Sermon preached at Plumstead Methodist Church
Luke 12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35 "Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 "But know 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. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."
Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you." 6 So we can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?" 7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Our scripture passage today begins with the words:
“Luk 12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
So what is going on? Who is Jesus speaking to and why would they be afraid?
Let me provide a context to this Bible reading:
Luk 12:1 Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered by the thousands, so that they trampled on one another, Jesus began to speak .......
Jesus has been preaching in the rural areas. He is preaching to people who are really struggling for life.
Every Empire in history has marched through their land – the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks and now the Romans. They have been hammered by soldiers.
· They are very poor, living from hand to mouth
· They are often sick with mysterious diseases, and little access to any kind of health care
· They are poorly educated, and very few can read or write
Is it any wonder that they are afraid of life –
They are afraid of soldiers / of poverty / of illness / ... and of God.
Is it any wonder that the first words that Jesus speaks to them are “Luk 12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom”?
Now let me take us forward in time by fifty or sixty years: to the next generation who follow Jesus:
· The next generation are homeless: this Christian community has seen Jerusalem burned to the ground by Roman soldiers, and has scattered across the empire.
· They are bankrupt: have fled for their lives, losing everything.
· And now they are persecuted: the Emperor Nero blaming them for the great fire of Rome.
One of their leaders is St Luke: who looks for a way to encourage them – and he remembers these words of Jesus:
Luk 12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
So here is my question – do we have any connection with these people of the Bible?
Is there anyone here who is afraid?
· Anyone afraid of the economy? Anyone who has checked the petrol price / return on your investments / cost of groceries?
· Afraid for your health? How are your knees / Blood pressure / (I have to get out of bed by swinging my feet off the bed – and using the door handle to get me on my feet!)
· Afraid of crime and corruption? Here I speak to those of us who have fences around our house / armed response / or a gun in the drawer!
· Can I ask those who are New Parents
– Are you afraid for your children’s future - Do you shout at politicians on TV that they are messing up your children’s future?
- Are you afraid that you will not cope – do you shout at each other... or at the in-laws?
Perhaps we too need to hear the words of Jesus:
Luk 12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom”
And as Jesus says this, I can hear each group asking Jesus – so how do I stop being afraid?
This is not a simple question!
Have you ever been afraid?
I remember as a child my job was to lock the Church after the evening service: This was the Simonstown Methodist Church. This is the oldest Methodist Church in SA, which makes it old and creaky! The light was at the door – lock the door from the inside, switch the light off – and sprint down the aisle and out the vestry. Very scary! My dad said “Don’t be afraid” – do you think that helped?
So this is not a “Don’t be afraid” message that assumes you can stop feeling afraid because someone tells you to stop.
Jesus says that there are two steps to losing our fear:
Stop trusting our riches to take away our fear.
This is a common mistake that we human beings make.
Throughout history we have thought that if we have money we will be safe
That is why we enter the lotto – if only I had that money I would never be afraid again!
In fact: Having stuff will not take away our fear... this might make us even more fearful!Now aAdded to all our fears is the fear of losing our possessions.
Jesus is quite clear. Vs 33 “Sell your possessions, and give to the poor”
If you want to live without fear - Stop trusting your possessions
Discover that Jesus is with you.
Luke 12:36: “be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.”
We can lose our fear, because we have a friend who comes and knocks at the door of our lives at the moment of our fear.
Let me take us back to my story of locking the church:
There was a moment when I stopped being afraid of running through the dark church – It came when I told my dad that I was afraid.
Do you know what his answer was?
“Don’t be afraid – I am here with you”.
Jesus is able to tell the flock not to be afraid – because he promised to be with them:
Let us not be afraid
And let us not think that money is the way to stay safe
Instead – discover that God is with you every step of the way.
Allow me to conclude by pointing out – the best way of discovering the presence of God is through the people that God sends our way
· people who encourage us,
· people who support us,
· people who provide us with strength.
In the same way – when we pray for someone else to have courage in life, we might have to hear God saying to us “So how are you going to become the encourager?”
The best way for us to lose our fear is for us to become a community that cares for one another / to become a community that gives each other courage / a community that rebukes fear by showing the Love, and the Grace, and the Strength of God.
These are the signs of the Kingdom of God. And when we practice these signs, then God’s peace is with us:
The words from Hebrews sum up the point I am making:
Re-read Hebrews 13: 5-8