Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Pentecost 9C

Luke 12:32-40

32"Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell 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. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

35"Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

39"But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

The church's year of grace continues in Luke's gospel. Today's short gospel reading comes to us in three or four sections. We've previously discussed sources; Matthew and Luke both include a lot of Mark – the earliest canonical gospel – in theirs. Luke and Matthew may or may not have drawn upon an additional written source that may or may not actually have existed, though scholars still speculate some about "Q," named from the German word for river, Quelle. Besides those written documents that began as part of the dynamic, ever-changing oral tradition, Luke may have had a document we can label "L" for Luke.

Today's gospel reading opens with Jesus' command not to be afraid and why! Uniquely recorded in Luke's gospel, Jesus then announces the Reign of Heaven, Kingdom of God, Sovereignty of Grace and Love is a gift, a given, not something we need to earn or beg God for. It is not a transaction or an exchange. Gifting us brings pleasure and joy to God!

I asked how people felt about being called a flock (of sheep or birds). Sara mentioned how "All we like sheep have gone astray" in Handel's Messiah includes a wonderfully illustrative musical pattern that wanders all over to demonstrate straying sheep and people.

Each of the gospels has a distinctive emphasis or personality; even the three synoptic gospels that view Jesus' life and ministry in a somewhat similar manner are markedly different. Luke places his solidly within measurable historical time and space. Luke emphasizes women, other marginalized populations, prayer, the Holy Spirit, table fellowship, a reign of heaven that inverts the status quo, levels the economy and everything else about conventional society so everyone becomes social and economic equals; in God's Reign on Earth, everyone has enough, no one has too much or too little, creating an "Upside-Down Kingdom."

Early on in Luke when Mary learns she is pregnant, she remembers Hannah's song that she's likely memorized from a lifetime of exposure to scripture. Based upon Hannah's words, Mary sings her own beautiful prayer of praise and exultation we call the Magnificat, "My soul magnifies the Lord" [Luke 1:46-55]. Mary announces the upcoming reign of Heaven will mean justice and the sufficiency of "shalom" for all. Jesus' first act of public ministry (IPO/initial public offering) in Luke also announces justice and plenty enough for all—the arrival of jubilee justice [Luke 4:16-21].

"Sell your possessions and give alms" isn't about making a guilt-propelled contribution so you'll feel better about having more than many others; it's a concrete action that redistributes money and possessions to help create a common-wealth and evened-out society. It's wonderful to contribute time, money, possessions for a particular cause, and though most of us love to respond generously to specific giving appeals, for Jesus, alms-giving is a way of life.

The heart in Hebrew biology is the seat of the will; heart is not a sentimental, romantic, lacey Victorian, greeting card, floral bouquet warm fuzzy. Jesus begins with treasure (thesaurus, the word we use for a book of word synonyms and antonyms) and then goes on to heart. How we act with our treasures of money, time, and possessions actually changes our attitudes or hearts.

The master serving the slaves at table is very within Luke's emphases that include feasting and dining togetherness; it also coincides with Jesus' identifying himself in the image of the servant God as "one who serves."

The Son of Man/Human One arriving at an unexpected hour? Yes, as Bud suggested, this would include the Second Coming, but even more poignantly it reminds us Jesus' presence always surprises us, happens when we don't expect it, or when we least anticipate it.

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