Saturday, 23 November 2019

Showing up


Luke 23:33-43
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[ Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”


In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

On this last Sunday of the Liturgical year, just before we head on into Advent, we consider Jesus as king, or the Reign of Christ.
Before we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we consider his death.
And so our gospel reading this morning is part of the crucifixion story.
And, perhaps, in this small part of the story that we read this morning, we get a snapshot of the kind of king Jesus was, and a glimpse into the Christ who reigns today.
And, by considering his death, we might be better prepared to welcome his birth.

As Luke tells it, Jesus is led out to the site of the crucifixion and crucified with two other criminals.
Such execution was not done quietly or privately but in company, in full view of others, with as much shame and scandal, as much public outrage and mockery as could be mustered or incited.
So, in Luke’s retelling of the crucifixion, who are the key characters?
Who are our eyes drawn to - and why?
Perhaps the first characters we’re drawn to are the two criminals suffering a similar fate on either side of Jesus.
One of them, we’re told mocks Jesus: Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.
That seems, to me, like a reasonable request.
By all accounts, Jesus, even as he was paraded through the streets on the way to the place of execution is recognised as the one on whom revolutionaries and activists had pinned their hopes. He was recognised as innocent of crime - except perhaps the most dangerous sort of crime - noising up those in authority, questioning the place and the status of those who lorded it over others.
So, even at the point of execution Jesus is recognised by the criminals on either side as a notorious agitator, one who was even thought to be the Messiah - that longed for figure who would rescue people from the throes of oppression.
So, it seems reasonable to me that one of the criminals should ask him - or taunt him - Save yourself and us! 
If ever there was a moment to show your super power, this was it!
In contrast, the other criminal apparently treats Jesus with more respect. We’re told he rebukes his companion who is giving Jesus a hard time, he cites Jesus innocence as the reason they should be more respectful, and then he asks Jesus to remember him: 
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 
And, the astonishing thing is that Jesus assures him that that very day they will meet again in paradise.
So, in Luke’s account of the crucifixion, our eye is drawn to two criminals, facing the same fate, responding to death and to the person of Jesus so differently.

We might also be drawn to the leaders-  and the soldiers who carried out the leaders orders.
Mocking Jesus, taunting him with the titles “King of the Jews”, “Messiah”, asking why he can’t save himself, offering him sour wine, dividing up his clothes.
These folk were part of the oppressive regime that simply trampled others underfoot and, literally, go away with murder.
People so used to riding roughshod over everyone, that it ceased to horrify them.
Soldiers and leaders who took their cues from those above them and played their part in a system rotten at its core.
A system that oppressed the poor and paved the way for the rich to get richer.
Sound familiar?

So there were the criminals either side of Jesus, there were the leaders and soldiers who made life miserable for any and all who got in their way.
And there was the crowd:  And the people stood by, watching.
There are always the bystanders.
However many of these bystanders were not passive onlookers.
In this crowd, were those who, time after time, had been forced to watch countless acts of violence, been forced to look on as, time after time, justice was denied.
In this crowd, were many who bore witness to pain and cruelty.
There were mourners, there was family, there were Jewish officials, there were faithful women and men who showed up to witness yet another senseless act of death.
The faithful, who, it seems, could do little to change the course of events but who refused to turn away, refused to give in. The faithful who were committed to bear witness, committed to showing up.
And sometimes that is all we can do.
In the face of injustice.
In the face of evil.
When the mob rules and we cannot change the outcome.
Still we are called to show up.
And know that our showing up makes a difference.
It would be so easy today to resign ourselves to the suffering we see throughout the world, to the poverty, the homelessness, the violence we witness here on our own doorsteps. It would be easy to look away. To console ourselves with the promises of God that the Kingdom of God will be different. To lull ourselves into believing that better times are coming. And, in the meantime, we can wait it out.
God calls us to be better than that, to be more than that.
God’s call to us is to keep on showing up.
Because God’s kingdom is here.
Now.
And when we show up with all that we have alongside God, we bear witness, we hold out a light in the darkness, we hold out hope in the present and we make all the difference by simply showing up. 
Our God reigns - not in some future, longed for paradise - but here and now. 
And Christ the king calls us, the people of God today, to faithfulness, to showing up, to bearing witness and to living out God’s kingdom now.
As we approach Advent. As we prepare to welcome again, God born among us, let’s keep on showing up - for the glory of God.

