Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Be Ready - August 11, 2013 - Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14) - Text: Luke 12:22-34, 35-40
Do you remember what happened last Christmas? After church the family had gathered at Uncle Bob’s house. Everyone was there. You remember, it was a pot-luck meal. Everyone brought their favorite dish. It was quite a spread and everything was delicious, especially Aunt Evelyn’s buttermilk pie. It was a good time to sit around and catch up on what was happening in everyone’s life. A little later in the afternoon we all sat around the Christmas tree and opened presents. You do remember, don’t you? And then it happened. You opened the present from Uncle Bob. It was the keys to a new car. Do you remember what you did? You took out you wallet and offered to give him five dollars. (Pause) No, that is not what happened. And of course you are thinking, that would be so tacky and that would never happen. No, what happened was that Uncle Bob gave you one of those very thoughtful presents and you were so taken aback that you thanked him about a hundred times. You even told him that if he ever needed anything, to let you know and you would be honored to help him.
Now, although that story may or may not have happened at your Uncle Bob’s house last Christmas, that story helps us to understand the difference between wanting to earn our salvation, trying to pay Jesus with a few good works for His paying our eternal spiritual death penalty, and wanting to respond with thanks for a gift for which we could never pay. Now, please do not label me as a doomsday naysayer, but the fact of the matter is, the end is coming. Either the Lord will return to take us out of this world, or we will die and leave this world, those are the only two ways we have of getting out of this world. And it will happen. The end will come, sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect. In our text for today we are encouraged to be ready for when it happens and we are given an indication of how we know that we are ready.
We will first look at being ready and we do that by looking at the last part of our text. Jesus says, “35Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks” (v. 35-36). We are to be ready for the Lord’s return. How do we get ready for the Lord’s return? We get ready by being about His business, that is by being in the Word (remember Mary who chose the one thing needful); by reading our Bible, being where the Lord gives His gifts, in Divine Service, being in Bible class, having personal and family devotions and the like. It is through these means that our Lord comes to us to get us ready and to keep us ready for His return. When we absent ourselves from these means, then we take away the means He has of getting us ready. It is like being ready for a sporting event. Athletes practice and practice in order to get ready. When they fail to practice, then they are not ready. When we fail to make use of the means of grace, then we are not ready.
And what happens to those who are ready? We continue with our text, “37Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them” (v. 37). The master, and here we are talking about Jesus, who finds his servants ready, will do, not the expected, but the unexpected. What normally happens when the master returns home is that he sits down and the servants wait on him. In the case of Jesus, our Master, when He returns to gather us, His faithful people from this earth, those who are ready, those He has made ready, He who humbled Himself and took on the form of a servant and gave His life for us, will serve us.
Our text continues, “38If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 38-40). The kingdom of heaven, Judgement Day, will come. It will come whether we believe it will come or not. It will come before we know it and when we least expect it. It will come, sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect. Check the obituaries in the newspaper and you will see how it comes at any age. It will come like a thief in the night. And so we are to be ready at all times. We are ready when we take our focus off our feet firmly planted in this world and move our focus heavenward. We are ready when we take our focus off our temporary surroundings and focus on our permanent eternal life in heaven.
Which brings us back to the first part of our text and the question of “How do we know if we are ready?” One way we know we are ready is by our not trying to purchase our salvation, but by responding to the gift of eternal life earned for us by Jesus and given to us by faith worked in our hearts by the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. We respond by being good stewards of all that God has given to us and by knowing who or what is our god.
In our text we read, “32Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v. 32). Here we are assured that heaven is a present reality. Heaven is ours, now. Heaven is not something we have to wait for, it is ours now. Yes, we will have to wait until, either we pass away in this world, or until Christ returns in order to move into heaven, but heaven is ours at this time.
Jesus goes on to tell us that there is a difference between earthly treasure and heavenly treasure. He says, “33Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (v. 33). Jesus mentions this more than once in His preaching and here He reminds us again. Our treasures here on earth may last twenty, thirty, eighty, or a hundred years, but our heavenly treasures last forever, for eternity.
And so we are back to the question, “How do we know we are ready?” “How do we know what is truly our god?” Jesus tells us plainly in our text, “34For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (v. 34). “Where your treasure is,” that is, where you spend you money, where you spend your time, “there your heart will be also,” in other words you spend you time, talent and treasures on what is most important to you in your life and that truly is your god. These are not my words, I did not make this up, this is what God tells us and this is an indication of what is important in your life. Where is your treasure? Where do you spend you money? How do you spend you time? Although we may profess certain priorities in life, if we really want to know what are our priorities, they are what we live, what we do, how we speak, where we spend our time and our treasure.
