11 Pentecost Proper C14
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 12:32-40 Sermon
August 8, 2010
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
134 "Father Most Holy"
568 "If Thou But Suffer God To Guide Thee"
392 "More Love To Thee, O Christ"
----- "How Great Thou Art"
READY TO GO ANYTIME
TEXT (vs. 32, 39-40): "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom....But understand 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. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
This past week, I had the opportunity to visit with an old friend by the name of Mark Casey from my primary school days in Emerson. I had only seen him one other time just briefly since grade 7, so this time I was able to have a more lengthy visit with him. We did a lot of catching up.
One topic of our conversation centered around various classmates of ours who are no longer on this earth. Mary Lee Rohde, a very nice girl, had become a nurse. But then several years ago, she lost the battle with cancer. Then there was Greg Mackling (or Sam as we called him) who was killed in a farming accident. Sam's brother had also been killed back in the mid 1960's in a farming accident, so that family had the experience of a double tragedy.
Then there was Bob Duncan (or Red as we called him). Red lived a rather wild lifestyle, and he had often joked about how he probably wouldn't live much past 30. One night Red had been to a party. He was on his motorcycle on Highway 15 just outside of Laurel heading back to Emerson, when he collided with a semi truck. Surprisingly enough he lasted several weeks after the accident, and everybody thought he was going to make it. They were getting ready to transfer him from the Marion Health Center in Sioux City to the Pender Hospital, when he died. Mark made the comment that Red almost made it to 30.
I remember making the comment, "What's everybody trying to do, keep Munderloh in business?" (Dennis Munderloh and his son Stephen run the mortuary in Emerson). The chuckle we both got out of that comment sort of masked the feeling of mortality we both had. There's an old expression that goes, "The Lord winds our spring only once." We knew, that even as I teased him about having a lot more gray hair than I do, the time is coming for both of us. And that is definitely a sobering thought.
Think of our own experiences. All we need to do is hear a newscast on TV or radio, or pick up a newspaper. Think of all the news stories that come to mind: motorcycles coming into contact with bridge abutments, a mini-van with an innocent family on-board meets with a drunk driver, a tractor overturns and crushes a farmer to death, a tornado flattens a town and leaves numerous fatalities, a man let go from his job in Connecticut starts randomly shooting people, and the list goes on.
I'm sure you've all heard the old adage that there are only two things sure in this life: death and taxes. Since this is not a sermon about taxes, we are therefore concerned about the first topic. Experience tells us that we can expect death to come at unexpected times and in unexpected places. That's the way it has always been, and that's the way it always will be. And since we cannot change that, we have to learn to deal with it.
The thing that continues to boggle my mind, are those people who live their life in total denial. They reject the truth and reality of death and mortality. They live their lives as if they were somehow immune from everything. Disasters and accidents happen to other people, but not them. They live their lives as if Jesus is never going to come, and death is a long ways off into the future. They feel there's always plenty of time; and well, there are other things that are more urgent in the here and now.
There are people out there who have gotten the idea that they just aren't ready to be a Christian, because they still want to have fun. They figure that as they get older and closer to death, then maybe they'll convert. But right now, while they still have their youth and wild desires, they want to get as much sinning in as they possibly can.
In verse 32 of our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus says: "...your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." Carrying right along with this thought, Jesus says in John chapter 10 verse 10: "...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
Jesus isn't saying that once you become a Christian, your life will be over. He isn't saying that he has come to "rain on your parade," or otherwise make your life miserable. He isn't saying that you can't have fun and enjoy life as a Christian.
Jesus doesn't want to take anything away from us; rather he is telling us that he wants to give us something. He wants to give us the kingdom, and he wants us to enjoy life as fully as possible.
Unfortunately Christians have fallen into a dreadful stereotype. People frequently see being Christian as taking on a lifestyle where they can only listen to gospel music, that they can read nothing else except a King James Bible, and that they have to spend hours on end sitting in church. They're all waiting around to be swept off into heaven, where they will be spending an eternity doing all of those same miserable things they felt they had to do, or were forced into doing while they were on earth.
I don't mind telling you that if this is what being a Christian actually means, then I would have serious trouble with that too. I can fully understand why people hesitate when it comes to being a Christian if they believe in those misguided stereotypes and notions.
Our text for today presents several important topics for us to consider. Just prior to this, Jesus has pointed out the folly of getting comfort out of how many assets a person can amass while on this earth. A person needs to look beyond earthly life, and see what is in store for them in eternity. A big bank account or accumulated possessions are of no use beyond the grave. Jesus wants to give us the kingdom for eternity, where we will experience endless happiness.
Then he brings out one very important thing in verse 34: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." In other words, if you focus your attention on things of this world, and you pay no mind about the things to come, then you're in for a huge disappointment. Those earthly things are temporary, and not eternal.
When I was growing up, right across the street from our church lived Chris Hingst Sr., his wife Lillie, and his son Chris Jr., who was a friend of mine. I don't think that Chris Sr. set foot in a church very often. He had a yellow and white 1957 Chevy Bel-Air that was his baby, his pride and joy. On Sunday mornings, he would pull his car on his lawn beside the garage, right where everybody could see it as they came out of church. People could see him washing and waxing it, detailing it, fussing over it, and keeping it just like it was driven off the showroom floor.
