Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tales from the table

Luke 14:1, 7-14

Are any of you here today people watchers? I rarely get the chance to people watch with three kids to keep up with, but it is something I enjoy. I enjoy thinking about what these individuals or groups might be doing. Where are they going? What are they celebrating? Sometimes I even come up with elaborate stories as to what has happened in that day to lead them to wherever we happen to be. People watching is a great way to keep your mind occupied and to be entertained.

Our lesson today starts out saying that the Pharisees were watching Jesus. Not only are they watching Jesus, they are watching him closely. There watching is not for entertainment purposes. They are watching to see what Jesus will say, who he will interact with, what he might do and when so that they can see just what kind of teacher is this man from Galilee.

Often we think of the Pharisees as being anti-Jesus, but in the Gospel of Luke they seem to be balancing the role of inquisitive and offended. It is the Pharisees in Luke that warn Jesus to stay away from Jerusalem because people are planning to kill him. It is the Pharisees who invite Jesus to fancy meals and dinner parties. They are curious about him, and watch closely to learn more.

Jesus is a people watcher in his own right. Not for entertainment purposes. “Jesus’ watching is all about noticing people in order to heal, teach, saved and enlist into kingdom work. His close watching is about awareness like a parent in a crowded park, not a security guard behind a monitor."[i]

On the way to this wedding feast, held by the way on the Sabbath, Jesus sees a man with dropsy and heals him. Even on his way to other events Jesus takes the time to really encounter those around him.

When Jesus arrives at the party he surveys the landscape he watches people as they weigh where they should sit and how they should act. It’s a tension that most of us can understand. Perhaps not in our current fancy wedding culture, as most weddings concerned about seating have place cards or at the minimum reserved seating for the families of the bride and groom. If this particular place does not cause us social anxiety, I think most of us can relate to another place where seating is important. The school lunch room. Not so much in elementary school, where you sit with your class, but perhaps in middle or high school where you are finally given the freedom to sit with anyone you like. In theory.

Imagine walking into the school cafeteria for the very first time and knowing you are going to have to pick where you sit very carefully. Too close to the super popular kids and people might think you are trying to use their social currency. TO far away from the hubbub and you might seem to think you don’t belong at all.

Like a scene from the movie mean girls, you scan each table trying to figure out who you should sit with and pray you don’t make the wrong choice.

Jesus was like a new kid in class at this event. Likely this Pharisee always invited a similar guest list to whatever functions he gave. There were family, close friends, and those of influence. These were most often people of the same social stature, or rich neighbors who could improve your standing. They were so practiced and knowing where they stood in a group that they almost instinctively went to their place for a meal. By looking around the room Mr. Williams knew he could sit above Mr. Fitzgerald, but not above Mr. Hohenwald. Mr. Hohenwald could sit close to the host, but had to leave room for the governor. Mr. Fitzgerald hoped and prayed that Mr. Green had been invited so that he wasn’t at the end of the table once more.

The guests may be mentally sorting themselves but Jesus is new to the situation and he’s seeing what they don’t see. Jesus is seeing how this turmoil of where to sit is completely beside the point. Jesus is watching these men turn themselves inside out for the right seat at the table without realizing a very They are all invited guests.

He turns to them and tells a story about guests at a wedding. He talks about worrying about where to sit, how to act. I wonder what was going through their heads at that moment. I’d guess a mix of “Who does he think he is?” and “How did he know what I was thinking?” Then he talks about taking a higher seat and being humiliated, so better to take a lower seat and be lifted up.

This wisdom comes from Proverbs 25, words from Solomon himself, no doubt familiar to these men. It is good to not place yourself too highly in the face of a noble. Good practical advice. After all, one could lose their head for coming before a king uninvited.

I imagine there were some nods around the table, thinking this was good sound advice.  But I think most of them still missed the message. Jesus turned then to the host and said “When you throw a party don’t invite the expected crowd. Your family and rich neighbors. Instead invite the poor and lame, those who will never be able to pay your back or increase your social standing.”

I imagine there was shock at this statement. Why give a party at all if it wasn’t going to increase your social standing? Where you sat at a meal and whom you sat with were extremely important things in Biblical times. I can imagine that the host was shocked and offended at these words from Jesus. But Jesus was making a very important point.

Jesus says when you are invited. Jesus says when you have a party, invite. Invited. That means you are expected. That means that you will have a place. It does not matter one bit

How low you sit at the table, what matters is that you are invited! You are there to celebrate and there will be room at the table. Too often we can get caught up in where our place is, instead of rejoicing that we have a place at all.

