This post is part of the ON THE WAY sermon series at St Mark’s Anglican Church, Casino July/October 2022
In today’s Gospel we get another excerpt from the much longer section in Luke 12 that we dipped into next week, again today and again next week.
None of those weekly excerpts are continuous with the previous week or the week that follows.
We are not reading all of Luke, but rather a selection of passages made by the lectionary committee.
As a general rule, the lectionary committee does a good job. However, sometimes their decisions leave me scratching my head. For example, the choice to skip the preceding verses and to choose those we have just heard.
Other times we simply have to accept the fact that Jesus lived in a very different world from ours and we do things differently here.
For example, we do not accept slavery as OK.
For us, imagining God as an abusive slave owner who will beat up any slaves he finds who are not at the peak of their performance, is simply not OK.
Likewise, we sometimes realise Jesus was not a sensitive modern man.
He may not have done his share of the domestic chores around the house. Indeed, he seems to have abandoned his duty to care for his widowed mother and gone off with a bunch of misfits who supported his crazy ideas about the kingdom of God.
And we are so glad that he did that!
We recall the story where Mary and her other children come to fetch Jesus from Capernaum and take him back to Nazareth. His sisters and his brothers thought he was acting crazy and needed a break. When I was a kid, people would have recommended a Bex and a lie down!
As you may have noticed, this week’s selection from Luke is a tad disjointed.
Most likely it reflects not how Jesus said these things, but rather how Luke—or someone else even before Luke—has gathered together isolated sayings of Jesus into sets that could be more easily remembered.
Had I been on the lectionary committee, I would have argued for the segment this week to be the first part of the reading we heard; along with the large paragraph that precedes it in verses 22 to 31:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider 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! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
Then the first section of today’s reading makes complete sense:
“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.”
That arrangement of the material from Luke 12 takes us very close to the heart of Jesus’ teaching.
This is not only what Jesus said, it is how he lived.
What is more, as Christians we believe that the way he lived is the very best revelation of what God is like as well as how God wants us to live.
We are to be care free.
We are to practise a child-like trust that God will provide everything we need.
This is a radical call to simplicity.
It was echoed in the way St Francis of Assisi chose to live, and he was one of the rare persons who seem to have deeply understood the way of Jesus.
We are to live as if we really believe (and trust) that God is in charge and (in the end) everything will work out just the way God wants.
We no longer have to win every conflict.
Our obligation is not to be God’s enforcer.
Our focus is to be at peace with God, with ourselves and with others.
Imagine if that impression of our church community spread around town.
In the Hymn to Love in 1 Corinthians 13 we get a description of the person who manages to live this way:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [1 Corinthians 13:4–7]
You may already know that this text can be read with “Christ” replacing “love” in each phrase:
Christ is patient; Christ is kind; Christ is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Christ does not insist on his own way; Christ is not irritable or resentful; Christ does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but Christ rejoices in the truth. Christ bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Perhaps, this week, we might practice saying that text with your own name each time that “love” occurs:
Greg is patient; Greg is kind; Greg is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Greg does not insist on his own way; Greg is not irritable or resentful; Greg does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Greg bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
When our heart is in the right place and our treasure is in heaven (rather than in lower games here), then people around town might say:
St Mark’s Church is patient; St Mark’s people are kind; St Mark’s folk are not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. St Mark’s Church does not insist on its own way; St Mark’s people are not irritable or resentful; St Mark’s folk do not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Those people bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. Their love for others never ends!