Amen.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Apocalypse now!



Luke 21:5-19

The Destruction of the Temple Foretold
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Signs and Persecutions
They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.
“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Don't you just love this season of the year - I call it silly season.
The rest of the world, it seems, is gearing up for Christmas - and has been since Halloween - and the church is gearing up for Advent.
The rest of the world, in the unlikely event that it’s even considering sacred texts, is focusing on the Nativity.
And the church?
Is focusing on...  the Apocalypse.
Are we so out of step with our culture - the culture that God calls us to engage with good news?
And do we really need to read ancient apocalyptic texts today?
Isn’t there enough of the apocalypse happening in our world?
Aren’t there enough terrible things happening?
Isn’t there enough doom and gloom and scare mongering all around?
Do we need to indulge in it in the church too?
I happen to think that we do.
And here’s why:
When Jesus started spouting apocalyptic narrative and metaphor, he was appealing to those on the margins.
He wasn’t indulging those who were comfortable.
He wasn’t kow towing to those whose fortunes depended on the current structures remaining in place.
When Jesus got heavy, apocalyptic heavy, he was preaching a message of hope for the poor and the marginalised.
When Jesus got weird and started noising up the status quo, he was speaking words of security for the displaced and the dispossessed.
Because disruption of the empire could only be good news for those on the periphery.
The notion that all that kept the downtrodden in their place was about to be shaken up, literally toppled - was good news for the oppressed.
So even though, throughout Luke’s gospel, we tend to find Jesus being positive about the temple:
It’s the place where Simeon and Anna wait to greet the new Messiah
It’s the place where Jesus gets lost on a family outing
It’s the place where Jesus sets out his manifesto - Good news for the poor and the like
It’s the place that Jesus goes to lengths to protect as a place of prayer, driving out money changers and all that jazz.
Even though this has been a place Jesus has hung out in, observing and being seen, his prophesying its downfall would be music to the ears of those considered the dregs of society, those who longed for change, those who yearned for justice.
The destruction of the temple is, for them, a symbol of the possibility of revolution.

And that makes it entirely appropriate that these are the texts we turn to at this time of year - indeed at any time when we want to affirm that God’s kingdom is here and that we have a part to play in changing our world, in overthrowing injustice, in demolishing the status quo.
For those at the bottom of the heap, these are not words of the end times.
But words of hope in the present.
These are not words that invite us to indulge in escapism and imagine the new world to come that is out of this world.
Not words that invite us to dream of a blessed future.
These are words that speak of hope.
Hope now.
The hope that God’s kingdom, a kingdom of peace and freedom, a kingdom of justice and love will prevail in our world - not in some ethereal future, but here and now.
Apocalypse now would mean that those disenfranchised by Brexit would find a place to call home.
Apocalypse now would mean that those who are homeless would find shelter and those who are hungry would have enough to eat without being forced to rely on food banks.
Apocalypse now would mean that those who flee their homes because of violence and war would find a welcome and a refuge.
These words do not belong to the future.
They belong to now.
We are called to realise the kingdom of God among us.
Make up your minds, Jesus said. I will give you wisdom...
Our call is not to sit back and let governments sort out crises.
Our call is not to pin our hopes on an election or a referendum or a slowing down of climate change, however important those may be.
Our call is to live into and invite others into God’s kingdom of peace and justice, of equity and love - NOW.
Our call is to love as those who hope - not just for the future, but for now.
And that, right there, is counter cultural today.
Maintaining hope, not just for the future but for NOW.
Seeing beyond the appalling state of the world - globally and locally and knowing that it can be different.
And, out of our knowing, making a difference.
By showing up.
By speaking up.
By stepping up.
To serve God’s kingdom - that’s already among us.
What we do here week by week is counter cultural today.
And so is the kingdom of God.
So,let’s keep on being out of step.
Let’s take heed of Jesus’ apocalyptic words, words that are music to the ears of all who suffer, words of hope, not fear.
Hope will not be extinguished.
Love will not be defeated.
God’s kingdom is here.
May God give us hope and help us to live in love - not as those who despair today but as those who live and work alongside God in building God’s kingdom.
Apocalypse now.

Amen.


