Patience, Possessions, and God’s Call

Our Reader Christine gave us this sermon on Sunday 7 August. Here it is again for you to reflect on:

Today’s theme could be one of patience. To have the patience of a saint is described as an immense and unyielding degree of patience, especially in the face of problems or difficulties.

God certainly does have a lot of patience.

How many times did he warn the people of Sodom and Gomorrah before he got fed up with them.

Prophets came and went and still people didn’t understand the relationship God was trying to develop with them.  A relationship of a father with his children, so he sent his Son to teach us.  To lead by example, by telling stories, by healing and eventually by giving up his life to reconcile us to God.

Jesus’ life was also an example of patience.  How many times had he explained himself to his disciples and shown them his powers?  And still they didn’t see who stood before them, until it was too late.

Today there is an urgency in his message.  Sell your possessions, give alms, store up treasure in heaven, be dressed, awake and ready for service. Keep your lamps burning.

So many instructions in one short passage, so what do we do? What is actually happening here?

Jesus is continuing his journey to Jerusalem, the disciples and crowds gathering around him to hear him speak and he doesn’t disappoint them.

Last week he told us, “To take care, be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Today he is saying, “Sell your possessions, and give alms.” And do not store up treasure on earth, but in heaven.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   To put it plainly if we spend money on ourselves, then that is where your heart is, but if we give to those in need your heart will go where God wants it too.  However, it’s not always about offering money, it’s about sharing, especially for those in power.  It’s about having compassion, sharing the world’s resources and protecting the environment for future generations.

In this passage from Luke, Jesus is really challenging his listeners and us and he is being more straightforward than he has ever been.  There is no subtle message hidden in this passage.  All of a sudden there is an urgency in Jesus’ message and an energy that makes it sound exciting.  There is expectation.  Something is going to happen, but lots of patience is needed for we have to wait and that is not going to be easy.

It’s a bit like planning a holiday, especially with children.  You discuss it, decide where you want to go and plan all the details, then book it.

You then carry on every day with your daily routines and as the time draws near for the holiday you begin to wash clothes, buy new ones and pack cases to make sure you have everything you need.  Then finally the day arrives and there is that last minute frenzy, the children are excited and you mentally go through everything you have packed.  You go out of the door and stop!

Did you pack the toothbrushes?

Did you turn off the kettle?

These last-minute delays cause us to stress, but Jesus is telling us quite clearly not to worry about these things, not to stop.  We need to be dressed and ready for action, no second thoughts, no stopping, no going back and lots of patience.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

God wants a deep loving relationship with us, not like in Isaiah, where the people make sacrifices and bombard him with prayers only to turn away and commit evil deeds.  He sent his Son to reconcile us to him so we would not be afraid to speak to him, to turn to him and to be prepared to change our lives, to be patient and listen for his call.  He doesn’t want us to be asleep when he calls us and he compares this to a thief breaking into our homes, he wants us to be watchful and prepared.

A theme Luke deals with elsewhere in the Gospel as at the transfiguration when he says, “Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they were fully awake, they saw his glory, and the two men who stood with him.”  The disciples were watchful and rewarded for their patience and faithfulness.

Jesus wants us to let go of our baggage, not to hold possessions too tightly so we can be ready and notice things that are happening in the world around us.  To be aware of God’s kingdom and to look for him in our everyday lives.

Jesus tells us to expect the Son of Man at an unexpected hour.  There is no timetable, there is no point in clock watching.  It’s a bit like trying to make friends the more you try the less likely it is to happen.

Jesus just asks us to be awake and ready for action, not just at a certain time, but always and to be patient, because we do not know when he will call us and he may well call us in ways we don’t expect him too.

We need to be vigilant and ready to open the door when the master knocks.  To be patient and faithful in prayer.

Like tidying a house we need to de-clutter our hearts with prayer, sweep away fear, dust away doubt and clean it up with trust.  To make sure our treasure (our hearts) are in the right place, to keep alert and be quick to act.

Let us pray:

Lord God, give us patience and make us aware of your coming to us, make us sensitive to your presence and alert to your call, that we may know we dwell in you and you in us.  May we give ourselves to you in love and service through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

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