This passage is about being stewards of God’s grace by making room at the banquet for everyone. We get caught up in this higher lower talk. This is not making yourself less and putting others above you so that they now control you. This is much more like Isaiah 40:4 “Every valley shall be lifted, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.”

This is a leveling of sorts. It’s not a switching of elevations, its realizing that we are all on the same plain in God’s kingdom.

And this doesn’t just apply to meal times. This teaching of Jesus’ is about how we treat one another all of the time, especially those who are not in a position to “pay us back.” Jesus is calling us to the kind of people watching he does. Watching with eyes not of judgement or for entertainment. Watching to share God’s grace across boundaries that we may not even realize are there.

Ronald Byars says “From one society to another, and from one era to another, there seem to be different lists of those from whom respectable people expect to turn aside. Jesus’ challenge reaches across boundaries of place and time, calling us to be more aware of those from whom we are inclined to turn our eyes, and to follow him rather than those who baptize common prejudices as virtues.”[ii]

Who are we watching, my friends? Who are we noticing? To what are we paying attention? And perhaps most important of all, what are we doing in light of what we see?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a qualitative change in our lives.”

Are we willing to make those changes? To participate in a leveling of the field so that the beloved community, the kingdom of God, might be as we pray, here on earth as it is in heaven?

May it be so, friends, may it be so.

[i] Jill Duffield Looking into the Lectionary 22nd Sunday in Ordinary time
[ii] Ronald P. Byars Feasting on the Word Year C Volume 4 page 25