Sunday, 22 September 2019

Creative in Crisis

Luke 16:1-13
Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

In the Name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustaining Spirit. Amen

One of the frustrating things about written communication is that it’s often hard to grasp the tenor of a letter or an email or a text - even when we employ devices like emojis to give some kind of clue about whether we’re being humorous or sarcastic or deadly serious.
Anyone scrolling through my texts or Facebook or twitter conversations might form a very different opinion of me to the judgement they’d make from a face to face meeting - Maybe!

There are lots of passages in the gospels, especially those so-called red-letter passages, that are full of Jesus’ words,  that I’d have loved to be able to see Jesus face as he spoke.
I want to see that tilt of his head, the glint in his eye or the tongue in his cheek.
Jesus was a wind up merchant.
He saw right through the piety and the practices of those around him - and he called them out on it constantly and, while, when Jesus wanted to, he cut to the chase, and took no prisoners, there were other times when, it seems, he enjoyed letting folk sift through his words, work things out, times when he allowed his message to sink in, bit by bit - because there was a lot - then and now, for folk to take in.
With this parable today, we are invited, not to gloss over it because it seems difficult, but to engage with it and discover how it might speak into our lives and into the life of the world we inhabit.
Never, in any of Jesus’ parables, are we allowed to be bystanders.
We are always implicated.
So what are we to do with today’s gospel?
How might we allow it to speak into our lives here as we celebrate the signs of harvest all around us?

Well, in the absence of those facial expressions or body language or even emojis, one of the things we have to rely on is the context of Jesus’ words as the gospel writers located them.
Todays gospel is placed between the parable of the prodigal Son and the parable of the Rich man and the poor man, Lazarus.
Two parables either side of today’s about gifts that have been squandered, about opportunities that have been missed.
And in the parable we read today,  about the dishonest manager, we’re told that the charges brought against the manager were also charges of squandering - he was accused of squandering the rich man’s property.
But it’s not just property that has been squandered - relationships have been squandered too.
Relationships have been squandered in all three of these parables, - the prodigal son wrote off his family, the manager exploited those he did business with and the rich man barely noticed the poor man at his gate.

Relationships are really important to Luke as he frames his gospel.
Throughout Luke’s gospel, there’s an emphasis on relationship, particularly Jesus’ relationships with those he encountered.
At every turn, Luke portrays Jesus as hanging out with those who were considered to be at the bottom of the heap, those deemed by others, beyond the pale.
Jesus was the talk of the steamie - or the synagogue - because of the company he kept.
The Pharisees in particular didn’t like the company Jesus kept and constantly criticised him for it.
And Luke, through his emphasis on relationships, gives us a glimpse into the social divisions of the day.

There’s also a whole economic divide highlighted by Luke in the parables he chooses to share.
He shares stories of folk in positions of relative prosperity and status having to rely on those much further down the food chain to bale them out in their hour of need.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we find the guy beaten up on the road to Jericho desperate for help,  any help, just grateful for anyone who won’t pass him by - even a Samaritan.
In the story of the prodigal Son, we find the son wishing that he could be as well off as the hired hands back at home, the ones he’d taken for granted all his life.
And the prodigal’s elder brother finds that he can’t join the party until he makes friends with the prodigal.
In today’s parable, the manager who lorded it over others, in his time of crisis, sees those others as his way out of a life of penury.
Maybe, just maybe, that’s why he is commended.
Because when the chips are down, when we’re backed into a corner, we are forced to get creative.
This man, in his hour of need, displays the same kind of desperation as the woman who had haemorrhaged for 12 years and worked up the courage to touch Jesus cloak. He found the same kind of courage that Jacob found when he stayed up all night to wrestle with God, in order to extract God’s blessing.
Desperate times call for desperate measures!

Today’s gospel shines a light on socio-economic, on political and on ethnic divisions that surrounded Jesus with Jesus in the midst of all that focusing on relationship, modelling for us a way of being in relationship with one another that is compassionate, that is restorative and that invites creativity.

Here, surprise, surprise, we have a gospel that speaks right into our world today.
This is a gospel that invites us to approach the celebration of Harvest with compassion, with an eye to what is restorative and that invokes our creativity as we relate to all around us.
This is a parable in which we are implicated as we wrestle with all of our socio-economic, our political and our ethnic divisions.

So let’s, just for a moment, consider 3 of those divisions with which we wrestle today - let’s talk about  Brexit, let’s talk about austerity measures and let’s talk about climate change.

