Get Ready…Luke 12:32-40

Luke 12:32-40
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 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. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
This has been a sad couple of weeks for St. John Lutheran Church. We have lost three members of our church in quick succession: John Anderson, Pat Rietfort, and Jan Boeke. Our faith tells us that they have gone on to meet the Lord.
Funerals are a reminder that we will all meet the Lord one day. Perhaps Jesus will come again before our death, as we say in the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe he will come to judge the living and the dead.” But, we will all meet him face to face. That is certain.
Our gospel lesson is about getting ready for that day.
There are a couple of ways people seem to get ready for the day they will meet the Lord. One way is out of fear. People misunderstand the power of God’s forgiveness and say, “Well, I’ve got to do good things in my life to balance out the bad things, so when I see the Lord face to face on that day he will see that I’ve at least been trying to do good things for him and he will forgive me because I’ve done my best.” But Jesus says in our gospel reading, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) You have his grace, his love, his forgiveness, his gift of eternal life – they are already given to you.
So fear not. God does not accept you on the basis of your good deeds. He accepts you because of Jesus’ death on the cross. It is complete. It is done.
Another way that people get ready to meet the Lord is out of indifference. They might say, “Well, God forgives me, what else do I need to do? I’ll just live my life, do what I want, and when I meet the Lord face to face, all will be well.” They might even quote the passage I just read: “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
But notice Jesus’ next words. They are words encouraging us to make a response in this life, to serve our Lord, to answer God’s call. Verse 33, “Sell your possessions and give alms.” Verse 35, “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.” Our Lord says, “Do not be afraid, you are loved and forgiven, you are blessed and you are my child for eternity. And because you are loved and forgiven, you can serve me without fear of judgment; because you blessed, you can be a blessing to others; because you are my child, you can learn from me and participate in my mission in the world.”
God is looking for a response in your life and in mine; not because we are afraid of him, but because we are thankful for all that he has done; not because God needs our good deeds to forgive us, but because our neighbor, our Church, our community, and our world needs our good deeds.
The truth that we will one day see Jesus face it face is meant to have an influence on our lives here and now. Let’s consider three ways in which we can be ready to meet Jesus face to face.
Here’s the first one: We can be ready to meet Jesus face to face by focusing on his promised future.
When we realize that something better lies ahead we can avoid being preoccupied with our troubles and we can focus on the important things in life. People who are told they don’t have long to live often say that they now understand what’s really important in life – love, forgiveness, being a giver and not just a taker.
The knowledge that a better existence awaits us gives us hope. We are strengthened to endure and don’t give in to despair. We find ourselves wanting to live those values of eternity here and now – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness.
The Christian knows there is something better yet to come and lives in joyful expectation of that day. The blessings we already have are nothing compared to what will be. We read in 1st Corinthians, chapter 2, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (2:9). I love that verse because it tells me that war, violence, disease and death will not have the final word. There is going to be love and joy and peace and healing beyond our imaging.
And that brings us to the second way we can be ready to meet Jesus face to face: by carrying out his work.
One day, all of earth will be renewed. As we read in our Bibles, on that day, “there will be no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain. There will be no hunger. No one will be lonely or afraid. All will be taught by God. No one will be in need.”
Some of the Christians in the time of Luke’s gospel were saying that since Jesus was going to return in the very near future there was no reason for them to keep working. They could just sit and wait, because when Jesus returned everything that needed to be done would instantly be completed.
Jesus calls us to get to work, now, in joyful anticipation of that day to come. Verse 33, “Sell your possessions and give alms.” Verse 35, “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.” Jesus gave us responsibilities to carry out during his absence.
When Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he knew Jesus would return the next day he reportedly answered, “I would plant a tree.” Whether Christ comes tomorrow or after thousands of years we are to use whatever time remains in continuing to do whatever work he has called us to do.
This is our task as Christians: to carry out our Lord’s work. To live in the joyful anticipation of that day when we will see the Lord, by serving him now, participating in his mission in the world now, giving our time and talents and treasures to his work now…because that is what’s going to last for eternity.
And that brings us to the third point: making use of the resources God has given us.
We’ve all heard that old truth, “you can’t take it with you.” It’s a hard truth, but true none the less – our money will not go with us.
What then, is the purpose of all that we have? In our gospel reading, Jesus answers, “Sell your possessions and give alms…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Does that mean Jesus wants you to sell everything? Of course not…you need to take care of yourself and your family. But it does mean that Jesus wants us to use our financial resources to give to his work here on earth – supporting his mission through the church, supporting his mission of loving our neighbor and making disciples.
That’s what it means to be rich toward God. It means investing in God’s mission in this world. And your heart will be where your treasure is.
One of the things I see often in Jesus’ teachings is the way he confounds prevailing wisdom. I’ve had people say to me, “Pastor, if we just get people’s hearts right, then the money will come.” No, that’s not it at all. That is not what Jesus says. Instead, Jesus says that you get people’s wallets right and then the hearts will follow. Where do you want your heart to be? What are the things that are passing away and what are the things that will last for eternity? A funeral has a way of bringing those questions into focus, and Jesus invites us to think about these things.
Jesus promised to return. Maybe it won’t happen in our lifetime. But then again, we will see him face to face one day. And Jesus wants us to be ready, by living now in joyful anticipation of what is to come. He has promised us a glorious future to look forward to; He has given us his work to do; and has entrusted financial resources to us to be used in carrying out that work.
Let’s get ready to meet the Lord, not out of fear, but out of joyful anticipation at the fulfillment of his great and precious promises: ready to invest ourselves, our time, our talents, and our financial resources in joyful response to the one who has blessed us beyond imagining for all eternity.
Let Us Pray:
Lord, you tell us not to be afraid, and yet at the same time you tell us to be ready. Remind us each day of your love and your forgiveness. Help us to remember that it is your good pleasure to give us the kingdom. And then, teach us to live fearlessly, boldly and courageously in anticipation of that day, serving you now in this place, on this planet, joyfully anticipating the day of your redemption.


About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
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