8/8/2010 -- The Rev. Anne-Marie Jeffery --11th Sunday after Pentecost

posted Sep 8, 2010, 1:33 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Sep 8, 2010, 1:37 PM by Terry Brady ]

Text:Luke 12:32-40  

This morning’s gospel offers two images which seem very different from one another.  The first is an amazing word of comfort. “Do not be afraid little flock. It is the creator’s pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The second is to be on the alert. Be awake.  Be attentive so that you will be ready when Christ comes knocking on your door.  The two images are so different that by the time I get to the second image of being attentive to the coming of Christ, I have forgotten the first one of a loving and gracious God who gives his flock the treasure that does not fade or fail. I easily get caught up with the fear of not being ready when Christ returns.

            I think that is not surprising because most of us are accustomed to operating in fear and anxiety mode. This is the world we live in - where we deal with war, terrorism a bad economy, global warming, unemployment, homelessness, disease and death.  There is much to fear, and so we are more responsive to words that are closer to what we know – Watch out. Be ready. Have your lamps lit at all times.  We, the people of the 21st century, hear these words more clearly than the Jesus’ words of reassurance and promise of unfailing treasure.  

Maybe both images need to be heard and perhaps they need to be heard together. What if we hear the words to be on the alert while keeping in mind that the one we are waiting for is the one who tells us - do not be afraid little flock.  How will that change our response?   I know for me it changes my response a lot.  Being on the alert for a loving God who gives us truly good things is very different from waiting for a taskmaster to show up.  How can we keep those loving words of Jesus alive and not succumb to the fear and worry that can come with being on the lookout.  

For me, it helps to look back to those times when I have felt that outpouring of God’s comfort and often this has happened through another person. There was a time like that which I actually associate with this passage. It was when I was in seminary a day or two before I was to take the General Ordination Examinations.   Many of you will be familiar with these since you have had many seminarians here at St. Margaret’s.  For those that don’t know, these examinations are given by the national church to seminarians preparing for ordination and last for four days.  They are met by many with much anxiety and fear, especially because in some dioceses, failing them will hold up your ordination.   They are not unlike the qualifying exams in masters and PhD programs.  I was very nervous and the atmosphere on the seminary campus was tense with endless advice floating around of what books one had to have and what method of preparation was best.   Into this atmosphere of fear and dread came an email sent to our class from another seminarian who had graduated 2 years before and who had been a mentor to many of us.  The email began, “Fear not little flock.  You will be all right. You know what you need to know. Trust in that. You will be in my prayers.”   As I read this email, a sense of calm descended on me. I could hear his words even though I am sure many people had said similar things to me. God’s grace and goodness was at work at that moment. 

When have you had those times in your life? Was it a period of time or a moment where you could feel the grace of God being poured on you and that you knew that truly there was nothing to fear because you were wrapped up in God’s arms?  Remember those times.  Write them down and go back to them, because we all forget.  I would also ask when you have noticed those times at St. Margaret’s – those times when there were there times of missional energy where God grace was flowing, where there was an abundance of the treasure that no thief can steal or moth wear out? Make note of these as well because you will need to share them with others especially in this interim period as you look back in preparation to look forward.  

Now as we keep these times of God’s generosity and love in our minds, let us go to the next part of the gospel where we are reminded to be attentive to the coming of Christ.  Being ready constantly is exhausting.  I’ve often wondered how security guards or the secret service, who are on the alert for hours and hours watching for an event or person that is out of place, do it.  I think the only way they can is through habit.  They are in the habit of attentiveness and perhaps this how we too can live into this readiness that is being asked of us. Our attentiveness to Christ can be a habit where our living as disciples in the world becomes second nature. 

The wonderful thing about bringing the image of a generous and loving God to our attentiveness is that the habit is learned out of love rather than being a chore.   I’m not saying there won’t be challenges, but learning a habit which is not a response to “you must” or “you have to,” but rather a response to a loving and generous God who freely gives us the best treasure in the world, makes a difference.  Think about what it is like to wait for a visitor you love to have come by – a good friend who you haven’t seen in awhile. There is joy in the preparation in the cooking and the cleaning because you are happy to have this person come to your home, and you want to give them your best.   Even as a child I experienced this.  There were certain visitors I was happy to clean my room for because I was so delighted that they were coming.  I looked forward to the attention they gave me and in some cases knew that a gift for me would be part of the visit. I wanted to be ready for them.   If we remember what a loving and generous God we have, then I think we will want to be ready and enter more easily into the habit of looking out for Christ.   And just as we to be attentive in our own lives, we must be attentive as a congregation to how Christ is moving among us and calling us to various tasks.   Let us keep that awareness that we are Christ’s people in the world, Christ’s little flock, who are attentive to the presence of Christ and who live with the knowledge that we have been given and are being given the unfailing treasure of God’s love.