Wherever you stand on the question of Brexit, we cannot deny that, in the name of Brexit, many have grasped an excuse to exclude and discriminate against others.
And the categories of those whom we consider “other” continues to grow, fuelled by the lies told and perpetrated in Brexit debates.

Whatever your political persuasion, no party seems able to address or redress years of austerity measures.
And the gap between rich and poor becomes an ever widening chasm.

Every weekend, we see our town and city centres filled with activists , protesting government policies and calling for justice for the citizens of the world, for those not yet born and for the earth itself. For the truth is that we’re not simply dealing with the economies of today, but with the deficits of the future, the things that, by the way we live and the choices we make, we are denying those who follow us into the future.

So what can we do?
We who claim to live by a different rhythm, we who are influenced by a totally different set of economics, the economy of the Kingdom of God.
How can we follow Jesus modelling relationships that are compassionate, that are restorative and that are creative?

As we celebrate Harvest today, we’re encouraged to confront those economies in which we operate and to assess the relationships we value.
We’re encouraged to question the ethics of of where our food comes from and how it reaches our tables.
We’re encouraged to consider the conditions of those who labour.
We’re encouraged to call out sharp practice.
We’re encouraged to wake up to crisis today.
Because it is by waking up to crisis, like the dishonest manager,  that we will find creative ways not to save the church, not even to save ourselves, but to listen and learn from those outside our normal circles, 
to listen and learn from those outside of our religious circles, 
to listen and learn from those outside of our social circles, 
to listen and learn from those we consider poor, 
to listen and learn from those we consider other, 
to listen and learn how we might survive the crises that assail us- and not just survive but flourish, making it possible for all of creation to know and to share in  the abundance that God promises and longs for us to know.
Waking up to crisis involves us re-evaluating our relationships.
Creativity  for us might come through listening to a 16 year old Swedish schoolgirl who invites us to wake up to the crisis of climate change.
Transformation might come from hanging out at the food bank, listening to the stories of those whose benefits have been sanctioned with no safety net.
Restoration might come from recognising that the economy of the Kingdom of God is so far removed from the economy in which the world operates.
Relationships matter much more than prosperity.
And everyone counts.
Instead of scarcity, there is abundance in God’s kingdom.
An abundance that transforms.

We are not bystanders.
Jesus parable implicates us.
But the good news is that still God invites us to be co-creators.
Still, God invites us to bring about transformation in our neighbourhood and in our world.
Still God invites us to be involved in the restoration of individuals and of communities, locally and globally.
Beginning first by listening to others, recognising how much we have to learn and receive from others, not just what we are able to give.

And, so, in this place, as we celebrate Harvest, as we take stock of the abundance and the ravages of the earth all around us, God invites us to be imaginative and creative in our relationships, with God, with one another and with the earth.
We are invited, with the God of the harvest, to wake up to the crises all around and to be courageously creative in seeking and in implementing how we might be shrewd managers of all of God’s gifts today.

For the glory of God.
Amen 





Sunday, 11 August 2019

Follow your treasure!


Hebrews 11:1-3; 8-16
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Luke 12:32-40
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 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. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 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. 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. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
“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. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...

In one of the schools I used to visit as school chaplain, there was a poster on the Head Teacher’s door that asked: “What have you done today to make you feel proud?”
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
That came back to me this week as I read these texts - particularly the Hebrews passage, where we find these words:
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God....
I wonder if that accolade - God is not ashamed to be called their God, would be attributed to us today?
God is not ashamed to be called their God.
In a similar vein to the question What have you done today to make you feel proud, we might ask:
What have we done today that would make God unashamed to be called our God?
That accolade is one not lightly given in the history of the people of God, a history liberally peppered with so much oppression and injustice.
Yet, of Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Jacob, people of faith, who followed where God called, God was not ashamed to be called their God.

Unless we’ve been living in a hole in the ground, we all know too well, that, everyday, God weeps at the way we treat one another and at the way we are so careless with creation.
And at how often, we do such things in the name of God.
God’s challenge to us today, people of faith, people who live in hope, people who are convicted by God’s will, God’s challenge to us is to set out, with God, to make a difference.
To leave what we know.
To stop being resigned to all that brings despair.
To step out and step up and make a difference.
God is calling us as he called Abraham and Sarah and Jacob and Isaac, God is calling us to leave what we know, to embrace the faith we profess and, by that faith, to follow God to the places we are called today.
Each of us here is uniquely called and gifted by God.
Each of us has a task to perform that no one else can do.
And, as we are called, those words from today’s gospel, go with us:
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Do not be afraid...  Words God speaks again and again throughout history as words of calling:
Do not be afraid.
Why shouldn’t we be afraid? 
Because God gives us the kingdom.
Along with God’s call, and along with God’s gifting, we are presented with God’s kingdom.

