August 7, 2022

"Be Ready For A Blessing

Rev. Scott Landis

Luke 12:22-38

I sometimes get asked about how I come up with sermons or topics to preach on week after week. I wish I could say that I have a unique gift of knowing exactly what’s on your minds or what are the most pressing issues of our congregation AND what might be the best words from scripture to address those needs as we seek to be faithful members of the “Body of Christ.” It may be hard to believe – but not that good.

Honestly, most mainline denominations like ours follow something called the Revised Common Lectionary – “The Lectionary” for short. This is a three-year cycle of readings that essentially takes one through most of the topics and books of the bible. The lectionary does not include every single verse of the bible, but a great deal of it and it is seasonally based - so it’s a very convenient tool that forces me to look at topics I may otherwise avoid.

That’s why, if you go to lunch with some friends who attend other churches and you hear them talking about a passage of scripture their preacher may have used this Sunday and thought to yourself, “that’s funny, I think Scott used those same verses.” You’d probably be right.

Each week there is a selected reading from the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament, the Psalms, the Epistles or Letters of Paul, and the Gospel. I generally gravitate to the gospel — it’s dicey enough and I find there a veritable treasure trove of passages screaming to speak to the needs of our day.

Now, as handy as the lectionary is for us preachers, there is an important qualifier one must keep in mind when using it as a guide. One should NEVER be totally controlled by the scheduled readings for any particular Sunday. Sometimes the scheduled passages can be limiting. Today is a case in point. And so, I have taken the liberty of adding a few verses to the recommended passage from Luke because I think it is essential to gain a more complete picture. [Pause]

You may remember last week’s lesson – which immediately precedes today’s. It was the parable of the Rich Fool. There we were encouraged to be mindful of our neighbors in need – to share extravagantly and not hoard our resources because “you can’t take it with you.” A lesson the Rich Fool learned a little too late.

In today’s story the teaching continues along those same lines – “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life – what you will eat or what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. [Pause]

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear the words “Do not worry,” my guard goes up immediately, and I begin – to worry. Unlike the cartoon character, Alfred E. Neuman, I begin overthinking whatever the situation might be – not necessarily worse case scenarios – but what COULD happen in a given situation over which I probably have very little control. [Pause]

We had fun with this the other day in our Zoom bible study group as we admitted to one another whether we were “worriers” or not. Folks had all kinds of techniques of dealing with worrisome situations including saying to oneself “Let Go and Let God,” or repeating the Serenity Prayer multiple times which invites discernment, courage, and wisdom. Others resort to saying the Lord’s Prayer repeatedly, or to simply give the situation some time – in which case things often take care of themselves.

The takeaway for me on this discussion was – different strokes for different folks. AND you cannot be formulaic in trying to help another to stop worrying. We are all wired a little differently. Some of us are just more naturally “laid back” and can take a lot of stress with a grain of salt. Others tend to trigger and respond much more quickly to emotional stimuli of all sorts.

Regardless, worrying – obviously – can impede our ability to think clearly and may inhibit our ability to see and experience the Presence of God even when that Presence is right in front of us. A Presence that wants to remind us we are ultimately not in charge of the whole outcome.

And that’s why it is so important this week to add verses to the lectionary passage because after the challenge was offered to “not worry,” Jesus moved to one of the most beautiful passages in all of scripture that offers hope in the midst of our fear – when our worries seem to control our lives. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Not just some food. Not just some nice clothes. But the kingdom! The whole enchilada.

He continues with a parable that – upon first reading – may cause more worry in folk’s lives. When I first read it, I thought of those troubling Advent passages that warn against not being ready for God’s appearance which raised all that “Thief in the Night” stuff I was subjected to as a kid. But that’s NOT what this says.

Verse 35 continues and I’m reading Eugene’s Message translation,

“Keep your shirts on; keep the lights on! Be like house servants waiting for their master to come back from his honeymoon, awake and ready to open the door when he arrives and knocks. Lucky the servants whom the master finds on watch! He’ll put on an apron, sit them at the table, and serve them a meal, sharing his wedding feast with them. It doesn’t matter what time of the night he arrives; they’re awake—and so, blessed!

This isn’t a warning to “Be Ready so you will avoid judgment” but “Be ready so you won’t miss receiving the blessing.” It’s not about being on high alert to avoid punishment, but as homiletician Gene Lowry says, “Position yourself to be surprised.” [Pause]

What I am learning ever so slowly is that when I worry, I turn inward, I close myself off, and I shut down my ability to receive. Fear takes precedence and I cannot see clearly answers or solutions or provisions that are often right in front of me.

But when I take a long, deep breath and begin to let go – my fists unclench and many times I feel a sense of relief as answers begin to flow.

That table imagery or invitation Jesus offered is an important and especially relevant one for us today. [move to table ]

The Master – Jesus – is in our midst – just as he is every time we come the table. We can approach it with our minds consumed with worry, our fists clenched, our hearts guarded. Or we might take the risk of letting go, of opening up – positioning ourselves to be surprised – to be ready for a blessing.

I can’t possibly know what’s going on inside you right now. I don’t know what currently has control over your heart – that which might be your worry. And I surely cannot prescribe a formula for you to let it all go and let God. But I can invite you to the table – with open hands. I can invite you to seek first the kingdom of God. I can invite you to be surprised. And I’m content to let God do the rest.


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