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Back Breaking Burdens

Luke 13: 10-17
I want you to imagine with me this morning. Imagine a world without touch. Not without the sense of touch, but a world without being touched. No one to reach out and hold your hand. No one to hug you, or give you a pat on the back. Imagine a world where people not only wouldn’t touch you, but would go out of their way to avoid touching you, as if just be really looking at you they might be harmed or contaminated.
Imagine that overtime people do stop looking at you. They stop noticing that you are there at all. They don’t go out of their way to avoid you because they don’t even act like you exist anymore. Imagine living that way. How long would you last? A day, a month, a year? Imagine living that way for 18 years in a community much smaller than Huntsville, AL. And I’d bet with that imagining we would still far short of the life of the woman in our scripture today.
This lesson is unique to the Gospel of Luke. This is a story of another unnamed woman who makes an impression even in a world designed to make her invisible. She is not a prominent woman in the community. She is not the beloved mother or daughter of someone in standing. She is just who she is, a woman who has been ostracized for 18 years and still shows up at the synagogue for worship. Luke describes her as “bent together” or “bent double” by a spirit.
Being crippled by a spirit means that something has gotten a hold of you, or has assumed power over you and has taken control of your life. Being crippled by a spirit causes you to live life in a less than whole state. When a spirit has a hold of your life it is no longer your own, but everything you do you do to please or accommodate that spirit.
Sound familiar to anyone here? I know it does to me. This bent over woman is far to familiar. She is everyone who has ever struggled to rise above the pain of oppression, low self-worth, of judgement from others.
She is everyone who has struggled with chronic illness, addictions, loss of value, loss of innocence.
She is anyone who has lived in a situation that is intolerable, anyone who has been told you can’t and believed it. She is all of us who have lost hope.[i]
She goes about living her invisible life and one day, everything changes.
In the synogouge there is a man teaching. He is different from the other Rabbis, and people murmur over his interpretations of God’s word. There is an excitement about him, and a fear.
And while teaching he notices her. He sees her, really sees her. In Genesis Hagar calls God “The God who sees me.” That same seeing God looks across the room full of people and sees this woman, in her own wilderness and refuses to let her stay there one minute longer.
He sees her and without any request, any action on her part at all says “Dear woman, you are healed.” Such simple and powerful words to say. With these words she can feel the hope that has kept dormant for so many years begin to kindle. Dare she hope, dare she trust that this might be true.
Jesus reaches out and touches her. His touch confirms what is already taking place within her. His touch allows her healing to be known. His touch awakens her soul once more. His touch welcomes her back into the community of faith as a whole and welcome participant.
Immediately she begins praising God. She knows where her praise should go, she knows that her life has been transformed and what better place to acknowledge your healing than in the community of faith?
Once only able to stare at the ground, only able to get an alternate view by straining her neck for some sideline sight, only able to look at her own feet or those of another and never see into their eyes, now she can see faces. Now she can see where she is going. Now she can see that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
And while this celebration is bubbling over, while this spirit has been overturned, Satan can’t stand it and attacks in a particularly harmful way, through a leader, a teacher, a man of faith.
When we have been freed from our oppression, when we have found Jesus loosening the bonds that have been so stifling we want those around us to rejoice and celebrate. But often our freedom confuses them. Our freedom somehow sets them on edge.
We see this often in families of recovering addicts. Once the addict begins to take the steps to recover the rest of the family seems to fall apart. It’s not that they don’t want that addict to get better, it’s that they don’t know how to handle that person when they system they have built was built around that illness.
Conflict goes up and tensions can rise in families walking through the recovery process. When you realize that for true healing to take place, the whole system must change, there is often push back.
Here we have the leader pushing back against this change. And what does he attack? Not the fact that healing happened, not who was healed or how, but the timing of the thing.
There are 6 days to be healed, why today, the Sabbath? The Sabbath is an issue time and time again in Jesus’ ministry, especially in Luke. He has healed on the Sabbath before, that is not new. But this time he speaks no words saying “your faith has made you well.” In fact, her faith is not mentioned at all. Instead Jesus talks about the faith of the leader.
In one of the most scalding rebukes in the New Testament, Jesus calls him a hypocrite! I’m sure he was stunned by that accusation. But let’s unpack that for a second.
There are two reasons given in scripture for the Sabbath. One points to creation, that God rested the seventh day so we too should rest from our labors. The second is given in Deuteronomy 5:12-15.
“Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. For six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefor the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”
If the Sabbath is about freedom, then how dare someone not be freed! She had been bound and now was loosed. As a daughter of Abraham doesn’t she have as much right to the release of bondage as an ox or donkey?
Jesus says that she is a part of the kingdom of God. The leader seems to think that she’s waited 18 years, what is one more? But Jesus’s actions say, she’s waited 18 years, why wait one day more?
The Sabbath is about honoring God. The concern about keeping the Sabbath is due to God’s concern for the health and well-being of God’s people. There is no better way to honor God on the day we set aside for worship then to follow Jesus in practicing God’s mercy and compassion, especially towards those suffering and in need.
On November 7, 1991, Earvin “Magic” Johnson held a news conference to announce he had tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. At the time, Johnson, was one of the biggest stars in basketball, having won five NBA championships with the Lakers and played in 11 All-Star games. At the time Johnson went public with his diagnosis, AIDS was highly stigmatized and considered a disease that affected only the gay community and drug addicts. Johnson’s announcement signaled to the public that heterosexuals were also at risk for the disease.
Despite not playing during the 1991-92 regular season, fans voted Johnson, a hugely popular point guard known for his passing skills and infectious smile, to the All-Star team representing the Western Conference. Prior to the All-Star game, some players, including Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz, expressed concerns that Johnson posed a health risk to other players. However, when Johnson stepped onto the court in Orlando on February 9, 1992, he was met with a standing ovation from fans and his friend and rival player Isiah Thomas kissed him. Johnson played a total of 29 minutes, during which he scored 25 points, made nine assists and helped the West beat the East, 153-113. As the game ended, players from both teams came onto the court and hugged Johnson, who was also named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Reaching out to kiss Magic Johnson was not the expected action from Isaiah Thomas. Michael had expressed concerns that no one would want him on the court at all. And who could blame them. Yet this act of mercy, this touch, this seeing of Magic as a person and not a disease, allowed him to continue to participate in the game he loves.
In the scripture lesson Jesus steps out of what is expected to show God’s grace and mercy extends past the rules and regulations we have put in place. Jesus shows us the truth of the kingdom life, a life lived on the outside of our preconceived notions, our religious rules, our dos and do nots.
Jesus showed the people of his day and us that where Jesus is, the kingdom is. Where Jesus is things begin to be made right. His ministry provides a foretaste of the coming kingdom. In the reign of God, the world will be repaired. In the reign of God there will be no conflicts between what is good for one and what is good for all.[ii]
May it be so, my friends. May we all work toward a kingdom that loosens the bonds and sets captives free. Amen.