I believe one of the Devil’s greatest victories is to have us profess with our mouths that our faith is our greatest priority. Having made this as a profession, then he subtly draws us into many other things which draw us away from this priority, so that even though we may profess with our lips that our faith is our number one priority, our actions betray us. I have always said it and I will say it again, “You do not have to tell me what your priorities are, I can see them, because you live them.” What is your priority when you say, “Pastor, church is our number one priority and our faith is our number one priority, but we have (and here you can fill in the blank of whatever it is that you have) on Sunday.” What is the priority? Yet, we are confident that our priority is our church and our faith, because we have said so.
Again this week, to drive home the point, we have the Old Testament Lesson which is referenced in the Epistle lesson to help us understand the difference between trying to work for our salvation and responding to what God has done for us and given to us. In the Hebrews lesson we are reminded of the example of the great men of faith. These men of faith were not great because of what they said, or even what they did, but because of what God did through them. And even here, notice that it is their actions which demonstrated their faith, even if it is God working these actions through them.
And why did they do what they did? Because the Lord commanded them to, because the Lord promised to be with them, and because the Lord worked in and through them. Notice that the focus is not on them, even though they are mentioned by name, but the focus is on what the Lord did. And so, because of what the Lord did through them, they have received their reward of heaven. “He has prepared a city for them.”
In the first half of our text for this morning, the part I have not read, we are reminded of just how important we are to God and how much He loves us. Indeed, He reminds us that all our cares and worries in this life are a result of our lack of faith. Unlike Abram and all those great men of faith listed in the Epistle reading, we fail in being good stewards of our time, talent and treasure because of our lack of faith. We may somewhat acknowledge that all we have is a gift from God, but we stumble when, as we have the opportunity to allow by our actions to respond with our first fruits we fail, we fail to return to the Lord as we should because we truly do not believe His promises that He will continue to bless us. Yes, it is a faith issue.
So how do we take this text and apply it to our own lives. We do this by taking a sober look at our own lives and what we value. What is it that we value? What is truly our god? Do we look at what we have done for God, or what we think we have done for God, and reconcile our account with what He owes us, or do we acknowledge what God has done for us and give thanks for all His good gifts and blessings? And what has God done for us? God has done everything for us. He has given us life at conception. He has given us new life, eternal life through Holy Baptism. He has given His Son to take on human flesh and blood. He has given His Son to live for us, perfectly in our place. He has given for His Son to take all our sins upon Himself and suffer and die, to pay the eternal spiritual death penalty for us, for each one of us. He has given His Son to earn eternal life, heaven for us.
Jesus lived on this earth never owning property, a house, anything, except the clothes on His back. And yet He never worried about these things either. Of course, He is God, so certainly He was well provided for, but the point is, He knew the reason He came to earth and He never let anything get in the way of His plan and purpose for life. And for that we say, “Thanks be to God.”
After His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus promised that He would return. And He will return, thus it is imperative that we are ready. So now, we add to all that our Lord has already done for us the fact that He also works to get us ready. And He does that as we make regular and diligent use of the means He has given to get us ready, His means of Grace, the Bible and the sacraments.
Let me put it into an eternal perspective for you. We may live on this earth for sixty, seventy, eighty or a hundred years, but what is this short amount of time compared to eternity. Thus, more important than our lives in this world is our eternal inheritance. Thus, the question is, are we ready to meet our Maker? It is like the message on a shirt I once read. On the front it said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” On the back it said, “It’s all small stuff.” This world and our life in this world is all small stuff compared to our eternal life in heaven and yet, how often we spend so much time and energy on the things of this world instead of what is most important? Believe me, I know and understand the temptation. I enjoy the things of this world as well. Yet, even I have to set priorities about what is most important. So, even though we are faced with the tough decisions of our priorities, that is not to say we do not go on living while we are in this world, that is to say that we will, with the help and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep our focus where it needs to be, heavenward. And when we do fail, and we will fail, there is forgiveness of sins.
Finally, we are left simply to respond to all that He has done for us and given to us and we respond by praising Him for all His good gifts and blessings. I urge you, be ready. I encourage you to know that you are ready as the Lord makes you ready. We will see Jesus, sooner than we know and probably sooner than we might expect. May the Lord make you and keep you ready. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.