The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
St. Luke 12:32-40
Proper 14C (Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost), 08 August 2010
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
22[Jesus] said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
We begin today as we left off last time. A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions, but in abundant Life in Jesus, your priceless treasure.
32“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
The order of the words Jesus uses here is very deliberate. You would think a person’s beliefs would drive his choices. And so they should. But Jesus turns it around and says that the choices one makes also eventually affects his beliefs. Computer programmers have a saying, Garbage in—Garbage out. If you put in incorrect or incomplete data, you’re going to get wrong conclusions.
Think about it: Seemingly innocent choices of TV programs, movies, or music with violent or sexually explicit content, can develop a belief that this is the way the world operates, that these things are OK. The choice of “treasure” changes the “heart.” As stewards of God’s gifts, we can make choices about what is precious to us that can affect what we believe. Picking up the wrong so-called treasures can even destroy our faith. But picking up treasures that are spiritual and eternal preserve our faith and trust in God. May we always hold to the cross of Christ as most precious, and arrange our lives’ priorities around it.
What are your priorities as we head into a new school year? Where you spend your time shows where that item ranks on your priority list. Where does work rank? Play? Family? Friends? The Lord? Worship? Bible Study? Individual Devotions? Fellowship with other Christians? Where you spend your time shows how important something really is to you. What is your priority?
Our Lord’s priority was you. That’s all there is to it. He is the only-begotten Son whom the Father sent into this world because He loved you. The Son came willingly. He was born a man, lived as a man, served as a man. He was dressed in human flesh, ready to die. He was dressed and ready for service when He washed the disciples’ feet, reclined at the table, and served them in the upper room at the Last Supper, Jesus’ Passover. And it wouldn’t have been a true Passover without a lamb sacrificed for sin. Jesus is that Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. And not just the world’s sin. Consider this: He took your sin away. That was His priority, His service to you.
35“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!
The Romans had four watches throughout the night: 6-9 pm, 9-12 midnight, 12-3 am, and 3-6 am. The Jews had three watches: 6-10 pm, 10-2 am, and 2-6 am. In either case, Jesus’ reference to the second or third watch of the night refers to a period spanning the middle of the night. Those who stay awake are blessed.
A watchman, watching all alone in the middle of the night wouldn’t be the best idea. What happens if one guy sits out all night all by himself and he gets bored? Right. In every movie, they guy falls asleep. If he were watching with a buddy, they could keep one another alert, awake, alive.
You’ve met people who claim to keep themselves alert, awake, alive. I’m not talking about the fields or the rails but Christianity. Think about the last time you heard someone say: “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian. I pray. I read my Bible. I do good things. I don’t neglect or abuse my family. I live a good enough life. I can enjoy God out in nature.”
The Christian life is not lived alone, in solitude, but in communion with fellow believers and our Lord. His priority is you. His priority as the Good Shepherd is to keep His little flock together, even if it means leaving the 99 to go after that one stray sheep that has fallen asleep, fallen into a pit, or otherwise gotten in trouble. That’s the danger with going it alone. Satan goes about seeking the weak like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
A Christian, all alone, can learn something about the God of creation out on the lake, the links, or at deer camp. Nowhere—nowhere carved on a mountain, or sung by a bird, or spelled out in flowers is the knowledge of salvation in Christ Jesus. No fish can tell you that your sins are forgiven. Deer are noticeably silent as well. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with hunting, fishing, and so on. The danger is that they become one’s primary source of knowledge about God.
Chances are, solo Christians don’t read their Bibles. Where would they receive encouragement to do so? People who don’t read their Bibles don’t pray much either. They rarely hear God speak in His Word, so His Word doesn’t bear much fruit in them speaking to God. The prayer life of such a person is dying and usually consists of prayers for stuff, or prayers to get out of a jam. As far as caring for one’s family, even non-Christians do that!
Eventually, one missed Sunday becomes two and three. A month off from God becomes two and three. Before you know it, the kids are following the inactive parent’s example and are, like them, in danger of falling away from the Lord. So much for being dressed and ready for service, keeping lamps burning, watching, and waiting for Jesus to return.
The Christian life is not lived alone, in solitude, but in communion with fellow believers and our Lord. The Lord nurtures the lamp of faith He gave you at Baptism, at conversion. Fellow Christians can encourage one another to pray, worship, and love one another. The Lord’s priority is you. His priority as the Good Shepherd is to keep His little flock together, even if it means leaving the 99 to go after that one stray sheep that has fallen asleep, fallen into a pit, or otherwise gotten in trouble. That’s the danger with going it alone. Satan goes about seeking the weak like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Solo Christians are dead meat. Instead, 35“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!
This first parable and the second one, coming up next, share similar themes: Be ready. Watch. Have your priorities straight. This is a foretaste of the lessons we will hear this November, during the last Sundays of the church year. We will then hear much more about Jesus’ imminent return. When will this be? We haven’t been told. No one but the Father in heaven knows when that time will have fully come.
39But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
If you somehow knew that Jesus was coming back tomorrow, chances are, you’d be ready. Your priorities would in the right order. God and family. Sins forgiven. Sunday best on, lamps burning, ready for service.
We are not told at what hour the Son of man will come. That is why we are called to be ever-ready, always dressed for service, the lamps of our faith always lit, replenished by the Gifts God Himself gives in the Word and Sacraments.
Here you will hear of God’s priorities. Here is where you will hear, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Here is where you will hear, “As a called and ordained servant of the Word, I announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins.” Here is where you will hear, “Take, eat; this is My Body, which is given for you.” “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the New Testament in My Blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
Here is where you will hear about God’s priorities. This morning, we are joined with one another by the Lord into a little flock awaiting the return of our Good Shepherd. As His forgiven little flock we have nothing to fear. Our sins are forgiven. We are dressed, wearing Christ’s righteousness. Our lamps are burning with the fire of faith, the gift of the Holy Spirit. By God’s gift of faith, the same Gift given to father Abraham, our priorities shift to treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Your treasure is in heaven, and your hearts and minds are kept in Christ Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.