Friday, August 9, 2013

Reflections on the Gospel: Luke 12:32-40

Read the text here: Luke 13:32-48
God’s Great Delight
Jesus is on the way towards Jerusalem.  Beginning in chapter 9 immediately following the Transfiguration, Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem.  But along the way Jesus, accompanied by his 12 disciples and a host of others who come and go as the journey proceeds, spends the time teaching, telling stories (parables) and answering questions.  But throughout all of this a couple themes emerge:  First, the Kingdom of God is come now, in Jesus!  We do not have to wait for the Kingdom to come down the road in some distant time and place.  The Kingdom is NOW!  As you experience Jesus, you experience the Kingdom.  Also, the Kingdom is not something we can earn, or accomplish, or forcibly establish – it is a gift of God’s.  And it is God’s delight and joy to give God’s people this gift. 
So what prevents us from accepting and fully appreciating this incredible gift of God’s?  Well, lots of things: Led by worry about tomorrow we accumulate wealth and possessions and status.  We fret and stress over whether we have enough or not.  And, of course, we don’t, so we worry more and we grasp and we hoard for ourselves, building up treasure on earth.  But in pursuing riches on earth, we make ourselves poor in God.  Last week’s parable of the Rich Fool pointed us in that direction.  This man has become so self-centered and self-focused that his world completely revolves around himself.  Despite his many possessions he is poor in relationship with others and poor in his relationship with God.  So then how do we become rich in God?  As we look back over Jesus’ journey towards Jerusalem we can see the answer to this question: Reach out in love and care to your neighbor (Good Samaritan, chapter 10); Spend time listening to Jesus – in prayer, in God’s word and in Worship (Mary & Martha, chapter 10); Work on giving to God our worry about tomorrow, recognizing that like the lilies of the field and the birds of the air God will provide what we need for life (chapter 11); Work on freeing ourselves from the weight of dependence on our possessions (chapter 12); Dine with Jesus as often as possible through participation with God’s community in the Sacrament of Holy Communion (chapter 14).
Jesus is calling for us to open ourselves to a gift that God is giving to us freely.  These are not ways to earn God’s Kingdom – it is very easy for us to misunderstand this and begin to think that all of this action on our part is required, or else no Kingdom for you!  Not true, all of this action is encouraged in order for us to be able to receive and experience this gift fully! … for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom… says Jesus.  Actually a better way of translating this would be this: … it is the Father’s great delight  or … it is the Father’s delightful decision.  Think extravagance! God is not parceling the Kingdom out to us a little bit at a time, as we make ourselves worthy!  No – God is excited and can hardly wait to give us the whole gift of the whole Kingdom, now, as soon as possible.  When God created the heavens and the earth, God surveyed the work of creation and determined it was TOV – good, fantastic, incredible, awesome!  Now, Jesus tells us that God has come up with a new plan and this plan includes a beautiful, joyous, delightful new idea – and that is giving the Kingdom to God’s beloved children through Jesus.  (This is the literal meaning of the Greek eudokia which is used here: eu = joyous, wonderful, beautiful and dokéo = thought or idea!). 
That is the gift which is held out to you freely – the gift of the Kingdom of God, through Jesus; the gift which is God’s joyous, wonderful, beautiful new incredible, amazing, delightful thought or idea!  Here it is – it is yours!  Nothing can take it away – but lots of things can get in the way of your fully receiving, enjoying and experiencing the gift.  So, beginning with coming to the table to receive and experience eucharist – literally eu = joyous, wonderful, beautiful and charis = grace, steadfast love – let us go forth as citizen’s of God’s Kingdom bringing this gift everywhere we go and to everyone we meet.

 The focus of the lectionary texts for these few weeks are quite clear about how God gives to us the gifts of the Kingdom freely, without condition.  And this is a direct contradiction and condemnation of what has become known as the "prosperity gospel."  The insidiousness and  danger of this very unbiblical doctrine - which is the core of the preaching of Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen - is addressed very well in this article: "Why I Called Out Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen" by Rick Henderson

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