Scripture: Luke 12:32-40
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” – Luke 12:32
When I was in high school I was pretty convinced I was about as smart as you could get for a kid my age – I mean I knew I wasn’t a genius savant, but the next best thing. I did exceedingly well in school without too much effort – I didn’t study much, I waited to the last minute to get my assignments done, even when I hadn’t read something I was able to offer valuable insights on whatever the article or chapter was. As a cocky teenager I essentially believed that getting good grades, doing well in school was a birthright – it was something that came naturally to me and not something I had to work at very much.
When I got to university this attitude carried over, and I enjoyed the university social life a little too much I must say (don’t worry the photographic evidence has been scrubbed from existence), and I quickly discovered that my laissez-faire attitude to school work did not fly in the more rigorous classes of post-secondary education. By the end of my first year, I was hovering around a C+ overall average for all my courses in first year, a far cry from stellar grades I had received at a very good high school.
I was complacent, and my complacency had finally caught up to me. My grades were for the first time in my life a reflection of the amount of work I had put in (or more appropriately the lack of work I had put in). It took me two and a half years (I didn’t really change course until the end of my second year), to make up the lost marks that my complacency had cost me, and it took hard work, it required me to change my lifestyle, to live more moderately and focus my time and effort toward fruitful rather than frivolous pursuits.
We can become complacent in our spiritual lives too, and Jesus knew it.
In our reading from the Gospel of Luke this morning Jesus tells his disciples ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’.
Don’t worry about anything, the kingdom of heaven is yours, the kingdom of heaven is a sheer gift from God that is right there before you. There is nothing you need to do to earn heaven, there is no action required for God to give you the kingdom – God does so at his pleasure, it is his delight to give it to you! God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s reign of goodness and abundance is given to you out of God’s generosity – nothing more, nothing less. This is grace and it was true for the disciples and it is true for us. God’s kingdom is gift to us, given purely out of God’s joy and delight.
Mighty refreshing words and assurances if you ask me. This is seemingly Jesus at his most pastoral offering his disciples, offering us the words that we want to hear in a world where the only sure things are death and taxes, in a world where retirement savings can disappear in an instant, where essential services can be cancelled or clawed back with each successive government. Hearing that God gives us the kingdom, and that that kingdom is assured to us no matter what is the best news imaginable, it should uplift us and give us hope for the living of our lives of faith.
But we can’t get complacent. Jesus knew full well that this kind of assurance could lead his disciples, could lead us into an attitude of entitlement and complacency – an attitude which says ‘if I already have the kingdom of God promised to me and it’s an utter gift of God, why do I have to live a worthy life? Why do I have to do good and serve the poor and needy? Why do I have to offer myself and my time, talents and treasure? Won’t God always be there forgiving me, offering me the new life over and over again? Won’t God’s promise to me be there at the end waiting for me, even if I don’t follow him here and now? As the German philosopher Heinrich Heine once mused “God likes to forgive. I like to sin. Really the world is admirably arranged.”
But this attitude cannot characterize disciples of Jesus – Paul tells us as much in his letter to the Romans when he says “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) We cannot allow the sheer gift of God and his kingdom to make us complacent and nonchalant about the lives we live and the world outside of our own little bubble of salvation (whether that be our own, or the church’s). This gift of God’s kingdom that we receive should have a tangible impact on our lives, otherwise we may question whether we have received it at all, or whether it is really such Good News anyways.
Jesus was aware of this and so the remainder of the passage we heard this morning, were admonitions to his disciples to live a life of preparedness, a life of waiting and of service for the day when Jesus would come again, for the day when the kingdom that he promised would come in its fullness.
Jesus’ suggested response to the God’s promise to the disciples of his kingdom is to sell their possessions, to give alms to the poor – to prepare for themselves treasure that does not rust or that is not of this world.
In Jesus’ estimation, the proper response to God’s generosity is to live a life of generosity towards others, to pay God’s generosity forward onto a waiting world. The disciples are called to give of themselves and of their lives because they have received the promise of God’s kingdom. They were called to pour out the love they had received from God on others so that the world might know God’s love; they were called to share the grace they had received with the world, so that the world might come to know God’s grace; they were called to share the mercy and forgiveness they had received with the world, so that the world might come to know the depths of God’s mercy and forgiveness; they were called to be a people of peace, so that the world might come to know God’s peace.
That is what waiting for Jesus meant. It meant being prepared to live out the kingdom of God here and now, even as they waited for its final coming when Jesus returned. This life of love and service is the way we as the church remain vigilant and alert for the return of Jesus – just like the dutiful slaves waiting for their master in the parable Jesus told in our reading today who are blessed when the master finds them waiting and attentive.
Waiting for Jesus is not a matter of protecting ourselves in our own little bubble of salvation and leaving the world to hell in a handbasket – waiting for Jesus is living the kingdom life here and now, it is living as if the kingdom has already come even as we await its fulfillment at the end of time.
It is loving our neighbours and ourselves – even the neighbours that we really find hard to love. It is forgiving the sins of our brothers and sisters – even when it would be easier to hold a grudge or cut them out of our lives. It is offering our lives – our time, our talents and our treasure – for the sake of others expecting nothing in return. It is taking delight in rest, even as the world becomes busier and busier around us. It is finding joy and hope even in the midst of lives and a world full of suffering and despair. These are signs of the kingdom life, a life we can experience here and now.
Let us not be complacent. Let us not rest on the laurels of the gift of the kingdom that God has freely given us by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Let us live lives which tell the world about God’s promise, let us live lives which are invitations for others to claim God’s promise too. That is how we wait for Jesus, that is how we live into the God’s promise here and now. May we have the courage and faith to do so.
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