Pentecost 12c

Preached: August 19, 2007

Under the Father's Care, Live Ready for Jesus to Come
Luke 12:32-40

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who pours out the Holy Spirit on us through his Word and Sacraments. That Word today is Luke 12.

No longer be afraid, little flock, for your Father delighted to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give gifts of mercy. Make wallets for yourselves that do not age, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where a thief does not come close nor a moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Be dressed for work and let the lights keep on burning. You also be like men waiting for their lord when he returns from the wedding feast, so that when he comes and knocks they open up for him at once. Blessed are those slaves whom the Lord finds watching when he comes. Truly I say to you: He will dress for work and have them recline and come and serve them. Even if he would come in the second watch or come in the third watch and find them so, blessed are those slaves.
Know this! If the master of the house had known when the thief was coming, he would have watched and not let his house be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not suppose.

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints of God:

The church shouldn't talk about money! The church should minds it own spiritual business. My money's my business. Sometimes we hear such sentiments. Sometimes we might even feel them hidden inside us, biting our tongues because we know we really shouldn't say it. But what about that question? Should the church talk about money?

To be sure that can be dangerous. For you see, preachers and church leaders have fallen under the spell of money. You don't need to look far to find examples where the lust for money in a church has overshadowed the gospel work. Preachers and church leaders need the warning against greed even in church work as much as any of us need it in our personal lives. Last week we heard Jesus warning against greed.

But does that mean that the church shouldn't talk about money? We follow Jesus. Jesus talked about money. So must his church. For you see, how we think about our money and how we use our money reflects where our heart is. Our attitude and use of money is a spiritual issue. For Jesus says, Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34 NIV).

However, when the true church talks about money, it's entirely different than the world's way. When the church talks about money, the focus is on what God has done for us. Listen to Jesus who puts the focus on the Father. He says: Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32 NIV). What comfort! What courage! What an umbrella of security under which to live as we use not only our money but our time and talents as well! That brings us to the theme: Under the Father's care, live ready for Jesus to come.

A. Watching with hearts focused on the kingdom

What comfort! Yet how often aren't we harassed by fear and its partner worry! We might blame events in our lives for the fear and worry: accidents and sicknesses, troubles and disappointments, mean people and money problems. But fear and worry come from inside. Nothing forces us to give in to fear and worry; that's our own internal reaction.

Why do we react to troubles in life with fear and worry? Because we fail to trust our God. Trouble reminds us that we are not in control. No matter how much money we have, we cannot control the future. Just listen to the talk of the stock market and the sub-prime mortgage market. Or what about how dry this summer has been, even with the rain yesterday? What kind of harvest or lack of harvest might there be? A lot of fear and worry. We fail to commit ourselves and our future into God's hands.

But instead of turning his back on us ungrateful, untrusting creatures, Jesus says to you and me, Do not be afraid, little flock (Luke 12:32 NIV). He calls you his flock. Even though we are sheep who wander into fear and worry and deserve to be devoured by the fangs of death and hell, Jesus calls you his flock. He, the Good Shepherd, laid down his life for you. He rescued you from the fangs of death and hell. And just as he laid down his for you, he took it up again in victory. And he is coming again in glory to take you, his flock, to your heavenly treasure that does not wear out and is never used up. No one can take it away from you. No one can snatch you out of his hand.

For you see, the Father, your Father, has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32 NIV). What Good News! Notice it doesn't say: If we are pleasing to him, we get the kingdom. Then we'd have no hope. What sinner can please the holy God?

To the contrary, despite what we are by nature, nevertheless God's good will was pleased to work out the way to give you the kingdom. And you know that way. It is through the Son, Jesus Christ. It is through the Gospel in Word and Sacraments that bring us Jesus and his forgiveness. It is not by our works but through faith alone. The Father's good will gave the Son as the sacrifice to bring you into the family by ransoming you with his blood. The Gospel in Word and Sacraments works this faith in your heart. For by the Spirit's power we believe that Jesus is our King and we are his blood-bought people. This is the kingdom the Father has given to you.

With your heart focused on the kingdom, watch for your King to return in glory. And when fear or worry strike, turn to your King. He will provide for you. He will take care of you. With our hearts focused on the kingdom, our attitude toward money changes. We no longer cling to money as our hope for the future. For now we have our King and our Father to care for us. So we can give cheerful to help those in need, whether spiritual needs or physical needs. We give cheerful because we know that our real treasure is in heaven. That treasure won't ever wear out or be used up.

Under the Father's care, live ready for Jesus to come, watching with hearts focused on the kingdom.

B. Waiting with hands serving our Lord

Live ready for Jesus to come, waiting with hands serving our Lord. For faith that trusts our Father's care boldly serves our Lord as we await his return.

Jesus uses the illustration of servants ready and waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet. What a fitting illustration to help us think about Christian stewardship! A servant doesn't own what he takes care of. He is a steward or manager of his master's goods. So also, none of our money or things or time or talents belong to us. All belongs to our Lord. He purchased us with his lifeblood to live in his kingdom. Yes, stewardship involves money, but it's more than just money. Money is a significant part because we convert much of our time and talents into money. That's what employment does. But stewardship goes far beyond our offering. It includes every moment of our life and all the various talents our God has given us.

In Jesus' day, being a servant was a full time job — not forty hours a week, but 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Waiting with hands serving our Lord, doesn't just mean coming to church on a Sunday morning. It involves our every moment, 24/7/365. But how are we to do that? Do we have to read our Bible around the clock and sing a hymn at the strike of every hour? How then could we earn a living, take care of family, tend to our bodily needs?

But who is it that places us in different roles in life as parent or child, father or mother, husband or wife, worker or employer? Who is it that commands us to provide a living, to take care of our family, and not to neglect our own bodies? Isn't it our Lord? Yes, it is. We can serve him as we carry out our responsibilities in the roles he has given us.

The key is why do we do what we do? If we are driven by selfish motives or by fear and worry, then we are not serving our Lord. But as you use your time and talents, giving thanks to God that he has given you these to carry out your role, then you are serving your Lord. As you use your time and talents trusting that your Father in heaven will take care of you no matter how things end up, then you are serving your Lord.

As we serve our Lord with thanks and trust, then our minds are ready and waiting for him, eager for his return in glory. Then you will not be caught off guard like that home owner who didn't know when the thief was coming. Rather, you will always be ready.

And what blessing awaits us when Jesus does return. Jesus' illustration describes the master serving his servants when he finds them waiting. That doesn't fit in with the earthly way, but Jesus goes beyond the earthly to illustrate just how wonderful heaven will be for you who are waiting for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes (Luke 12:37 NIV).

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32 NIV). Under the Father's care, live ready for Jesus to return, watching with hearts focused on the kingdom and waiting with hands serving your Lord. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313