Blessings to everyone on Ash Wednesday!If you are in town, please join us for worship this evening at 6:30 PM.
Luke 12:32 – 34
32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell 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. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus has told them not to be anxious – he has told parables about why they should not worry about what to eat or what to wear. He has pointed out that greed and hoarding are damaging to the soul. But now, he makes it very personal, calling them “little flock” – those dear to him, as children would be. And he reminds them that it is their (our) Father’s good pleasure to give them the kingdom.
Wait a minute, Jesus – aren’t we supposed to fight and struggle and win our freedom from sin? gain our way into the kingdom with our own righteousness? No – Jesus says God wants to give us the kingdom! That was what Jesus came for – to bring us back into relationship with God – to show us his love – to bring us back into life in God’s will, and following God’s will is our way into the kingdom. But this is not to be a hard life of following rigid rules – to follow God’s will is to live in relationship with God, to live in the joy of knowing him. This is the life that is God’s good pleasure to give us.
But, for those who could not help worrying about their possessions, Jesus has a rather radical suggestion – get rid of them! We have read a lot in recent years about divesting, downsizing, simplifying our lives – less “stuff” means less worries! Stop worrying, Jesus says, about the things that do not really matter; just get rid of them, and give the proceeds to the poor. Learn generosity.
Replace fear and worry with generosity – that is the purse that does not wear out. What we give away creates treasure in heaven – in hearts. Jesus is offering his disciples a great gift, the joy of living generously. He offers that gift to us as well.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Think of this entire passage – it began with a young man who was in the very presence of Jesus, who could have been receiving the blessing of Jesus’ own words. But his heart was with the treasure, the inheritance, his brother was holding – he missed out on relationship with his brother, and on hearing Jesus because of where his heart was. And Jesus told a story, about a man who worried about storing his abundant crops, never even thinking about giving some away – his heart was with amassing wealth for his own comfort, and he missed out on relationships he could have gained, salvation for his soul, by sharing. And then Jesus talks about worrying about what we will eat or what we will wear – about our comfort and our possessions. When we worry about things we are distracting ourselves from what is really important – our relationship with God, loving God and our neighbor. Where is my heart today? Where is your heart today?
Today is the beginning of Lent. As we follow Jesus to Jerusalem – remember, Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem in Luke 9 – we are called to be disciples. Lent is a time to devote our hearts to Jesus, to find and do the things that lead us closer to him, to spend more time in the spiritual disciplines that help us come closer to him: prayer, fasting, worship, scripture, study, community. If you fast during Lent, do it in a way that brings you closer to God – if you give up something, say a prayer each time you refuse it, save the money that you would have spent on it and give to a charity. If you change a habit, use the time to spend in prayer or meditation or reading scripture. And I pray that your Lent will be blessed by an ever-growing nearness to God!