[i] Theological Stew Blog Linda Pepe

[ii] Byars, Ronald P. Feasting on the Word Year C Volume 3 page 387.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Team Sport

Hebrews 11: 29-12:2
This is perhaps my favorite time in my life. A time that I look forward to with great anticipation. Yes, it is Olympics time! I am a self-proclaimed Olympics junkie. I record portions of the games that are on while I’m away or asleep just so that I can stay caught up. I become one of those people that Amanda was talking about Wednesday night. Those people who really are anything but athletic but for a few weeks every four years become an “expert” on random sports like synchronized diving or rhythmic gymnastics.
It has not been uncommon for Steven or the kids to come into our room to see me alternately crying from some amazing story, or shouting because It’s not fair that Gabby couldn’t compete for the all-around! I’m sure my family cannot wait for this summer games madness to go away. But in my own defense this is two weeks every four years and SEC football and basketball madness happen EVERY year!
My guess is that throughout the world today various churches will be hearing something about the Olympics. It’s a natural tie in to today’s text. Train really hard and finish the race, right? They will hear stories of Michael Phelps winning his 23rd gold medal after turning his life around in rehab. They will hear of Simone Manuel, the first African-American woman to win an individual Gold in swimming, and of Simone Biles, the 4 foot 8 powerhouse who overcame being taken from her mom by foster care and raised by grandparents who have stepped up to allow her every advantage she needed to win gold.
But there is another story from the Olympics that has captured my attention, that links to Hebrews in a very different way. But before I go there, let’s look again at this passage.
We don’t know who the writer of Hebrews might be, really, we don’t know. For much of church history it was assumed that Paul wrote Hebrews, but it’s really not his writing style, and Paul was never one to write an anonymous letter. For a time, some scholars passed around the idea that it was Apollo but nothing has backed that claim up. There are many who think it was written by Pricilla which is why there is no name, as a sermon by a woman would have been hard to swallow.
Whomever the author is, they have the most amazing and complete use of the Greek language of any Biblical writer. These chapters flow like none other. They are not a letter so much as a sermon.  And they are written not to a community like Huntsville, or Madison, but rather to an ethnic group, the Hebrews. A group of people who had a shared history and background even if their zip codes would have been vastly different.
The passage that we read today is close to the heart of this book. The author spends all of chapter 11 recounting the history of God’s people. Starting at creation and masterfully winding throughout the familiar and unfamiliar stories of Genesis and Exodus, through Judges and 1 Samuel, a picture is painted of a people who have time and time again journeyed through the harshest conditions, but kept their eyes on God. But even with their struggles, their journey one thing held true for them all. Verse 39 says “All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received the gift that God had promised.”
What I believe the writer is alluding to here is that throughout the history of God’s people they have been on a journey, going where they are called, willingly and unwillingly, with the faith they have received, searching for the homeland they have been promised, but none actually get there.
Think about that. Abraham leaves his home in Ur and travels all over the place accumulating wealth and a blessing, but never lives to see his children inherit the promised land. Moses doesn’t get much more than a glimpse at the promised land from the top of a hill even after he’s taken the Israelites out of Egypt and into the wilderness. Samuel dies at his own hands and doesn’t see the people repent. David never sees the Temple of the Lord completed. Isaiah gets sawed in half, according to tradition, and doesn’t see the justice he prophesied rolling down the hills.
They were a people journeying, searching for a homeland, refugees trying to find a place to call home.
The author of Hebrews tells us that the home they were awaiting, the promises God was offering were not fulfilled in their life time, but through Christ, they will/are realized.
The perseverance, the endurance of faith will lead us to the present and not yet kingdom of God, where Jesus sits on the right hand of God and we all finally come home.
I think that most of us can relate to the journey metaphor. We’ve heard the term spiritual journey enough. But this particular image of a people searching for a homeland might be more uncomfortable for us here in our current time and place. Homelessness, after all in America and most of the world, is a less than desirable state.
When the opening ceremony of the Olympics started this year I was amazed. It wasn’t just the pageantry or the amazing storytelling of the performances (even if Meredith Vieira’s explanation of them was terrible) or the colorful outfits the Olympians wore. This year something different happened.
This year, for the first time, there is a refugee team. A team comprised of people without a homeland. This group of 10 athletes from all over the world show us what endurance really looks like. Their stories are heartbreaking, their trials unimaginable. From literally running out of their country to flee oppression to hauling a boatful of people through treacherous waters, these Olympians have done the unimaginable, and made it to the top of their sports.
          When they walked in that night, under the banner of the Olympic Rings there was something special. The commentators kept saying “They have arrived.” But I don’t think that’s what it was. Each of them knew that their chances of medal, let alone gold were slim. And as of Saturday six of the 10 had competed and failed to qualify let alone medal. But to a person they are thrilled to be a part of this journey, this experience. They don’t feel that they have missed out because they didn’t get to the medal stand, they know that in enduring their difficulties, in fighting to make it this far they have put things in motion for the next group that will come. There will be more refugee teams, because there will continue to be refugees fleeing countries. They have even created a flag for the refugee team, and orange banner with a black stripe that calls up the image of people in life jackets trying to make it to distant and safe shores.
The Refugee Olympic Team's flag.
The Refugee Olympic Team's flag.THE REFUGEE NATION
They will be the witnesses for the refugees that come after. They will cheer them on, reminding them that there is hope and a future, living breathing examples of faith.
Likewise, the writer of Hebrews tells us, those that came before are cheering us on in our journey. We are looking for a home, a homeland, a place of safety and security. The Bible tells us that this place is found in Christ. Those who came before us, those who followed the faith to the end, they are cheering us on knowing that we will all find a home together in Christ.
We are called to take off the things that weigh us down, the sins that cling so heavily, the burdens that make us slow, the fear, the anxiety, and run the race put before us.
We are not called to run it perfectly. We are not called to run it without doubt. We are called to run it with endurance, keeping the promise of a homeland found in Christ before us.
This kind of running, this kind of journeying, allows God to be at the forefront of our lives. It allows us to look towards Jesus, who for the joy awaiting him endured the cross. And what joy is that my friends? The joy of the reconciliation of the family of God!
What an amazing homeland, the present and not yet kingdom of God! May we continue to seek with eyes of faith and may we cheer on all of the other refugees we encounter telling them that God is good, all of the time and all of the time, God is good.

