Year C — The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14)

Commentary for August 11, 2013
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Click here for today’s readings
Click HERE for The Lectionary Lab Live podcast with the Rev. Amy Walter-Peterson

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Ours ears prick up a bit when we hear the prophet call out “Sodom” and “Gomorrah” as stand-ins for those hearing God’s message from Isaiah. 

In our time, we have become accustomed to those names being invoked with sexual sin, when in reality, in the original context it seems that these cities’ sin was something else: “they did not aid the poor and needy.” (see Ezekiel 16:49-50)

This makes Isaiah’s words much more easily understood — “Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” 

God might just be more concerned with how we treat our neighbors than with what we do in the bedroom?

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23
The psalmist echoes the theme that it is not just our sacrifices and offerings to God that God desires; God seeks righteousness from God’s people, as God, in God’s self, is righteous. 

(Connected to the theological concept of aseity.)

Genesis 15:1-6
Interesting juxtapositions in today’s readings.

We have Abraham, the great exemplar of faith according to Hebrews 11; we have Jesus telling the disciples (which includes us) that we should not be afraid in Luke 12; and, we have Abraham acting a bit nervous and — well, afraid — in Genesis 15.

What’s a preacher to do with all this?

Of course, Abraham’s story of faith includes honest doubt and struggle. It is in the striving to understand and to act faithfully that our faith becomes actual.

I don’t think that’s a bad message to bring.

Psalm 33:12-22
Let me make my Lutheran friend and colleague happy:

“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.” 
Ein Feste Burg Is Unser GottMartin Luther, 1529

I believe Luther is simpatico with Psalm 33 here.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
You can’t really “see” faith, can you? But you can see faith in action.

‘Nuff said.

Luke 12:32-40
One of the questions I always encourage preachers and students to ask when digging into a passage is, “What do we learn about God here?”

God takes pleasure in supplying the needs of God’s children. What a “happy” thought to realize that I can swap the cares and concerns of the world for the pleasure of God.

by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

Most of us don’t spend a great deal of time worrying about the kingdom of God.  Holding on to our jobs, raising our kids in a safe and decent world, bringing them up to be good and decent people, making the house payment, etc. etc.; these are the things that occupy our minds.
If we think of the kingdom of God at all, we think of it as a somewhat vague religious term that has something to do with church and maybe the social ministry committee or something. Whatever it is, it seems to have little or nothing to do with the way we live most of our lives, most of the time.
A careful reading of the gospels show that most of what Jesus talked about most of the time had to do with two things; money and the kingdom of God.  And Jesus seldom talked about one without talking about the other.  In his preaching and teaching the two are intimately intertwined.
The kingdom of God is like – a man who had two sons and the younger came to him and demanded half of the inheritance.
The kingdom of God is like – a vineyard owner who pays everyone the same, no matter how much or how little they had worked.
The kingdom of God is like – a master who gives his servants varying amounts of money and then judges them on how they have managed it.
I could go on, there are many, many more.
We have a tendency to want to spiritualize these stories, to make them about something other than money, to make them into something they are not.  We can’t do that.  The texts won’t allow it.  Jesus knew what he was saying and he said it very plainly.
The already but not yet kingdom of God has very important practical implications for how we treat our neighbor and how we treat our money.
In this Gospel lesson, Jesus makes it very clear that the coming kingdom is firmly rooted in the gospel of grace. The kingdom is not something we achieve or earn or build or create or prepare for through what we do.  The kingdom is pure, sweet, unmerited and undeserved grace.
“Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Yes, the kingdom is a gift; it’s free, no strings attached.
But, receiving the kingdom into our lives is costly.
The kingdom changes the way we live our lives, it changes the way we define the purpose of our lives, it changes the things we care about and worry about, it changes the way we treat our neighbor and yes, it changes the way we manage our money.
“Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear our, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Where is your treasure?  Where is your heart?  If it is not with Christ, where is it?  And why is it not with Christ? And if your heart is with Christ, why do you still cling to your stuff?  To your  money, your goods, your treasure?
Becoming a citizen of the kingdom of God frees us from our slavery to the here and now.
Becoming a citizen of the kingdom liberates us from our anxiety about worldly success.
Becoming a citizen of the kingdom releases us from bondage to our earthly treasure.
Becoming a citizen of the kingdom of god releases us to love God and neighbor with all our heart, mind, soul, strength and stuff.
In verse 35-38 of our text, Jesus tells a very interesting parable in which the master becomes the servant of the servants.  He is so pleased at their readiness, their preparation and attentiveness that he makes them all sit at table and serves them.
Who does that sound like?  Oh yes, Jesus in the upper room, taking off his belt, and kneeling upon the floor and washing the disciples’ feet.
Jesus there shows and tells his followers that kingdom of God is a kingdom of servants; people whose purpose in life is serving each other and the world.
The kingdom of God is not a place, or better, the kingdom of God is any place where people let go of their stuff, their pride, their willfulness, their sin; and grab on to God.
The kingdom of God is not a place; it is a trust in almighty God so strong, so secure, so trusting so filled with life and love and the laughter of faith that all else fades into nothingness.
How does one make sure one is ready when the kingdom comes?  By living each day as though the kingdom were already here.

Amen and amen.

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