By the Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
August 12, 2007
Read: Genesis 15:1-6; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 and Luke 12:32-40
One morning a middle-aged woman sat in the office of a psychiatrist because for too long she had been dealing with daily depression. It was the third session for her and she had been struggling to find the source of her problem. Together they had addressed many of her concerns dealing with her relationship with her husband and her parents. There was a lack of satisfaction with her job and her daily activities with friends. She found no pleasure in any of her hobbies nor did she take interest in the news or the activities taking place in her community. She was always concerned that she wasn’t getting enough sleep and she tended to fear that she wasn’t eating the right foods or that sooner or later a serious illness might result from an imbalance in nutrition. The psychiatrist proposed experimenting with some medication to help her refocus, but she was afraid of that. What seemed to make the most sense to her was his concern that she was consumed with issues on the periphery of her life, but unaware of what was going on at the center. Together they began a quest to find out what was going on at the center of her life, the place from which everything else was ordered. What could it be, she wondered, as she left the psychiatrist’s office that day? The center of my life: what could it be?
Today’s gospel lesson from Luke holds that well known statement: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. And Jesus gives two examples of waiting. One involves a slave who remains ready and waiting for the master of house to return from a wedding banquet. And because the slave was expectant and aware, the master became the slave and served him. The other example is different, because it speaks of a thief coming in the night. One is not expecting a thief so this would be sudden, unexpected and a little scary. In both cases though, Jesus is speaking of being ready. And he does this after telling us to sell our possessions, make purses that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Be ready.
Our story from Genesis speaks of Abram’s/Abraham’s trust in the Lord. Abraham was in a life-threatening situation. He was facing the equivalent of death in this passage from Genesis. He had no heir. He had been obedient in leaving his home in Haran, but he was given no son. The lack of descendants in the Hebrew lineage was the equivalent of death. One’s life really did not go on. Abraham’s plan had gone awry. In this battle against death, the ceasing of one’s bloodline, God offered Abraham a shield. “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield.”
In a night vision, Abraham was told to count the stars in heaven. The stars were as plentiful as the number of his future descendants. Abraham was able to move from his protest to trust. Abraham trusted and believed God. This belief was counted as righteousness.
The development of trust, according to developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, is the core task in the first stage of spiritual formation. Abraham, like any spiritual pilgrim, met additional challenges. Yet his initial positive response to God’s challenge, “do not be afraid, Abram” gave him a foundation upon which to develop and re-develop a profoundly decisive trust. Abraham had found a relationship with God.
Remember that Abraham left all that was familiar, without a road map or final destination, to enter a land that was unfamiliar to him and his wife, Sarah. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. Faith is believing in what we cannot see and believing that what we hope for will indeed happen. How did Abraham come to trust in what God had told him? Perhaps because Abraham considered the one who had made the promise, God, to be faithful. So faith hangs on the faithfulness of God. As we learn to trust this faithfulness, we gain the assurance of things hoped for, and this is faith. The burden of faith is transferred to God, the author of our faith. And God is faithful.
Those who trust in God’s faithfulness are described as sojourners or pilgrims on this earth. We seek a homeland, a resting place. Jesus Christ was born to bring us home.
Jesus is inviting us to always be ready for the bridegroom to come, for the kingdom of God to break into our lives. We Christians live with that expectation and alertness, that God’s kingdom, that God’s possibilities, that God’s opportunities are forever before us and around us, breaking into our lives.
Jesus keeps coming and coming and coming and coming..over and over again. The miracles of God’s presence is forever coming to us and we can be alert, sharp, ready for Christ’s inbreaking into our lives. It is being filled with the Spirit, the Spirit of expectation that Christ is coming to us. And Christ does. Consistently and unexpectedly showing up at our doorsteps to the doors of our hearts. Christ shows up all around us, even through other people.
There is a story of an Episcopal priest who went to buy a motorcycle. The salesperson went on about speed, acceleration, risk and appeal – until he found out he was talking to a priest. Then it changed to good gas mileage, safe visibility, and practicality. The priest wondered, when did we send the message that being a Christian is more like riding a lawn mower (slow, deliberate, plodding) than a motorcycle? Is the life of faith more safe and sound or dangerous and exciting?
What about the middle-aged woman at the beginning of my message? She wondered what it could be at the center of her life. What do you think is at the center of your life? Where is your treasure? Is our center, our foundation, our core of being, fixed on God? Jesus tells us that all else in our life is peripheral, that focusing on God is our unfailing treasure. Be ready at all times, because Christ is here and will keep coming and coming and coming wanting to break into our lives. The center of our life? Christ is our sure foundation. Our rock. God is faithful. Amen.
The text of this sermon is the property of the author and may not be duplicated or used without permission.