The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
The Rev. George Pejakovich
Luke 12:32-40

“DO NOT BE AFRAID.” WE HAVE HEARD THIS ADMONISHION OFTEN THROUGHOUT THE TELLING OF THE SALVATION STORY KNOWN AS HOLY SCRIPTURE. THIS IS THE GREETING OF THE ANGELS TO THE SHEPHERDS, AND IS THE GREETING WHENEVER THE LIGHT OF HEAVEN BREAKS INTO THE DARKNESS OF HUMAN EXISTENCE. JESUS USES IT HERE TO GET THE ATTENTION OF HIS DISCIPLES, AND TO UNDERSCORE THE POINT OF THE TEACHING HE IS ABOUT TO GIVE THEM. THE REASON THIS GREETING IS SO COMMON IN SCRIPTURE IS THAT OUR LIVES ARE USUALLY FILLED WITH SO MUCH FEAR. WE FEAR THAT WE MAY NOT HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO RETIRE, OR THAT WHAT WE HAVE WILL NOT LAST AS LONG AS WE NEED IT TO LAST. WE FEAR FOR OUR HEALTH OR THAT WE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO GET OR AFFORD THE MEDICAL CARE WE NEED. IN THESE TROUBLED TIMES, WE FEAR FOR THE ECONOMY, AND THAT WE MIGHT LOSE THE JOB WE HAVE. SINCE SEPTEMBER 11TH, FEAR SEEMS TO HAVE BECOME THE NEW NORMAL, AND, AFTER THE BOSTON BOMBINGS, WE FEAR THAT THERE MAY BE NO SAFE PLACE ANYMORE.

THE DISCIPLES WERE AFRAID, AND JESUS RECOGNIZED THEIR FEAR, AND SO HE ADDRESSED IT DIRECTLY. THEY WERE AFRAID BECAUSE THEY HAD LEFT EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW HIM, AND WERE LIVING HAND TO MOUTH. THEY WERE AFRAID BECAUSE THEY WERE STILL TRYING TO ASSIMILATE THE WAY OF PRAYING HE HAD TAUGHT THEM; TO PRAY FOR THEIR DAILY BREAD AND THE COMING OF THE KINGDOM IN THEIR LIVES. THIS KINGDOM FOR WHICH THEY WERE TO PRAY WAS DIFFERENT FROM ANYTHING THEY HAD EVER KNOWN; A KINGDOM OF DAILY BREAD, FORGIVENESS, AND COURAGE IN THE FACE OF EVIL. THEY STILL DID NOT UNDERSTAND, SO JESUS EXPLAINED IT TO THEM.

“DO NOT BE AFRAID, LITTLE FLOCK, FOR IT IS YOUR FATHER’S GOOD PLEASURE TO GIVE YOU THE KINGDOM. SELL YOU POSSESSIONS, AND GIVE ALMS. MAKE PURSES FOR YOURSELVES THAT DO NOT WEAR OUT, AN UNFAILING TREASURE IN HEAVEN . . . FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE YOUR HEART WILL BE ALSO.” THEN HE TOLD THEM TWO LITTLE PARABLES THE POINT OF WHICH WAS TO BE EVER READY AND VIGILANT TO DO THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM, BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN THE SON OF MAN IS COMING. MOST PEOPLE READ THESE PARABLES AS REFERRING TO THE SECOND COMING OF THE CHRIST; AND, TO THAT, I WILL SAY, “YES, BUT.”

LET ME TELL YOU A LITTLE STORY MY SISTER IN LAW SENT FROM CYPRUS. THE ABBOT OF A MONESTERY IN THE HILLS OF CYPRUS WAS GIVING A TOUR TO A TRAVEL WRITER, WHEN THEY DECIDED TO BREAK FOR A LIGHT LUNCH AT THE LITTLE CAFÉ RUN BY THE MONASTERY. AS THEY WERE ON LINE, A DIRTY, SMELLY HOMELESS MAN SUDDENLY STOOD BEHIND THEM. THE ABBOT SAID TO THE MAN, “YOU LOOK HUNGRY; WOULD YOU LIKE SOMETHING TO EAT?” THE MAN SAID, “I’D LIKE SAUSAGE AND EGGS.” THE ABBOT SAID THEY HAD NOTHING LIKE THAT THERE, BUT GAVE HIM $5.00 TO FIND SOMETHING TO EAT ELSEWHERE. AS THE HOMELESS MAN WALKED OFF, A TOURIST AT A NEARBY TABLE GOT UP AND BERATED THE ABBOT FOR GIVING THE MAN MONEY. “HE WILL ONLY USE IT TO BUY BOOZE OR DRUGS,” SAID THE TOURIST, AND HE LEFT IN A HUFF. THE WRITER ASKED THE ABBOT WHY HE GAVE THE HOMELESS MAN MONEY, SO THE ABBOT SAID, “LET ME TELL YOU A LITTLE STORY.”

