Saturday, August 6, 2016

Where Is Our Treasure?

Where Is Our Treasure?
Reflections on Luke 12.32-40

RCL Proper 19C
7 August 2016

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church

            I am pretty sure that many of you here today have the same memory as I do.  Almost every week my parents would give me the vast sum of $1 or $2 so that I could go to the movie theatre.  With that much money in my hands I could buy my ticket and some refreshments before settling in for the show.  Sometimes the movie being shown that week didn’t interest me as much as the next episode of Flash Gordon or Hopalong Cassidy or whatever serial was being shown before the moving started.  Each week I would be at the edge of my seat, hoping that my hero or heroes would be saved from the evil clutches of the villains they were fighting.  And each week the episode would end on a cliff-hanger:  the hero or heroes in danger once again and the villains on the brink of victory.
            In some ways the Anglican way of reading scripture in public worship can be like the old-time movie theatre serials, especially when we’re reading from one of the four gospels.  Our hero, Jesus, is on a life-time journey that will take him from his home in Galilee to Jerusalem.  Along the way he will make disciples and enemies, heal the sick and upset the authorities, raise the dead and be the subject of death threats.  At the very end he will be victorious and his story will continue in our lives.
            Last week in Luke’s gospel we heard the parable of the rich farmer who has been so fortunate in his harvests that he makes plans to rake in his surplus and enjoy a well-earned retirement.  What he fails to realize is that his death is imminent.  He has reaped a great harvest, but he has failed to sow the seeds of generosity and compassion.  His fear of scarcity, a very common human fear, has overcome his commitment to the wise and generous stewardship of the resources God had entrusted to him.
            Today’s gospel follows on the heel of our reading from last week.  Jesus’ audience has been left hanging.  We can almost hear the murmurs within the crowd, ‘So what are we supposed to do if we want to inherit the kingdom of God?’  To a people for whom scarcity, hunger, homelessness and poverty were always just around the corner, Jesus counsels them to do something so counter-cultural, so foolish, I’m sure that a few folk walked away and decided that Jesus was not the kind of rabbi they wanted to follow.  But to those who stayed around, Jesus’ message and what it might mean for their daily lives was well worth hearing.
            What Jesus was saying to them is this:  the kingdom of God is both here in the present and promised in the future.  The kingdom of God is wherever people live their lives with faith that God has a purpose for us and for all of creation, hope in the future that Jesus reveals to us and love that reaches out to stranger and friend.  In the present we experience this kingdom partially; in the future we shall experience it in its fullness.  So what shall we do in the meantime?
            Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart shall be as well.  As I hear these words today, I am led to a twenty-first century improvisation:  Where our priorities are, there we will put our resources to wise, generous and faithful use.  To my mind our priorities are
  • to proclaim the good news of the kingdom;
  • to teach, baptize and nurture new believers;
  • to respond to human need by loving service;
  • to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation; and
  • to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and to sustain and renew the life of the earth.

These priorities, shared by Anglicans throughout Canada and the world, voice our aspirations as a community of faith.  Our work, as the people of the Parish of Saint Faith’s, is to discern how God would have us live out these priorities in this time and in this place.
            How we shape our worship and our involvement with our neighbours are means by which we proclaim the good news of the kingdom.  Our commitment to the Community Pastoral Resource Centre is one concrete expression of how we intend ‘to respond to human need by loving service’.  Our vegetable gardens to the east provide food that we share with our sisters and brothers at Saint Augustine’s in Marpole, even as the gardens are visible signs of our commitment to the well-being of ‘this fragile earth, our island home’.
            But we face the same challenge as many other congregations:  how shall we teach, baptize and nurture new, and I would add, continuing believers?  How shall we use our resources to lead people to become part of this community of faith and share with us in the ministries God has given to us?  We also share with Anglicans throughout Canada the desire to forge new relationships with First Nations to bring about reconciliation.  How shall we embody this desire here at Saint Faith’s?
            I have more that I could say, but the conversation I hope we have together as a Parish is like the old-time movie serials I so looked forward to as a child.  We are the actors in the best movie serial of all time, the revelation of the kingdom of God in time and space through the lives and witness of millions of Jesus’ disciples.  We know that God has given us resources that we can use to sow the seeds of the kingdom in all sorts of places.  We know what our priorities are, so that we can sow those seeds wisely but also courageously, not afraid to take a few well-considered risks.

            I can’t help but wonder what will happen in next week’s episode.  But I am confident that our heroes, the person to our left, the person to our right, behind and in front of us, will once again rise to the challenge.

No comments: