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Luke 12.32-40

'Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

'Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

 

'But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

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The key to today’s reading is the first line, ’do not be afraid.’ Over the last three months I have encountered a significant number of people who are experiencing fear and uncertainty; those whose lives have been turned upside down by conflict, by illness, and by sudden death. I find that at times  I have nothing to give; no certainty, no promises and no reassurance. Will God act? Will he deliver you? Will he come to save?

 

The passage certainly, to some extent, tries to shift us from any feigned or imagined certainty; ‘the son of man is coming at an unexpected hour.’ There is a promise in this however. It is the promise that he will come. He will surprise you, but he will not let you down; ‘do not be afraid,’ but as is often the case in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is here addressing two different kinds of people here; one is those who fit in the categories of successful, rich, complacent and secure, and the other kind is the lost, the frightened, those who live in fear, those who are poor.

 

It is easy to absorb the phrase; ‘do not be afraid,’ if you are a person for whom life has gone smoothly, if you have always had a steady income, if you have always landed on your feet............but if life has taught you a barrage of lessons on insecurity, then faith will not come easy to you. If you are poor, if you have faced constant tragedy, if there has never been a steady trickle of reassurances in life, if you have always been abused, insulted, sidelined, rejected, or been a victim of prejudice and persecution, then the butterfly of your psyche will give you no indication that overnight, your world will be upturned for the better.

 

If you are that person then the passage offers you something beautiful; ‘for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’ That is simple, he is telling you that there is treasure out there, and you have a divine parent who loves you, and will never abandon you, who wants to give you everything. You are loved, and although we do not know when, there is the promise that he will come to save.

 

Jesus spins the coin then addresses those on the other screen; those who have learned to trust the security of this world. Just don’t! ‘All our days are like grass, they are like the flower of the field, when the wind blows over it it is gone, and it’s place will know it no more,’ All the indications are that if you are comfortable, then you can sit back and passively enjoy what you have.

 

This passage tells us that if we are this person, then the opposite is true. The Lord is coming and we do not know the time or the hour. We must be ready, and that means actively living the kingdom life. ‘Faith without works is dead,’ the Epistle of St James tells us, ‘We must do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.’  (Micah 6:8) The young woman, Mary, whose virtue is not her virginity, but her lowliness declares the God will bring down the mighty from their thrones and lift up those who are like her, the lowly.’ (Luke 1:52) Indeed, as one of the poor, she can hold out her hands and plead for justice, for justice is the nature of God’s Kingdom. Those of us who are wealthy however, have the responsibility to participate in the construction of that justice. Being ready, as Christ declares, is to be like the slaves waiting for their master to return. We acknowledge that he, indeed is our master, and we must work to get our house in order, before he surprises us with his arrival. We must begin the work of the kingdom, before he walks through the door and finds us in a poor state of readiness.

 

There is more. This passage is beautifully written. We are all called to recognise who God is, and our dependency on him. The passage begins, again, with his love for us, and the fact that he wants to give us the treasures of his Kingdom, but he underlines the fact that our values are Topsy-Turvey. In our world, the rich depend on their wealth, and the poor depend on the benevolence of the rich.  The passage reminds us, however that the material wealth of this world is a cosmic imbalance. In line with Mary’s Song, the rich who are truly servants of the most high, must distribute their wealth so that the weak are exalted, and the hungry are fed. The danger is making that visible and instilling a sense of gratitude in the poor. He is the master of the house, and giving is not to create a photo opportunity of thankfulness, but rather we give out of thankfulness to the Most high. We, the rich and the powerful, give because he gave to us. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19), and that is not a virtue but an obligation.

 

This is a way of praying, ‘Let your Kingdom Come,’ because in the landscape of the Kingdom of God, the mountains of human power are brought low, the valleys of need and despair are raised, and all flesh shall see his love and his mercy. (40:4)

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