We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. When things seem to crumble, he is with us. When things seem shaky, he will be near. When the world seems to be overrun with troubles, he is at our side. Let the refugees of Christ run the race with endurance, until we can all truly be full citizens of the kingdom.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

People Get Ready

Luke 12: 32-40
I’d like to start this morning in a different way. I’m going to try to play a song for you this morning, a song that many of you may recognize from many many years ago. (Play part of People Get Ready by Curtis Mayfield, sung by Seal)
Youtube video here.
People get ready
There' a train a-coming
You don't need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
Don't need no ticket
You just thank the Lord
People get ready
For the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers
From coast to coast
Faith is the key
Open the doors and board them
There's room for all
Among the loved the most
There ain't no room
For the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just
To save his own
Have pity on those
Whose chances are thinner
Cause there's no hiding place
From the Kingdom's Throne
So people get ready
For the train a-coming
You don't need no baggage
You just get on board!
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
You don't need no ticket
You just thank, you just thank the Lord
Yeah Ooh
Yeah Ooh
I'm getting ready
I'm getting ready
This time I'm ready
This time I'm ready
Written by Curtis Mayfield • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
So why would I start with this song? Other than the fact that I like it, a lot! I think that Curtis Mayfield would have seen a lot of his song in this passage from Luke. Preparedness, hopefulness, freedom, but there I go, getting ahead of myself again.
This passage in Luke sounds very familiar to us, and it should! It’s counterpart in Matthew is found in the Sermon on the Mount, that treasured and much preached on passage. But, unlike Matthew Luke’s version is a bit more, well, in your face. This particular passage comes after a description of God caring for us so much that he knows the numbers of hairs on our head and, for some of us, it is an ever dwindling number.
Jesus says that God cares for the lilies of the valley clothing them in beauty even when they have done nothing but bloom where planted. If God loves these things so much, how much more does God care for you? Then Jesus begins this passage, a call to not fear, to prioritize and to seek vocation.
These are the same messages we hear throughout most of the Season after Pentecost, these calls to turn, look at the world in a different way, and then live lives worthy of the calling that we have received. This passage is no different. But it does have a unique way of coming to that conclusion.
Throughout scripture when we hear the words “Fear not” or “Don’t be afraid” they are followed by marvelous, life altering occasions.
Joshua hears such words from God before going into battle, as do Gideon and Jahaziel. The Psalms are full of God’s admonitions to not fear, even though the earth should change and the mountains shake. The prophets Isaiah and Joel often record the voice of the Lord saying “Fear not, for I am with you.” The angel of the Lord says these same words to Mary as she learns she is to have the Christ child. Jesus says these words to Jarius before he heals Jarius’ dead daughter.
Fear not we are told. And why? Because it is the Father’s great joy to give you (plural) the kingdom of God. There really is no better news than that! We, like the disciples are called to love without fear. Called to live into the reality of the Kingdom here and now. God’s faithfulness extends to the entirety of creation. There is room for all.
Fear and the realm of God are opposites. When we live in a spirit of fear, a spirit of scarcity, we are shut off from participating in the Kingdom. When we are given freedom in Christ, this freedom extends beyond a loosening of the bonds of sin. We become freed from anxiety regarding our relationship with God, and we become freed to truly live the kingdom in the here and now.
Too often we let other people stir up our fears and distract us from the freedom of God’s love. They use fear as a strategy as a means to motivate us to certain actions. We only have to turn on the TV or read a newspaper or news site to watch this method of fear as incentive. There won’t be enough of some particular item, and out of a fear of scarcity, that item disappears from store shelves. We have to be afraid of our neighbors so alarm systems sales skyrocket and front porches on new houses shrink to only fit one to two people at a time.
We are freed from scarcity so that we can be generous with others, with our time, with our forgiveness, with our resources. If it is God’s joy to give you the kingdom, it is God’s joy for that kingdom to be shared.
