just naturally come around causing you to desire the particular way of being human that Jesus called “the kingdom.
1. What causes you to be the most afraid?
2. Do the things that we desire come from the inside intrinsic or are they from the outside externally mediated?
3. Do we get our sense of value from who we are or from what we accomplished and the wealth we have built?