Scripture: Luke 12:32-40
Our lives are often filled with choices. We are put into situations and we must figure out for ourselves which direction to go. These choices are often fall somewhere between bad, good, better, and best. The difficulty in this is figuring out which choice we want to commit to, is that we do not know exactly where the decisions will fall and how they will truly affect our current life. The spiritual art of discernment is difficult but probably the most rewarding discipline to develop.
The thing about the best decisions in life is that we know what we want in the end, it is the getting there is what is hard. Jesus says to the disciples, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Have you ever really thought about that? It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Often we get caught in a web of trying. Trying, but trying what? We are trying to make things work all around us, trying to live right, trying to be right, trying to make our world a better place. In the process of all of our trying we can often lose sight of what is important, the pleasure of God giving us what we need and giving us what we truly desire.
Sin is often described as missing the mark, or falling short of the standard. We read through scripture and holy teachings trying to find the standard we should be aiming for, we strive to meet that standard and still miss the mark. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We often miss the mark or sin because we are trying too hard in ourselves to catch hold of what God wants for us. In the story of the fall of humanity we tend to focus on the activity of Eve and Adam picking and eating the forbidden fruit, but if we were to examine this story closer that action was not the actual fall. The fall in many ways was a compound event that slowly crept up as they began to try to do things for themselves. To insure that they would not eat from the tree of knowledge, Adam changed the rules adding that not only should they not eat from it but also they should not touch the tree. They added rules, not from God but from their own mind. If only we keep away, as long as we stay so far away from the tree we can prevent the thought of sin. But in changing the rules they were not living in the pleasure of God, they were not living in the fullness of the Kingdom which then allowed another thought to enter their mind, again not from God but from human minds. They began to think that God did not desire the fullness of the Kingdom, and from that their mind became twisted to where the tree became more tempting because it was the one thing that was keeping them, in their mind, from enjoying the fullness of the Kingdom. The first sin was mankind’s attempt to reestablish their place in the Kingdom of God.
We sin, we try, and we miss the mark. We miss with all the good intentions, and we miss with blatant disregard of what we know is right. Do not fear, Jesus says, it is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. The failure of our first parents removed us from the pleasure of God and set us on a course of constant attempts to gain access yet again. These constant attempts are the choices we are trying to discern, these attempts can bring us closer to the Kingdom or allow us to fall deeper into the shadows.
Do not fear, it is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. To begin we must develop an understanding of what the Kingdom is that God wants to give us. I know that it is a very abstract idea to think of so early in the morning, but the answer to that is deep within each of our hearts. This is why Scripture so often tells us to guard our hearts, because it is in the heart where our true selves reside. We guard our hearts, but we also fear our hearts. We fear our hearts because just as deep within we know that if we were to follow our hearts it would mean that we must totally give up the façade we build up around ourselves as we try to move through the courses of life. To follow our hearts would mean we would need to leave all the things we use to define our lives and turn them over for something much different.
Jesus tells his followers to sell their possessions and to give alms. This is the beginning of something greater. The world we live in demands possessions. These possessions are often the things that are used to define our lives. Our possessions are the things that we gain through our various forms of labor. Our education, our businesses, our houses, and our property are all possessions that we must sell and give as alms. The things we gain through our labor the possessions that we hold so close are the product of our hearts, the more they mean to us means that it is through those that our place in the kingdom will emerge. Our spouses and families, though we do not like to speak of them as possessions are products of the heart and things that we labor for earnestly. It is through our families that we often get the first glimpses of the kingdom. Take a moment and remember those precious memories: a mother’s kiss on the sleeping brow of a baby, the laugh of siblings as parents play on the floor, the pride of seeing the success of the graduate. All are glimpses into the kingdom all around us. We guard these possessions, we hold them tightly to our hearts, they bring us pleasure, but when we hold them too tightly these very things that once gave us a glimpse of the kingdom run the risk of pulling us away from our hopeful goal.