“WHEN I WAS A NEW MONK,” SAID THE ABBOT, “I WAS WALKING WITH THE BISHOP OF NICOSIA, WHEN I NOTICED, COMING TOWARDS US ON THE SIDEWALK, WHAT APPEARED TO ME TO BE A MADMAN. HE WAS FILTHY, WITH GREASY, MATTED HAIR, HIS CLOTHES NO MORE THAN DIRTY RAGS, AND HIS SHOES WITH LOOSE SOLES SO I COULD SEE HIS FILTHY FEET WITH EACH STEP HE TOOK. I GRABBED THE BISHOP’S ARM TO PULL HIM TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET. ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?’ ASKED THE BISHOP. ‘WE ARE GOING TO CROSS THE STREET;’ I REPLIED, DON’T YOU SEE THE MADMAN?’ ‘I WILL DO NO SUCH THING,’ HE DECLARED; AND, INSTEAD OF AVOIDING THE MADMAN, THE BISHOP WENT DIRECTLY TO HIM, TOOK HIS FILTHY HANDS IN HIS OWN, AND PRESSED A 20 DOLLAR BILL INTO HIS PALM. AS HE TOOK THE MONEY, THE MAN LOOKED UP AND INTO MY EYES AND THOSE OF THE BISHOP. WHEN HE LOOKED AT ME, I TOOK AN INVOLUNTARY STEP BACK, BECAUSE, INSTEAD OF THE EYES OF A MADMAN, I SAW BRILLIANT BLUE EYES FULL OF INTELLIGENCE AND WISDOM WHICH SEEMED TO LOOK RIGHT THROUGH ME. THE MAN THANKED THE BISHOP AND WALKED AWAY. WHEN HE WAS GONE, I WHISPERED TO THE BISHOP, ‘DID YOU SEE HIS EYES?’ ‘YES, I DID,’ HE REPLIED. ‘WHAT DO YOU THINK?’ I ASKED. ‘I THINK,’ THE BISHOP SOFTLY ANSWERED, ‘THAT HE MAY HAVE BEEN AN ANGEL SENT TO TEST US.’”

“THIS IS WHY, MY SON, I GIVE ALMS TO THOSE IN NEED WHENEVER I CAN, AND WITHOUT CONDITIONS.” AS THE ABBOT FINISHED HIS LITTLE STORY, THE TOURIST WHO LEFT IN ANGER RETURNED AND WALKED UP TO THE ABBOT AND THE WRITER. “I HAVE TO APOLOGIZE,” HE SAID, “I JUST SAW THE MAN YOU GAVE MONEY IN THE VILLAGE EATING YOGURT AND DRINKING COFFEE.” WITH THAT, HE WALKED OFF SHAKING HIS HEAD.

IF WE THINK OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN AS A REWARD IN THE NEXT LIFE FOR OUR FAITHFULNESS IN THIS LIFE, WE MISS THE ENTIRE POINT OF JESUS’ MESSAGE. “IT IS THE FATHER’S GOOD PLEASURE TO GIVE YOU THE KINGDOM;” THE KINGDOM OF GOD COMES TO US AS A GIFT OF THE FATHER, NOW, IN THIS LIFE. IT IS THE REIGN OF GOD BREAKING FORTH INTO THIS WORLD IN OUR MIDST. IT IS A GIFT THAT COMES TO US NOW AND KEEPS ON GIVING, AND IS FULFILLED IN THE NEXT LIFE. ITS FULNESS WILL COME TO THE WORLD WHEN THE LORD RETURNS IN GLORY, BUT HAS BROKEN INTO THIS WORLD IN THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS AND THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. WE, WHO HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE GIFT OF THE KINGDOM, PARTICIPATE IN THE GROWTH AND SPREAD OF THE KINGDOM BY BEING A PART OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, THE CHURCH, WHICH PROCLAIMS THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GRACE OF GOD NOT JUST BY WHAT WE SAY, BUT BY HOW WE LIVE.

WE LIVE IN THE GIFT OF THE KINGDOM, WHICH IS CONTRARY TO THE WAY OF THE WORLD. WE LIVE LIGHTLY IN THIS LIFE; FOR WE REALLY DO NOT NEED MORE THAN OUR DAILY BREAD, OR MORE THAN SUFFICIENT CLOTHING OR MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE ENOUGH TO DO THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM. THE FATHER HAS GIVEN US THE KINGDOM, SO WE GIVE TO ANYONE WHO NEEDS WHAT WE CAN GIVE THEM. THE FATHER HAS GIVEN US THE KINGDOM, SO WE FORGIVE OTHERS BECAUSE HE HAS FORGIVEN US. WE LIVE LIGHTLY, AND ALERTLY, ALWAYS LOOKING FOR THE SIGNS OF THE OUTBREAK OF THE KINGDOM IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS, AND THE SIGNS IN OUR OWN LIVES OF HOW THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN MIGHT BETTER MANIFEST ITSELF THROUGH US.

EVEN THOUGH WE PRAY EARNESTLY FOR THE RETURN OF OUR LORD AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD OVER ALL OF CREATION, WE MUST KEEP WATCH AND BE ALERT. WHEN YOU HAND OUT A PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH ON SATURDAY, SERVE SOMEONE LUNCH AT ‘LET’S HELP,” OR GIVE A FEW DOLLARS TO SOMEONE WHO ASKS THEM OF YOU, BE SURE TO LOOK INTO THEIR EYES. YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED AT WHO IS WATCHING YOU AS YOU DO THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
AMEN

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