A Time for Courage
A Time for Courage
Scripture: Luke 12: 32-40
When I took my Homiletics Course at Knox College I was told one thing, figure out the message you want to share with the congregation based on the scripture you are using. To be sure, there are many ways to interpret scripture and one passage could easily have dozens of different sermons all equally valid. But we were taught to keep things focused, otherwise your congregation won’t have a clue what you are talking about.
The same idea is held true by those who teach public speaking and presentation skills. Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them what you told them you’d tell them. Tell them that you told them what you told them you’d tell them.
Rev. Glen Davis, who was my minister while I was a youth told me that the congregation probably only hears about 30-40% of what you say. I think he was being generous. As a result he said you really need to think about what your message is and make sure you drive that point home.
I am sure that there have been times when my message has been less than laser focused. Due to whatever might be going on in the week I may have delivered a sermon that kept you wondering just what exactly I was trying to say. Thank you for your patience and graciousness.
I will confess that I take comfort in knowing that in doing so I am in good company. The message that Jesus delivers today in Luke is a disaster. Jesus is all over the map. At one point Jesus is talking about the kingdom of God, then we are told to sell what we have before we arrive at a wedding banquet, being prepared for the arrival of the bridegroom and before you know it our house is being robbed by a thief.
Honestly, it’s a bit of a mess and it’s hard to zone in and figure out what Jesus is trying to tell us. If Jesus were in my Homiletics course he would have received a bad grade for this sermon! Fortunately, this is one of those messages where if we look to the beginning and the end we can eek some sense out of it. In fact, the message is abundantly clear, we just need to understand how Jesus is working to make his point.
When we look at the wider context of Luke 12, we can see a unifying theme that is carried throughout. A theme which invites us to join Jesus in the work of God’s kingdom. Throughout Luke 12 Jesus is talking about the coming of God’s kingdom. He provides warnings, he teaches about hoarding wealth and the danger of greed. Jesus encourages us to be watchful and reminds us that standing with him may cause division within our personal lives. These themes let us know that God does not work on a time table that we might understand or that might make sense to us.
How do we make sense of what has been provided to us? Jesus tells the disciples, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” This is encouraging for us as it provides a reminder that God is with us and that God wants us to do the work of the kingdom. The words used here are that God is pleased to give the kingdom. That means we are receiving something, that we are called to be a part of something larger than ourselves.
However, it comes at a price because we are not to be idle in the work of the kingdom. The closing words of Jesus are, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
These two bookend statements of Jesus work together, they form a harmony. We are not to be idle in the work of the kingdom because we don’t know when Jesus might come back. Or as we saw in last’s weeks message, when our time on earth might come to an end.
In reading this passage from Luke we might find strong justification towards the Protestant work ethic. The need to keep busy for the sake of keeping busy. Lest our hands become idle and we get torn away from God’s work.
However, the focus is not to do more, the focus is to do the work of the kingdom of God. There is a difference. I would argue that much of what the church does keeps us very busy, but doesn’t always advance the interests of the kingdom.
The focus of this passage asks us where God is calling us to be? What should we be doing? This is where the inner part of the passage is helpful. Not because we should be at a wedding, but because of the actions we find described in the passage.
Sell what you have and give to the poor. A call for mindfulness.
Save your riches in heaven, be abundant in grace, love and mercy.
Be dressed for action, with your lamps lit because you never know when you will be called upon.
God’s kingdom is a move toward the unexpected. When Jesus arrived in the temple courts of Jerusalem, as he preached in the countryside he disrupted the pre-determined notions of what was acceptable. He turned traditional teaching and understanding of scripture on its head. Jesus grew tired of false messages, feigned piety and mindless following of the law with little to no application of the intent behind it.
Where is God calling us to be?
God is calling us to be at work in the alleys where we find despair and addiction.
God is calling us to be at work in the kitchens of the lonely.
God is calling us to be at work in the bedrooms of the ill and the dying.
We are partners with God in the work of the kingdom.
This week a friend shared the following quote from Brene Brown with me, “You can pick comfort, or you can pick courage, but you can’t pick both.”
Too often in our lives, as followers of Christ, we pick comfort. We pick the comfort of this sanctuary, this place of worship.
We pick comfort at the expense of others, whether we know it or not.
We pick comfort when we are apathetic to violence. Let’s be honest, our neighbours to the south have picked comfort when it comes to gun violence.
We pick comfort when we avoid the poor and the needy over our own, comfort.
We pick comfort a lot, I would say it is the default choice for the church in North America and that isn’t good enough anymore, if it ever was.
Professor Matt Skinner writes, “Jesus calls for a shift away from a world in which some people survive only because more privileged people chose to act morally from time to time.” (Matt Skinner, Working Preacher).
Over the past few years a lot has been said about privilege, specifically white male privilege. It’s something I have knowingly and unknowingly benefited from my whole life. What we don’t often hear about is the Church’s privilege and that’s capital ‘C’ Church. For too long we’ve just assumed that we have it right, we’ve got it together and we’ve expected people to show up and get on board. Afterall, why wouldn’t you want to hitch your wagon to the eternity caravan.
What Jesus tells us in this long rambling passage is to get over it, to get over all of it and to do the work. On issues of violence, hunger, homelessness, and inclusion we’ve elected to be comfortable for too long, it’s time for the church to act with courage. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.