Sunday, August 07, 2016

Sermon; 12 Pentecost, Proper 14C; Luke 12:32-40

Chapter 12 of Luke, while no one I can find actually uses this term, is a little apocalyptic.  Jesus talks about exposing words that are said in darkness and behind closed doors, not to fear death, you will face persecution, maintaining a proper focus, actively waiting, and the end of days.  As Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem it seems that his mind is focused on the end times, and Chapter 12 is the result.

In today's reading from this apocalyptic chapter we hear about fear, priorities, and vocation/mission.

Today's passage opens up with Jesus telling his disciples to be not afraid.  This, of course, echoes almost every angelic encounter throughout Scripture – Fear not, be not afraid, and the like.  As disciples of Christ we are reminded to be not afraid.  I haven't actually looked, but it's said that there are 365 references to a version of “fear not” in the Bible, one for every day of the year.  Maybe there are that many because we need an every-day reminder to not live in fear.

This admonishing to be not afraid is followed shortly by his reminder to us that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be as well.  And it's this that I want to focus on – where your treasure is, there will your heart be.

Where is your treasure?  If you aren't sure, or wonder if what you say is your treasure is actually what you treasure, go through your checkbook or bank statement.  What do you spend the most money on, or what do you spend money on the most often?  We can say our treasure is A, but if our financial records indicate our treasure is really X, then we might want to re-examine our life.

This may not be solely financial, either.  Remember that stewardship involves time, talent, and treasure.  Where are we spending our time?

Instead of looking at our checkbook, maybe we need to look at our calendars.  Right around this time of year my attention is turned to football.  I study the rules book, I work to train new officials, I watch videos and take tests, I attend meetings, and I work to get in “football shape.”  And I will readily admit that I would be a better Christian if I spent as much time with Scripture as I do with the rules book.

Those things we treasure – activities and hobbies, football and Candy Crush (or maybe Pokemon Go), any number of things we spend our money on – it is those things we treasure where our heart truly is.  It reminds me of the song, “Cat's in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin.  The subject of the song probably loved his son, but he treasured his work above all and that was truly where his heart lay.

This is all easy stuff, and also correctable.  We can look through our checkbook and make a decision to spend less on restaurants and more on food and clothing for Ft. Vannoy.  We can examine our schedules and choose to spend less time watching TV and more time reading Scripture.  We can change where we place our treasure, and our heart will follow.

But as I pondered over this reading it seemed that there was something hiding just under the surface trying to get out.  And it struck me that what was trying to get out was fear; or rather, the place fear plays in our lives.

Too often, it seems, we are controlled by fear.  There was the person two weeks ago who called 911 because they were afraid of a man with a gun.  That gun turned out to be a toy truck.  That fearful caller was followed by a police officer who shot the unarmed therapist dealing with the distressed person with a truck because he was fearful of the situation.  And if you want fear exemplified, pay attention to any political campaign of any stripe.  One side is preying on the fear of a “lost America” while another side is preying on the fear that we are willingly surrendering our freedom.  And it was a Democratic presidential candidate who ran one of the most fear-based commercials of all time showing a little girl getting obliterated by a nuclear blast.

Like it or not, we are a people who live in fear; or maybe, “a people who live fearfully” would be a better way to put it.  We fear those not like us.  We fear those of other religions.  We fear those of no religion.  We fear people of different racial makeups.  We fear immigrants.  We fear success.  We fear failure.  We fear change.  We fear remaining the same.

It's almost like we don't know how to live if we aren't living in fear.  It's almost like the thing which we treasure most is fear.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

One of the Christian disciplines is self-examination – and no, that's not strictly reserved for Lent.  As we move forward in our lives, I challenge you to a period of self-examination in the area of fear.  What are you afraid of?  What causes you to live fearfully?  There are some things for which we have good reason to be afraid – spiders, for instance.  There are other things for which our fears are totally irrational – the zombie apocalypse might be one.  And in the middle are any number of things.

Are we so afraid that we need to build walls instead of relationships?  Are we so afraid that, like the rich fool of last week, we can't see that the best storehouses for extra food is in the bellies of the hungry?

If fear is our treasure, then our hearts will follow.  And it is a fearful heart that refuses to see the kingdom of God breaking into this world; it is a fearful heart that actively works to stop the kingdom of God from breaking into this world.

Do not be afraid.  Sell possessions and give to the poor.  Welcome the stranger.  Feed the hungry.  God is working too hard in and around our lives for us to allow fear to become our greatest treasure.



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