My Mom frequently said “You can’t scare someone out of hell, you have to love them into heaven.” Fear is a powerful motivator, but love is stronger. And if we are ready to not fear, to live into the kingdom, then we must prepare for it and celebrate when we see it breaking out.
Jesus tells the disciples to sell all they have and give it to the poor. Too often we like to respond as Peter does in verse 41 “Do you mean us Lord?” I don’t have enough to make ends meet as it is, how can I do without? There are some who say this is to be taken literally, that if we really feel called to be a disciple of Christ then what we must do is unburden ourselves from our excess so that we can fully rely on God. Then there are others who say that Jesus isn’t speaking of the ascetic life, but rather of a strategic appropriation of ones goods.
I have to tell you, I’m not sure which is right, or if it is somewhere in between. I don’t think that by being poor we are automatically more holy. I don’t think that by having some means we are doomed to hell. But I do think that our money and where it goes is a good barometer for our spiritual lives. And apparently Jesus did as well.
In verse 34 Jesus says “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Too often we switch these words around to say where your heart is there will you keep treasure, but that’s not what it says. Jesus is telling the disciples, all disciples past and present, that we buy into what we’ve given our money to. Think about that. If your money is invested in various companies held in the stock market, then chances are you will pay attention to those companies and how they are doing. You will be invested in their well being, because your money is directly tied into their success.
 If you give money to an institution of higher learning, you will be more invested in that school. You will pay attention to their media presence, perhaps even their sports teams. You will care more about that school than other schools. Because your money is there, your heart is connected.
While this may sound discouraging, really it is good news. It lets us know that we have some control over where our hearts are, where they focus. If we give our money to the poor our hearts will be more focused on the poor. We will be more aware of their needs, the injustices, the policies that affect their livelihood.
And this sell all your possessions thing, well it tells us that God cares about more than just our 10% tithe. Our entire household budgets are a theological statement. How we spend our money, why we spend our money and with whom we spend our money- all of these things show where our heart resides.
What is our motivation for giving to others? If we know we have treasures in heaven, if we trust that the Kingdom of God will and does provide, then the need to hoard earthly treasure disappears. Our hearts will go where our treasures are, by this we can craft our own futures. Futures without fear, lived in freedom and generosity. We will live lives like those of the servants mentioned in verse 35-38.
We are not to fear, and to be prepared. When I hear these two phrases together I tend to go all doom and gloom. My mind floats to the “Left behind” series of books that encourages us to stockpile for the end is near. I somehow don’t believe that is the kind of ready Jesus is asking us to keep. Why? Because he’s told us not to be afraid.
This kind of waiting is an excitement, and anticipation, not worry of judgement or punishment. This readiness is being prepared, anticipating the return of a loved one, and that kind of readiness is not a burden at all. Being ready means doing what we were told to do, living each day as if the Master was with us, so that when the master returns he will find things ready, and in good order. This kind of readiness is living out our vocations, our callings to be followers of Christ. TO do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
This does not imply that in order to pay for our freedom we must be doing good deeds and piling up stars in our crowns. Saying “we don’t have to do anything” to earn God’s love is a far cry from saying “we shouldn’t do anything” in response to God’s love. This is the challenge of the Gospel, of the good news. We are to remember that we are called to love people, and use things, not the other way around.
Are we ready to help others in need? Are we willing to put our money and goods where our hearts should be? What might your life, my life, the life of this congregation look if we change our practices in order to fund the acts of justice, mercy, kindness and love Jesus calls us toward?
So people get ready
For the train a-coming
You don't need no baggage
You just get on board!
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
You don't need no ticket
You just thank, you just thank the Lord

            May we all thank the Lord by living life as his servants, prepared to join in the kingdom celebration!