The Kingdom and Treasure
The Kingdom and Treasure (Luke 12:32-40)
St Thomas, Monmouth, Aug, 2019
- I have a friend who has very firm opinions on most subjects. In fact, if I come to think about it most of my friends have very firm opinions but with this particular friend once she has made up her mind that is it, and no amount of argument will change her mind. I once questioned her opinion and she replied by saying, ‘I have made up my mind, please don’t confuse me with facts’. I also discovered that every year she buys a book with a religious message and a prayer for each day of the year. When I asked why as quite a scholarly person she didn’t follow a bible commentary she said, ‘because I like to be told what I want to hear’. I guess she was saying that the bible doesn’t always tell you what you want to hear.
- Sometime religion – and perhaps Christianity in particular is seen as a ‘comfort blanket’. It tells you what you want to hear – that God loves you, forgives you and saves you. Well, today’s Gospel begins with encouraging and comforting words, Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom but then the comfort blanket is thrown off and we are challenged by what it means to live the life of the kingdom – and the life of the kingdom is not something that starts after death, it begins here and now which is why we pray ‘Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’. We are called as Christians to start living the life of the kingdom and Jesus tells us something of what that means.
- He tells us that we must seek first the kingdom of God and put that before everything else and work for the things that will last forever. In fact, the Kingdom of God is the central message of the New Testament which is why Jesus taught so much about it. You may recall that Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to yeast rising in bread, to a tiny mustard seed growing into a mighty tree, to a pearl of great price for which it was worth selling everything else, to treasure hidden in a field, to treasures old and new and to a drag net that draws in all the fishes.
- In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that if you want to build the Kingdom then Sell your possessions and give alms, Make purses for yourselves that do not wear outso that you have treasure in heaven which moths and thieves cannot destroy. Two thousand years ago in Palestine people showed their wealth by having costly raiments which could easily be ruined by moths, so we should sit lightly to material possessions.
- I remember talking to a saintly archdeacon called Reg Bazire who had been a missionary in China and was imprisoned by the Japanese and three times in his life, he and his wife lost all their possessions and only owned the clothes in which they were standing up. When I remarked , ‘How terrible’ he replied that in fact it was tremendously liberating and I remembered the story of the rich young man who couldn’t follow Jesus because he couldn’t get rid of his possession. He was in fact possessed by his possessions.
- Jesus said, Where your treasure is there will your heart be also. In the news last week we saw people in Whaley Bridge being evacuated from their homes with the possibility that the dam might burst and that they might not return and all their material possessions would be ruined. What did they take with them – what were their most treasured items? I was pleased to see that the vicar went back for her hamster. It is worth asking ourselves what we treasure most – what would we take with us if we had just minutes to leave our homes – is the treasure that we possess in our relationship with material things or in our relationships with living people and animals?
- Jesus tells us that we must be alert if we are to be kingdom-centred. He said we must be like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding. In those days they would not have had satnav or a bus timetable or any real means of knowing when they might arrive home but the servants had to be ready even staying up all night. The Greek says, Have your loins girded and your lamps burning. The long flowing robes of the Middle East have to be girded or tucked into the belt to do work and topping up the oil filled lamps required constant attention. We are being told to be watchful – not like watching paint dry but like a soldier on watch who is alert to what is happening around and ready to jump into action.
- So the message of today’s gospel is three-fold. Firstly, to put the Kingdom of God as our aim in life because it is what Jesus came to establish and teach. Secondly, to sit lightly to our material possession and to share them with others, and thirdly, to be watchful and alert to what opportunities God is providing for us to help establish here and now his Kingdom on earth.