After Chris Sr. died, the Chevy was still in the garage. Because of the many final expenses, his son had to sell it to pay the bills. Chris Sr. didn't drive off into eternity behind the wheel of that car. It did him absolutely no good at all. It's like Jesus says, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Chris's heart was wrapped up in his 1957 Chevy, without giving any regard to what was ahead of him, at least at that point of time in his life.
The illustration Jesus uses in our text for today is a simple one. An employer is away for a while at a wedding feast. His employees were left on their own. However, they also knew he would be returning, but they didn't know when. In those days, communication wasn't that great, so they had to be ready basically anytime. And if they weren't ready, then it could well cost them their job. Being a faithful employee meant that they were always prepared for their employer's return.
The fact that we will meet Jesus is a given fact. It is imminent. It's going to happen. Furthermore, it will happen at a time when we do not expect it to happen. The question is, are we ready? Are we ready to go at anytime?
The questions springing from this are logical. How can we be ready? How do we know that we are ready? How can we at peace right now, and know our future is secure?
Let's take a brief look at our other two lessons appointed for today. In our Old Testament Lesson from Genesis 15, we read in verse 6: "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness." Abraham was a man of faith; and even when he slipped off the rails and doubted God, God still kept his promise. Abraham had faith in the Messiah that God promised would come from his offspring.
In our Epistle Lesson, the writer to the Hebrews in chapter 11 further explains Abraham's faith. Reading some selected verses: "...[Abraham] was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God....[Abraham was] still living by faith when [he] died. [He] did not receive the things promised; [he] only saw them and welcomed them from a distance....[He was] longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called [Abraham's] God, for he has prepared a city for [him]." (vs. 10, 13, 16, adapted)
And there it is, that one, single-syllabled word that is so important to a Christian's life: Faith, and faith alone. The importance of faith is stressed in Hebrews chapter 11, from which I just quoted. However our Epistle Lesson only deals with Abraham's faith. There are many more people listed in that same chapter of Hebrews as examples of faith. There's Abel, Enoch, Noah, Sarah, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab the prostitute, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.
These are examples God gives us of people throughout the Old Testament who lived by faith. Even though the earthly road they travelled was anything but easy, it was their faith in God's promise that prepared them for their eternal heavenly reward. God had a mansion in heaven ready and waiting. They knew it, and that's the way they lived their lives on earth.
For us here today, faith is equally as important. Christ Jesus is the object of our faith, and the only way we can inherit our heavenly reward. It is God's pleasure to give us our heavenly reward through nothing but faith alone. And when our hearts are committed to Jesus, then our treasure will not be in earthly things that will not last, but in heavenly things that will last eternally.
One reason I believe that people go through life thinking that they will live forever, is because that's the way God intended life to be. Even if we do only a casual study of biology, we know that in the human body new cells are continually being created to replace the old, worn-out ones. But people still age, even though there's no real logical scientific explanation for it. And finally, everybody will die. That's a fact. No matter what we think, the mortality rate amongst humanity is still 100%, as it always will be.
The reason we die is because sin entered the world and completely threw God's perfect design into disarray. We are naturally imperfect and sinful. Even the most hard-boiled atheist will agree with the old adage, "nobody's perfect."
God knows this. That's why he sent his only Son Jesus into the world. Through faith in Christ, our sinful record is wiped clean. Even though we still live in an imperfect world with all of its flaws, heartaches, and pain, Jesus brings perfection into our lives through faith alone. Faith in Christ is what we need to be ready to go at any time. Even though our lives on earth will always be tainted with sin, we will still be judged according to Christ's sinlessness and righteousness on that final judgment day.
The unbelieving world has painted a rather negative and gloomy stereotypical picture of Christians. People believe that having a saving faith in Christ is equal to God wanting us to be miserable and unhappy in our lives. But we know that Jesus didn't come to remove the fun from life; rather he came to give us the gift of the kingdom of God, which is a place where the fun never stops.
And so we must be prepared at all times for the day when we will meet Jesus face-to-face. In Matthew chapter 24 verse 27 Jesus says, "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." Jesus is telling us that the end of our days here on this earth will most likely be a surprise.
Even though I've said this many times, we still need to remember this. A saving faith in Jesus Christ is a relationship, and not a religion. A religion means absolutely nothing if there is no faith relationship with Jesus Christ. We can go through all of the pietistic motions, mutter the right words, and make ourselves miserable in the process. But a relationship with Jesus Christ through faith alone brings forgiveness, hope, and a guarantee of eternal happiness and joy. Jesus came to give us something, and not to take anything away from us.
This morning, I'm going to close with the words of three stanzas of an old hymn that summarizes our topic for today quite nicely:
Who knows when death may overtake me!
Time passes on, my end draws near.
How swiftly can my breath forsake me!
How soon can life's last hour appear!
My God for Jesus' sake I pray,
Thy peace may bless my dying day.
Then death may come today, tomorrow,
I know in Christ I perish not;
He grants the peace that stills all sorrow,
Gives me a robe without a spot.
My God for Jesus' sake I pray,
Thy peace may bless my dying day.
And thus I live in God contented
And die without a thought of fear;
My soul has to God's plans consented,
For through his Son my faith is clear.
My God for Jesus' sake I pray,
Thy peace may bless my dying day. (TLH 598: 1, 10, 11)