August 7, 2016
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
I have been thinking a lot about inheritance lately. It has been a part of our scripture last week and this. It has also been on my mind from giving thanks for people’s lives in funerals.
Somewhere along the way it was suggested to me that one way to think about inheritance is not “what stuff from that person’s possessions do you wish to own for yourself,” but “what qualities, what traits, what virtues, what evidence of the grace of God, did you find in this person’s life that you want more of in your own life?”
Over the past three years I have lost three of the most influential men in my life. Boyd Carter died after a time of illness in 2013. Then this spring and summer, Larry Landau and Bob Moore each died in ways that were sudden and tragic and unexpected.
What I saw in Boyd that I would pray for more of in my life are his integrity, his intentionality and his authenticity; In Larry I saw wisdom, compassion, and a genuine desire and willingness to help others that I would pray for more of in my life; Bob’s insight, his dedication, and his prophetic spirit are the evidence of God’s grace I would pray for more of in my life.
Each were men of faith, albeit each very different. Each one of these men had a profound impact on who I am as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a pastor.
Who are the people who have impacted who you are? What qualities in them do you want to see more of in your own lives? Not everything. We can acknowledge that our beloved people are human. We know of mistakes, even tragedies, associated with their lives. But what traits did they have that made you give God thanks for their being a part of your life?
This is a worthwhile meditation for us individually. But we can also approach it as a congregation. Who are our beloved saints of the past in our own church, and what gifts did they exhibit that we want more of in our own life as a community of faith?
[pause for some answers]
Our Gospel reading takes off from last week’s where there is an inheritance fight. One son trying to triangulate Jesus into being a probate judge against his brothers. This week’s reading opens with words of assurance:
But do not be worried. It is God’s good pleasure for us to inherit not just the best qualities of those who have shown us what it means to be better than we are, but even the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached.
We live in anxious times. However else it may show up, anxiety is the need to rush and grasp and secure the future for ourselves. We see this in small ways like how people drive, rushing up the lane that is closing down so they can scoot in at the last minute and save themselves from being, horror of horrors, ten cars back in the line that is all going the same speed. We see it in big ways, like how the closer to an election we get, every political campaign relies on attack ads saying that if the other side wins we are all doomed.
The answer Jesus gives our worry about the future and how to control it is “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
When looking to the future, one of the exercises that helps people look past their anxiety is to ask the question, “If you knew you could not fail, what would you attempt?”
Of course, Jesus does not just tell them to be not anxious. He takes it further and shows them what the next steps would be.
“Sell your possessions, and give alms.”
If it is not our stuff that secures our future, are we not free to let go of all that stuff we grasp and hold on to, and to use it to help those around us?
“Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
What kind of purse does not wear out? What can we have that no thief can take, no moth or rust destroy?
Maybe the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Maybe these traits and gifts we see in those we love that we wish we had more of in our lives. Maybe the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, which will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.
For what we treasure most, that is where our hearts will be, either in fear or in faith. That is what we will think about, either as “oh my gosh, we have to do this and get it done,” or as “Lord, I need you as I walk in faith towards this, and if this is not it, I ask you to gently turn me to what it is that I need to be about.” That is what will propel us forward or keep us stuck.
There is an image that Jesus uses in the Gospels that seems strange to us. It is the thief in the night. In this instance, the thief is Jesus and the disciples. They are robbing the world of people. They are taking people who are commodities to be bought and sold, to be used as statistics and cogs for the machinery of the empire, and stealing them away to be fully human in the kingdom that it is God’s good pleasure to give.
Jesus commands us to be ready, work clothes on, lamps full, because there are many who need to be helped, many who need to be shown that they are more than what the world thinks of them, many who need to know that there is more than grasping, more than worrying, more than anxious living, more than political campaigns.
For it is God’s good pleasure to give to us an inheritance better than gold, finer than silk. Something that will not wear out. Let us receive it as children of God.
Thanks be to God. Amen.