Saturday, August 7, 2010

Blessed Right Out of Our Fear, Luke 12:32-48

What can you do when someone gives you too many summer tomatoes?
Fix a big meal
Can or freeze them for another day
Give them away
(You can make your ‘problem’ of having too much, someone else’s problem by sharing your good tomato fortune.)

Why the talk about tomatoes? Jesus used the simple and familiar things to explain concepts about God.
While tomatoes are not the ‘riches of the world’, for us they may make Luke’s stories as understandable to us as Jesus’ words about making (for ourselves) ‘purses that do not wear out’.

Jesus talked about people who ‘built bigger barns’ and making ‘purses that would not wear out’. He spoke of ‘flowers in the field’ and ‘bread for tomorrow’. These were the simple things of life in his day; things people saw everyday as they walked dirt roads and scraped out a meager living close to the land. People of HIS DAY understood these word pictures.
We sometimes have trouble making sense of his words because today’s everyday-images are different. Most people drive to work and get food at the store. We worship in a church not a temple and we go to the park to spend significant time in nature.

Yet we still experience anxiety about having enough, whether that is enough food, enough shelter, or enough security. Basic human anxiety has not changed in 2,000 years, only the circumstances that cause it.

Our fears focus on little things that quickly add up to big things that threaten to take over our lives.
Money pays the rent
Employment provides security
Food keeps us alive
Our house protects us from storms, like those we’ve had this past week.
Do we have things to worry about? Sure we do.
And Jesus answer to our fears is “Fear Not, little flock, for it is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

We’re are so blessed that we’re blessed right out of our fear. Or so Jesus says. But what kind of kingdom is it?
We would like to know the details, right?

Jesus describes the blessings of God’s Kingdom in stories that are quite unbelievable. The problem is, we’ve heard these stories before and we’re used to hearing Jesus tell us about the aspects of HIS day.
Such as, masters and slaves. He uses the story of a master who returns home to find the servants that he owns watchful for his return and doing what they were supposed to do.
Well, FORTUNATELY, we are not slaves NOR do we own slaves. (Thanks be to God.) And so his stories slip into the realm of ‘old Bible stories’ that don’t carry the impact they once did. We can’t hear the shock and the unbelievable reversal within the story. We have to get into a 1st century mindset to appreciate Jesus’ illustrations.
For instance, Status was everything in Jesus’ time. Status was more important than money, although they were related.
Your status; PRESTIGE, maybe a better word,
Prestige determined with whom you could socialize,
Prestige determined your opportunities to acquire money.
Prestige determined whom you could marry.
Prestige determined your VALUE to society, to your family and even your own self-worth.
One would NEVER, EVER do anything that could embarrass or in any way lower your prestige!
Therefore, a master would NEVER serve a slave. It’s inconceivable.
So when Jesus describes the blessing of having a Divine Parent, or Holy Father that ‘girds himself and serves’ SLAVES,Jesus’ listeners would have been APPALLED, almost disgusted at the idea.
This kind of behavior is such a REVERSAL that it might not seem like a blessing, (just like too many tomatoes).
Rather than a story of blessing, the story would just be confusing.
Like so many of Jesus’ stories. . .

Jesus was always talking about a God that one could trust. Jesus asked us to trust and not worry about food, clothing and the staples of life. Jesus told us to trust this confusing God of reversals.
But CAN we trust a God whose idea of blessing is upside-down from everything we know? What if God ‘blesses’ us with things we don’t consider a blessing? What if our ‘blessing’ involves more work? . . .What if God blesses with too many tomatoes?

If you’ve been a follower of Jesus most of your life, and you are not confused yet, you haven’t been listening. Jesus idea of good news doesn’t make sense. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, when we know the poor can’t make it in this world. He came to release captives and give liberty to prisoners. We surely don’t want prisoners loose in our neighborhood! He warns that people of wealth will have trouble getting into heaven and tells people (like us) who have ‘things’ to sell them and give the funds to the poor.

How can any of his stories be ‘good news’ for us?
We have homes, food on the table, even if we do have mortgages and bills to pay that can seem oppressive. We have plenty of things and we’re not prisoners and we’re not slaves.
How DO we hear Jesus’ message of a God who has so many blessings to give that we need not fear for tomorrow?
If we are to be the watchful servants who receive extraordinary blessings, we must be prepared to have our world turned upside down. – and the fear knocked right out of us. Only if we adopt the truly crazy principles of God’s GRACIOUS kingdom will we be blessed. If we are looking for blessing from the world’s Point Of View, we will be as shocked and horrified as the 1st hearers of Jesus stories.

God’s idea of blessing is giving to us such a generous gift; giving to us with such abandon, [i] that we have a problem knowing what to do with all of it. We can’t horde it, we can’t put it away for a rainy day. All we CAN DO is give it away. It’s only when we start acting in the same crazy (GIVING) way as our God, will these gifts be a blessing.

So what do you do with too many tomatoes? You GIVE THEM AWAY. ! . ! . !
 Giving away and serving others is the ONLY way God’s gift translates to blessing, and you have to JUST DO IT, to see how it works. So this week, I challenge all of us to 15 minutes of Upside-Down Living. Put on your Kingdom Kap and think in God’s crazy, Grace-filled, Giving-Way and then see what you are called to do.

Get ready! ‘Gird your loins’ to use the old words of Jesus’ day, be prepared for action and you will likely shock a few people. And I can’t wait to see where LIVING like Jesus, takes us.


[i] David Schlafer Feasting On The Word, homiletical, Bartlett & Taylor, eds. (Louisville: WJK, 2010) p. 337

No comments: