Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Treasure Inside

August 13, 2013, 1:29 PM

The Treasure Inside

Genesis 15:1-6
Luke 12:32-40
This is one of those times in history when the gospel seems written just for us.  We have lived at some level on high alert for over a decade.  Just this past week, all of our embassies in the Middle East were closed because of terrorist threats.  For a year the State Department has been under investigation for not keeping the kind of vigil that could preclude a surprise attack.  Truly, if the owner of the house had known what time the terrorists were coming, he would have been ready. 
It’s often helpful to read Jesus’ statements from the inside out.  He begins the teaching for today with these words, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  Do not be afraid.  We simply cannot live on high alert.  It will make us crazy.  It will impair our judgment and make us belligerent.
So let’s start with the wisdom of last week’s reading.   We can’t have everything.    A man that I’d never met stopped in the office this week to comment on last week’s sermon title that was still on the reader board.  When his son was little, he wanted everything he saw.  One night he asked his daddy for some outlandish thing and his dad replied, “You can’t have that.  It’s too big to move.”  His son didn’t miss a beat, “We can leave it where it is, but I’ll know it’s mine!” 
We can’t have everything.  But it is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.  “What Jesus enjoins, is an orientation toward the whole of life as abundant gift from a generous God—a gift that can, therefore, be given away with abandon.”[1] 
We cannot give if our hands are clenched and our spirits are wary.  What is the radical message that can make this passage come alive with joyful possibility?  Stay with me as I do a bit of exploring.  What if the servants of the generous God, whose good pleasure is to give away the Kingdom, have been working diligently giving away their master’s stuff.  What if, instead of sweeping, cleaning, polishing, and bookkeeping, they have been giving to all who have need while they have been waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet?  Then when it is quite late and the servants are exhausted, their master returns and creates a feast for them.  What would that look like?  Let me show you a video.   
At the end of the day, the servants sweep up and close the doors.  What is there for a thief to steal?  Needs have been met with kindness and joy. 
Which raises the question:  What is the treasure inside that truly needs to be protected?  It is the treasure that is stored within every human being.  Your stuff, the things you own, has monetary value that is fleeting.  But you—you are precious.  Your soul is of infinite worth.  Your spirit is the treasure inside and the way you nurture it will decide whether you live in fear or in peaceful readiness for living. 
Jesus is not contradicting himself in this parable.  If the servants know their master’s values and live faithfully in service to those values, they will always be ready.  If we want to live in the Kingdom of God, we must cultivate a generosity of spirit that trusts that God gives abundantly and blesses our abundant giving.  I can’t tell you how hard that is for me.  But that is where my faith in God has to grow and it grows not from scrunching my brow and thinking or reasoning harder, but by practicing extravagant generosity—generosity with the gifts that I have been given: my natural talents and acquired skills, the financial and tangible fruits of my labor, and—this is perhaps the most important for my peace and the peace of the world—my forgiveness.  Forgiveness is the currency of peace.  Forgiveness for my family, forgiveness for my friends, forgiveness for myself, forgiveness of every kind of debt or trespass.  There were some people of faith who called for forgiveness of international debt at the turn of the century.  We did not forgive debt and we have lived with war and terror for over a decade.  The chasm between the very rich and the very poor expands daily.  It is more important now than ever that God’s servants learn how to manage the world with God’s values. 
The treasure is stored within every human life.  We protect that treasure through a generosity of spirit that is cultivated in an ever deepening relationship with God and one another.  Generosity of spirit trusts that God gives abundantly and blesses our abundant giving.  Forgiveness is at the heart of a generous spirit.
Can we believe that the master’s return is a gracious event, rather than a cause for panic?  Can we hear in this Gospel text an invitation to a more playful, expectant participation in the coming of God’s Kingdom?  Which knock at the door brings the bearer of God’s good pleasure?  What act of generosity or almsgiving frees one to peek through the door of heaven?  What small steps indicate a confidence in God’s good future for you and me or for this congregation?[2]

[1] David J. Schlafer, “Luke 12:32-40,” Feasting on the Word, ed. Bartlett and Brown (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 339.
[2] Patricia J. Lull, “Luke 12:32-40,” Feasting on the Word, ed. Bartlett and Brown (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 338.

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