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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Luke 12:32-40 Sermon

Luke 12:32-40
August 15, 2010
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)

Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 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. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

This passage often gets preached as if the only thing it's about is the Second Coming of Jesus. As in, Jesus is coming, soon - like a thief in the night - so keep your lamps lit and your eyes open. Don't sleep. Be anxious. It's the opposite of the Bobby McFerrin song. "Please worry, be nervous." Because Jesus will come when you least expect him. Probably when you're doing something naughty. He'll be standing in the shadows of the bedroom door, covering his eyes and calling down lightning. You'll be toast.

As a minister, I feel the need to apologize for all the religious teachings that say, in essence, "If you're not feeling guilty, you must be doing something wrong." I mean, there probably are things you should feel guilty about. Cruel words, selfish actions, web sites. In addition to what you've personally perpetrated, humanity in general has done some horrible things and, yes, we're all guilty by association. But if the only reason Jesus is coming back like a thief in the night is to catch us redhanded and give us what for, it seems like a terrible waste of a cosmic moment. God pretty much already knows us, knows what we've done, both good and bad. So, to the extent that people like me may have taught you that the whole purpose of religion is to make you nervous and guilty, I am sorry.

And something else I'd like to apologize for. I think talking about the Second Coming of Jesus as if, and only if, it's a future event that might happen today, might happen tomorrow, or might happen a thousand years from now diminishes the whole thing. It limits God to a secret, but definite calendar of events. Additionally, assigning the Second Coming to a set date excludes those of us who might be out of the room when it comes on. I think God is bigger and stronger than that. If God can be constrained by anyone's calendar, even his own, he's not God. And if anyone, any one, any part of God's creation can be excluded from God's grace, it makes grace un-amazing, and kind of predictable. So, if you've been taught to think of the Second Coming with anything less than fervent hope and excitement, I am sorry about that, too.

The entrance of Jesus into anyone's world - for the first time or second time, or millionth time - should neither bring guilt over what we've done nor fear that we or someone we love is going to miss out. The coming of Christ should always be proclaimed as good news - marvelous and limitless, sweeping and inclusive... in short, amazing.

Of course, I could be wrong. But I'm willing to err on the side of God's everlasting goodness. And I'm willing to take that chance because of scriptures like this one.


Jesus says, “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.

Americans are so obsessed with the future. It used to be the future's so bright we had to wear shades. These days, the future's more questioned. Will the country survive? Or will the Chinese foreclose? Will we have Social Security, or total social in-security? What kind of earth will our grandkids inherit? What forecast does Doppler radar show? What does Suze Orman advise? What does Glenn Beck predict? The experts are always talking about the future, because it's there, lurking around the corner, waiting like a thief in the night until you least expect it and then, Bam! No wonder there's so much anxiety out there. It's no wonder we invite God into these future obsessions, too. It's only natural, then, that we include God in the fearful future, to send God away to some far-off event beyond the horizon of this day, this hour, this moment. We make God just another thief in just another sleepless night. That's just the way we think.

A boat docked in a tiny Greek village. An American tourist complimented the Greek fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long,” answered the Greek.

“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

The Greek explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings I go into the village to see my friends, dance a little, drink a bit, and sing a few songs. I have a full life.”

The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you. You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.

With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.

You can then leave this little village and move to Athens, London or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the Greek.

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.

“And, after that? Afterwards?”

“That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?”

“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your grandchildren, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings singing, dancing, playing and drinking with your friends…”

Tense future tense. That's just the way we think.

But that's not the way Jesus thinks. Jesus talks about the here and now. Jesus talks about the here and now when he says, "It's your Father's good pleasure (your Father's joy) to give you the kingdom." When? Tomorrow? No. God doesn't dangle the kingdom like a carrot on a stick, always just out of reach, always future tense in some tense future. The implied timeline is no timeline. Jesus doesn't say anything about time. Does God intend to give you the kingdom today? How about tomorrow? How about a thousand years from now? The implied answer is, "Yes." Yes, to all of the above.

Your life may not be turning out exactly the way you dreamed. It might be better than you'd dreamed. Or not. Or maybe not so good, not so bad, just different. Chances are, this is not the precise future you dreamed of in the past. If God is sneaky, like a thief in the night, what more unbelievable time and place for Jesus to pop up than where you are, right now? Imperfect, unfinished, with your hair nowhere near how you'd like it to look. What time and place for Jesus's arrival could be more surprising than right now?


Jesus says, "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."

If Jesus shows up and we've got a lot of stuff, does that mean we'll get in trouble? Maybe. If we're too busy texting on our iPhones to notice the Second Coming, that could be a problem. Or maybe the problem's not the possessions themselves, but their associated symptoms.

Possessions breed anxiety. You worry about them. You worry about losing them. So you buy insurance. You install virus protection. You put them in a safe deposit box. You subscribe to security services. You get a gun. You're anxious.

Or, you get a new possession, and it's great. For a while, and then the buzz wears off. And they come out with a new version, a better version, an improved 4G version. What are G's? I don't know; I just know you need more of them to compete in today's business and soccer-mom world. You need more G's. You're anxious.

And if you're living with Anxiety, you also know his sister, Regret. There's no introduction necessary. They're like conjoined twins. Anxiety about the future and Regret about the past. Joined at the hip. Once Anxiety and Regret have moved in, it's just a matter of time before their obnoxious uncle Guilt plops down on your couch and slaps his dirty socks on your coffee table.

Anxiety, Regret, and Guilt - Can you have possessions without them? Of course you can. But those possessions do tend to breed in some rather unholy ways that even Jesus understood. The unholiest sign of all is when God begins to create, when God even starts to resemble, anxiety, regret, and guilt. If that's your image of God, then I am sorry about that, too, for your sake.


The Second Coming of Jesus Christ begins today. If your possessions blind you to that truth, give them away. Put them on eBay and give the money to the poor. If something else in your life is causing you anxiety, regret or guilt, we have a church full of people who are willing to help. Because no matter what you've got that's getting in the way of seeing Jesus coming today, someone else has got it, or has had it, too. You're not alone in your feelings, and you don't have to be alone in getting through them.

One of the greatest gifts of the church is Communion. Because what it says is that we're all seated around this common table. No matter what's getting in our way, we all share in the good stuff. God's grace and everlasting goodness have no expiration date. But they do have a "Best By" date. And that date would be today.

Whatever you bring to the table, leave Anxiety, Regret, and Guilt in the hallway. Leave your possessions if you need to. It's God's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. When? What's wrong with today?