Carolyn’s Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday in Pentecost – 8/11/13

Sermon Pentecost 12

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

In today’s gospel, we see Jesus as a teacher.  Luke has compiled a list of things Jesus said when he was teaching the disciples.  This list can give us a pattern to follow in our journey as disciples of Christ.

The pattern has three parts:

Do Not be Afraid.

Know the source of your treasure.

Be prepared to participate in the Reign of God.

These are not a list of three things to do in a certain order.  Think of them as three things to hold in your heart at once.

Do not be afraid.  That is what God tells Abram.  That is what Jesus tells the disciples and us.  Have no fear.

I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me not to be afraid, I am pretty sure that something scary is about to happen to me.

Many people are afraid of heights. When our confirmation students go to camp at Carol Joy Holling, they get to participate in the high ropes challenge course.  There are helmets, harnesses, and a safety net, but they still have to climb up about three stories into the trees and walk on wires.  They have to trust the counselors and trust each other.  They have to help each other.

It is pretty scary, especially if you don’t like heights, but most of them find the courage to do it anyway.  They encourage each other throughout the process.  They help each other and give each other strength.

I have to confess that the pastors don’t do the high ropes course.  Only counselors who are specially trained lead this activity.  I think that is a good thing.

The students are divided into 4 groups so they go to different activities on different afternoons.  We pastors meet them for supper afterwards. When we are sitting around the supper table, I always ask them what they did that afternoon.  Some go fishing or canoeing or help with the service project like quilt tying while others are on the high ropes.

When we talked about the high ropes at supper, there are some who say they weren’t very scared, but they want you to know that it was still really high and really hard. They enjoyed the thrill of doing something daring.

Most of the kids freely admit it was very scary.  Then they talk about how they helped each other and how others encouraged them when they felt their foot slipping or when they lost their confidence.  They encourage the kids who haven’t done it yet.  They tell them, “You’ll be able to do it.”

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.”  You will be asked to do things that are scary, things that you may not think you can do.  But do not be afraid.  If God asks you to do something, there will be help.  There will be helmets and safety nets and trained counselors, the saints who have gone before you to teach you the way.  Most importantly, there will be friends who go with you and encourage you.

Know the source of your treasure.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Our possessions are not our real treasures.  As much as we like our stuff, as much as we make a leisure activity out of shopping, as much as we enjoy wearing the latest fashion, none of this is a real treasure.

Here is an easy test for determining whether something is a really a treasure or not:  When you are gone, is that object something that someone in your family will also hold onto?  Is it something that they will want to pass down to their children?  Or is it something that will go straight into the pile designated for the junk jaunt?

I am not saying that to put down the junk jaunt at all. Quite the contrary.  The junk jaunt is a way to turn our junk into money to be used for mission and ministry.  It is one way that we have of giving alms to the poor.

Our possessions, all our stuff, all our junk, are not our treasure.  Where our treasure is, our heart will be also.   Turn that around.  So where are our hearts?  Whom do we love?  The ones we love are our treasure.

Whom do we love? We love the Lord with all our heart, and mind, and strength.  We love our neighbors as ourselves.  God and our neighbors are the source of our treasure. God gives us the gift of faith to trust this is truth.

Do not be afraid.

Know the source of your treasure.

Be prepared to participate in the reign of God.

Be prepared to participate. Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.

Have you ever slept in your clothes on top of the covers?

When I was a little kid, I remember doing that sometimes.  If my parents were planning to leave for a trip really early, they would dress me and my sister in our clothes instead of pajamas and have us sleep on top of the covers.  That way we would be ready to go without much effort whenever the time came.

That is what it is like to be prepared to participate in the reign of God.  We never know when we will be called upon to serve.  When we are dressed and the bed is made, we are less tempted to crawl back under the covers and hide when we are called to do something scary.

The reign of God, the kingdom of God, is not just in heaven when we die.  We are not just talking about the end times, when Jesus will come again and reign forever.  When we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” we pray that God’s reign will come among us now.

The reign of God does come among us, and we participate in it when we use our hands to do God’s work, when we help our neighbors, when we give offerings, when we show kindness to all, and when we work for justice and peace.

Do not be afraid.  You probably will be asked to do things that are scary, things you don’t think you can do.  But, do not be afraid. God is with you.

Know the source of your treasure.  All good gifts come from God. The greatest gift of all is salvation through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Don’t be afraid.  God has given you the greatest treasure there is.

Be prepared to participate in the reign of God. There is great reward for the servants who are prepared and ready.  The Master, Jesus himself, will have them sit down to eat, and he will serve them.   There will be a great banquet.  All have enough to eat in the reign of God.

Have no fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Amen.

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