Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Sermon Luke 12:32-40

Luke 12: 32"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35"Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. 39But understand 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, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

I imagine that many of you have heard the story of the lecturer who, at the beginning of term got a glass tube, and he filled it, first with some sand, and then with some pebbles, and then with some larger stones. Only he couldn’t fit the larger stones in. He explained that the sand was the trivial stuff – I guess the parties and watching telly, the pebbles were perhaps acquaintances and joining clubs, and the stones – well I’m sure if I were him I would be talking about getting the essays in, but anyway – the important stuff in life. And I wonder whether for you and me there are stones out here that are important that we can’t fit into our lives?
Now, as I am sure you have anticipated, what he then did was to get an identical tube, and put in first the stones, and then the pebbles, and then the sand, and to top it all he then cracked open a can of beer and poured that in and said that if the students got it right the could get everything done and still enjoy the odd beer.
What has this got to do with today’s reading? Well Jesus says ‘fear not – it is the father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom of Heaven’. All the stones – all the good things in life are yours and mine already. What is the Kingdom of Heaven? Well it is the place where God’s rule is evident – it is the place where we experience love, joy, peace, kindness. The Kingdom is given to us – the poor in spirit – the common people, it is ours. Jesus also asks us to seek first the Kingdom of God, or heaven, and all our everyday concerns will be met. He asks us to make the kingdom of heaven the first stone and trust that the rest will follow.
But have we got space for it in our lives? Does it fit in? Do we sense that we, day by day, live in the kingdom? If not – why not? I once heard of a man who asked a wise friend a question:
"If you had to give me one piece of advice, what would it be?" And this is what he said. "You must eliminate hurry from your life." And there was a long pause. Then the man said, "Okay, yeah.  I got that. I wrote that down.  What else?  "Nothing else. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."
If you look at the life of Jesus, you will see a person who was busy but never hurried.  He had many things to do. But as He went through life, He was always able to love the people that came into His life. He was never hurried. You cannot love in a hurry.
A young disciple had heard of a great and wise Abba who lived at the top of a mountain in a cave. He trekked up the mountain to see the Abba and when he got there the wise man motioned for him to sit down. The young man sat with great expectancy to hear the words of the Abba. For an hour they sat in silence, the young man desperate to have some reward for his long and arduous trek. Another hour passed and another and the man started to fret that he wouldn’t receive any wisdom before he needed to trek back down. So he expressed his frustration to the old man.

The Abba stood up and in his cave he had very few belongings, but he did have a jug, full of water and a bowl. He set the bowl before the young man and poured in the water.
‘What can you see?’ asked the Abba
‘Muddy water’ replied the young man
Again the Abba fell silent and twenty minutes passed
‘Now what can you see?’ asked the Abba
‘I can see my reflection’ replied the young man.

The Kingdom of heaven may be ours, but we don’t have time to receive it. Don’t have time to be silent before God, don’t have time to pray, don’t have time to grow spiritually, don’t have time to be part of the Christian community.
I am sure you have heard the story of the man who went to his priest and asked why he was feeling so cold, so far from God. The priest simply got the fire tongs and took one of the coals out of the fire and put it on the hearth. The coal went from burning white hot to red hot to black. The priest then put it back in the fire. And within minutes it was on fire again. We need each other. I need you lot. The spiritual journey is not undertaken alone. Don’t underestimate the impact on others of not being part of the community. Everyone here, and more to the point, everyone who is not here, is a part of the body, we need them.
I am as guilty as anyone with not having time. One thing I have learned is the more things I have, the less time I have. Every object needs to be bought, cleaned, looked after, fixed.. The bigger my house and garden it, the worse it gets too. It is with immense relief when I get rid of things – the best was the motorhome, which needed loads of care. Sometimes it feels like the game is ‘who dies with the most things wins’. The problem is, if we do that, we won’t have our treasure in heaven, we will have it in on earth instead.
James Dobson tells this story about how he learnt this lesson.  “I learned how to play Monopoly from my grandmother. She was a wonderful person. She raised six children. She was a widow by the time that I knew her. But she was the most ruthless Monopoly player I have ever known in my life. She understood that the name of the game was to acquire. When she played and I got my initial money from the bank, I would just try to hold onto it, because I didn't want to lose any of it. She spent everything, bought stuff she landed on as soon as she could, and she'd mortgage it to buy more stuff. And eventually, of course, the way the game goes, eventually she would accumulate everything. She would be the master of the board. She understood that money was how you keep score in that game, that possessions were a matter of survival. And she beat me every time. And at the end of the game she would look at me and she'd say, "One day you'll learn how to play the game."
She was kind of cocky, my grandmother. "One day you'll learn how to play the game."   When I was about ten, I played every day with a kid that lived in our neighborhood, and it dawned on me as we were playing every day all through that summer the only way to beat somebody in Monopoly was a total commitment to acquisition. That summer I learned how to play the game. And by the time autumn rolled around, I was more ruthless by far than even my grandmother. I went to play her, and I was willing to do anything to win. I was willing to bend the rules. I played with sweaty palms. Slowly, cunningly I exposed the soft underbelly of my grandmother's weakness. Relentlessly, inexorably I drove her off the board. The game does strange things to you. I can still remember like yesterday. I looked at my grandmother.
This is the person who taught me how to play.  She was an old woman by now. She was a widow.  She had raised my mother. She loved me. And I took everything she had. I destroyed her financially and psychologically. I watched her give her last dollar and quit in utter defeat. This was the greatest moment of my life.  And then she had one more thing to teach me, my grandmother. Then she said to me, "Now it all goes back in the box.”
It all goes back in the box.  All of the houses and hotels, Mayfair and Park Lane, all of those railway stations and utilities, all of that wonderful money. It all goes back in the box," she said. But I didn't want it all to go back in the box. I wanted to leave the board out permanently -- bronze it maybe, as a memorial to what I had achieved. See, when she said, "It all goes back in the box," it was kind of a way of saying to me, "None of it's really yours.
It doesn't belong to you. You don't own any of it. You just used it for a little while, and now it all goes back in the box.  And next time it'll all go to somebody else. That's the way the game works. So when you play the game, don't forget this one lesson. When the game comes to an end, and the game always comes to an end, the stuff all goes back in the box."

I would ask us to consider whether you are experiencing the kingdom of heaven.
Are we too hurried?
Are we able to know love, joy, peace, patience in your relationships?
Are we finding time to pray?
Are we meeting with other Christians to grow spiritually?
Are we giving some of our money away?
If not – are you experiencing the kingdom of heaven, or is the kingdom of heaven a stone that often doesn’t fit in to the glass tube?

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