Sell all your possessions and give alms. When our possessions are used only for our own personal gain they distract our attention from the kingdom. Just as in the garden the one thing that connected us to God when used for personal gain can push us away. Jesus goes on to say for where your treasure is; there your heart will be also. If we treasure things for ourselves our hearts become trapped behind walls. These walls imprison our hearts keeping them from truly enjoying the pleasure kingdom as God created us to enjoy. We were made to be in community. We were made to share life with others to use the possessions we have to bring about a better world. To give what we have for mutual benefit and pleasure, but when our hearts are imprisioned behind walls of our own construction, we cannot enjoy the community in which we live. Instead we become bitter and fearful that the community will somehow sap the joy from our lives, and we withdraw deeper within the walls.
We fail when we turn from the community, we miss the mark when we neglect to use what God has given us to encourage others around us. We miss the mark when we put limits on other, when we hold tightly and try to control the world around us. But we experience God’s pleasure when we let loose and live. I encouraged us to remember the glimpses of the kingdom in our families. I would venture to say that the best memories that we have are in the areas where parents and children let loose and just lived free from the things that bind. Was it on vacation, eating with friends, or exploring the mysteries of the world around us? Most of our greatest memories are attached to the times we relinquished control in some way, where we encouraged others to lower the walls and let their hearts free.
These treasure cannot be taken away, they are permanently stored in the files of our lives. These glimpses of the kingdom are the very areas God wants us to sell our possessions to obtain. The sharing of life together in a community, encouraging each other, and releasing all we share life with to pursue their hearts desire is where the gates to the Kingdom are found. Jesus illustrates this by telling a parable. “Be dress for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.” Share in the pleasure. Be ready to celebrate at a moments notice. It is those that are ready to share life with others that will have the benefit of seeing a glimpse of the kingdom.
When the early Friends promoted a life of simplicity is was to be ready to share what they have at a moment’s notice. Because of this simplicity in speech, dress, and life they could quickly accept others into the community and encourage them into a better life. Because of this simplicity they were able to convert the fruit of their labor to things that could benefit and extend the Kingdom of God in their communities. Last week I mentioned Cadbury, most of us know the name because of the chocolate eggs we receive in our Easter baskets. But what really made this man great is that he devoted his business to the betterment of the community. He built factories and around the factories he developed communities and built houses where the workers could live, but he did not only give them a place to live he also made sure that each unit would have a garden or a lawn. He did this so that the workers in his factories could raise their families and develop memories with their children. He sold what he had and gave alms, and by doing so his influence grew and years after his death, his legacy remains. In a time when robber barons sought to line their own pockets, this man gave himself and his company for the good of community. People throughout history have made sacrifices in the short term to open the gates to the Kingdom. Be ready because the hour is unexpected. We do not know when God will call us into action, but we can get ready now.
We can prepare, we can encourage, and we can release and pray for the moment when God calls us into action. But in our preparation we also must be free to move any direction we need to go. We are getting ready. For the past three years we have step by step let go of things that we once held close and have released them into God’s hands and we have seen glimpses of the kingdom. We have seen members from our meeting go into a mission field; to serve in the ways God has led them. Sure it is not in the traditional form but we have a direct connection to ministry in Ireland. We have seen our community come together as we have made improvements to our facilities: making it accessible and increasing the technology. Yes, these are small things, but they are gateways that are preparing us for our callings. We have increased our ministries and in doing so we have built relationships with people in our communities that we were unable to build just a short time ago. We are preparing ourselves, but where do we go from here? The answer is already in present in the hearts of everyone sitting here today. It is a faint but growing yearning bubbling up in our hearts. We see glimpses every now and then, like when our younger members have a desire to use their skills to benefit other. We see glimpses in our visions and our dreams at night. We see glimpses, are we ready for the next step?
We are all faced with choices, choices that could result in many varying degrees of blessing. We have all sat in these pews and wondered if everything that we do is in vain. But in three short years God has presented us with challenges and we have looked to Him and have seen glimpses of the Kingdom. Today as we enter into a time of open worship I encourage each of us to dream with God, to let down the walls around our hearts and just let God dream with our hearts. There is something there, something that has been building deep down in our souls, something that we have pushed to the background saying that it is too big or too crazy for us, but I ask what is it? God is calling us use all that we have and to give the profits of our possessions to open the gates of the Kingdom, now is the time tighten our belts and to step out in faith, and to chase after the Spirit. We have prepared now is the time for us to begin to walk. Now is the time to become the people God has been calling us to become; a people loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others.