Rest in the Gift of God
It’s has been a busy time. Summer is supposed to be a time when you might relax. Perhaps spend some time at the cottage, or working in the garden. Perhaps you might go camping as our family did, or head down to the beach. Then there are the many festivals that occur during the summer, it seems that there are at least one or two every weekend giving us lots of choice.
So amongst that time when we slow down and relax over the summer we find ourselves busy with a variety of activities. These events are fun and engaging, but after a few weeks of enjoyment we realize that we haven’t done any of the resting that we were planning to do. That’s how the last few weeks have felt. No sooner had we finished celebrating Logan’s fifth birthday than we were off camping for a few nights. We arrive home and Ethan had swimming lessons two hours later. On and on it goes.
So when I read our gospel lesson this morning I became hooked on that opening verse. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” For your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Wow. Reading that just put me at ease.
Rest in the Gift of God – Audio Sermon
You see normally when we read Luke gospel we are told to prepare for the coming of the kingdom. We are told to get ready for judgement. There is an edge of anticipation and if we are honest angst. We are sometimes worried about this idea of the coming of the kingdom, because we fear we aren’t ready. That we have not prepared or perhaps even that we aren’t ready to go. Luke’s gospel causing us to think about those fears.
But then we have our reading from today, Do not be afraid, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Gone is the angst, the fear, the worry. It is replaced by the assurance that God wants us to have the kingdom. Theologian Audrey West writes, “the consistent message throughout the passage is not be ready so that you will avoid punishment, but rather, be ready so that you will receive blessing.” And so as I read this passage this week I was filled with a sense of peace. A realization that I could step back from all the busyness of life and just enjoy the moment.
In fact several of the commentaries I read in preparing for this morning indicated that often the breakthrough in creativity comes when you least expect it. That perhaps in the busyness of it all we should take a step back and relax. That we should enjoy the goodness, the blessings of God.
Which is easier said than done when the sermon needs to be written for 10am on a Sunday morning.
But that’s what I did. I allowed myself to relax and take a step back. I didn’t sit down and begin to write this sermon the way I normally would. I waited. I waited for God’s word to speak to me, to find a message. I went about my days, I tried not to rush about. I tried to enjoy the moment, to soak up the experiences I was participating in.
Of course in the back of my mind was the thought, Sunday morning is coming. You need to have something to say to these people. How long are you going to wait before you sit down and force a sermon out?
But still I waited.
And then it happened. The sermon began to form in my mind. The message from Luke’s gospel wove themselves into a tapestry of words. I had waited for God’s word to speak to me, I had allowed the reading and preparation I had completed to do its work and to form an idea in my mind and it had happened. Sir Richard Branson, the head of the Virgin Empire, always keeps a pencil and notepad on his person just in case an idea pops into his head. He is able to write it down for later. Not a bad idea.
Unfortunately, I was giving Ethan a cuddle at bed time. I was unable to write down those ideas as Ethan was not ready to let me leave. He still wanted a cuddle with daddy and how could I say no? After all I was reveling in the goodness of God. I was thankful that the kingdom is a gift from God.
Jesus sets us up nicely in this passage from Luke. He starts with the soft sell, not that his words are untrue. The kingdom surely is a gift from God, one I am thankful for. But it’s like the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Or perhaps we might just say, what’s the catch?
The catch comes on the heels of that first verse and completes the remainder of our reading from Luke. While I might have been hung up on that opening verse about how God is pleased to give us the kingdom, I can’t really ignore the rest of what Jesus says.
That is so interesting about when the idea for the sermon came to me. While I was relaxing putting my son to bed. It was at that moment that things clicked, when I had my eureka moment and saw how things were going to work, because in the last verse from Luke’s gospel today Jesus says “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
So there I was caught between enjoying the goodness of God. Relaxing, knowing that God is pleased to give the kingdom and when my idea came to me I wasn’t ready or able to respond when God’s word came to me.
I think that’s a problem a lot of us have. Expect we don’t get stuck because we are too busy relaxing. We get caught because we are too busy doing all the other stuff. And it’s not that the other stuff is bad, it’s just that sometimes we forget to slow down and remember that God delights in the gift of heaven.
The parable that Jesus is offering to us this morning has us caught between a continual state of readiness and a state of relaxing in the gift of heaven. It’s like a rock and a hard place. Which way do I go? I’m left feeling constantly pulled in one direction and then the other.
Should we be the servant who is constantly at the ready for when my master calls? Or are we the home owner who can’t predict when a thief will come?
Of course we are the home owner who can’t predict when a thief will come and what servant can remain ready 24/7? No one can predict when a thief might strike and no one can remain vigilant, ready to serve all of the time.
Jesus creates a dramatic set of tensions with his message for us this morning. We feel pushed and pulled in various directions, wondering how we should respond.
His words mirror our life of faith in many ways. We are excited about our faith, we want to share it. We have a variety of ideas about how we can best do that. We are excited to be engaged in the work of the kingdom and we recognize that there is more work than we alone could ever possibly do. Sometimes we are like the servants who try to remain eternally ready for the master. Always ready to serve, always ready to do the work. And that’s a good thing. But it’s also exhausting. And it’s when we are tired, when the work overtakes us that we stumble and the thief shows up.
So how do we balance it all out? How do we take these competing images that Jesus provides us with? How do we stand ready when we don’t know when the kingdom is coming? Jesus’ words are ominous, that his return will be like a thief in the night. That the kingdom will come in the middle of the night or just before dawn, the time when we are resting, when we are sleeping.
It appears as though Jesus is setting us up to fail. How can we possible amongst all the busyness of life, amongst all the busyness of being faithful servants of Christ, how can we possibly be ready if Jesus is going to come at the moment we have our guard down? At the moment when we least expect him?
Which takes us back to that first verse: God desires us to have the kingdom. It pleases God to give us the kingdom. God is giving to us. For all the work that we do for God, God also gives to us and God wants to do it.
So maybe we can relax, focus our efforts. As servants of Christ we know God’s wishes for this world. We have plan, we are attentive to the needs of the kingdom. We can remain attentive to the plans of the kingdom, knowing that God is happy for us to receive the kingdom. That God wants us to have his eternal reward.
So stay focused on God, not with fear of not having done enough. Not with apprehension of failing, or with doubts of self-worth. Stay focused on God, because that eternal reward, the gift of the kingdom is our treasure. God is pleased to give it to us. And you don’t give gifts to punish people. God is good.
Take time to rest in God’s goodness. Take time to revel in God’s goodness. The greatest risk God ever took was in loving us and in that love we have Jesus Christ. Jesus who represents the promise of the kingdom, the gift that God is so happy to give us.
Rest in that knowledge and know that God is good. Amen.
Text: Luke 12: 32-40