Let’s think for a moment to whom Jesus addressed these words, words that inform and convict us today.
There was the crowd around him, who eagerly soaked up all the words that this teacher shared as he toured the region. 
There were his disciples, whom he was preparing to take on God’s mission.
And there were also the scribes and the Pharisees whom Jesus had consistently criticised for putting such heavy burdens on the folk by their teaching, heavy burdens that they didn’t  lift a finger to ease. Telling folk all that they must do and not helping them in  any way to see how that might be accomplished.
The crowd, the disciples, the Scribes and Pharisees.
All hearing this teaching that Jesus shared.
And the huge difference in Jesus teaching, from other teachers of the day was that Jesus teaching also provided the means by which the calling he set before us can be lived out.
Jesus presented the teaching and the way.
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Christ presents us with all we need to live into our calling today.

Just as surely as Abraham was presented with all he needed to perform the task God set him, so we are presented with all we need to respond to God’s call today.
The question is - if God has already given us the kingdom, if the kingdom is here now - and not something that is to come - a long way in the future - why aren’t we seeing more kingdom signs in our world.
Why aren’t we seeing justice done, loved lived out?
I’d suggest that it’s because we don’t really believe that we can experience the kingdom of God today.
We’ve convinced ourselves that the kingdom of God is something for the future, something we can only experience in the future when God deigns to make all right with the world.
In spite of Jesus teaching, in spite of those words in our gospel: 
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 
We don’t believe it is something we can really know today. 
We still think of God’s kingdom as a future event, unattainable in our time.
And yet Jesus constantly asserted that the kingdom is near.
We simply don’t believe it.
Because believing in the kingdom would demand too much of us.
Believing that we can be part of justice, that we can live in love means we would have to drastically change our way of life.
More than counting our blessings, we’d have to view our blessings as gifts for others - we’d have to see ourselves as blessed to be a blessing, view God’s gifts not as rewards for our faithfulness but as the means by which we see God’s kingdom today, when we share those gifts with others.
Even as believers, we often find ourselves asking: Why, God is there so much suffering in the world?
And God weeps.
Because we already have all that is required to ensure that no one goes hungry, that no one lacks clean water. 
We already have all that is needed for all to find shelter, for all to be clothed.
God has given and continues to give us the kingdom so that we can live in peace, sharing with all.
But we have made of that gift a pipe dream for the future... something we pray for.
And God tires of our prayers that are unaccompanied by action.

And let’s hear again those other words of Jesus contained in the text, words that are often misappropriated:
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
How often we interpret that as - Follow you heart, and the rest will fall into place.
And that’s not the message Jesus shares.
Jesus exhorts us to give our treasures - and then we will be invested in what we give away.
Giving away what we have, sharing the gifts we have been given, results in us being invested in seeing that those gifts are put to good use, that they bear fruit.
Do you see how that’s different to us “following our heart?”
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The task and the outcome is quite different when we follow Jesus teaching.
Of course it is our hope that we will find our passion by following our treasure - but we have to do it that way around - using the gifts we have been given, squandering those gifts, if you like, for God, so that we can find the passion that will follow.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


Today we might ask - how are we going to begin to be the answer to the prayers we make in all sincerity and hopefulness?
How can we use our gifts in the service of God, finding passion through our giving?
And -
How can we live in God’s kingdom NOW so that God is unashamed to be called our God?

The unique call of God to each of us today is every bit as challenging as it was to Abraham and Sarah - to leave what we know, what has become comfortable and to step out in faith knowing that the promises of God and the kingdom, present now, are enough. 
And that the gifts we have been given are enough. 
Enough to sustain and enough to make a difference if we have the faith. 
Because faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

May we know God’s grace accompanying us today as we follow God’s call, as we step out and step up in faith.
May we share our gifts, discover our passion and know that, with God, we are enough.
God’s kingdom is here.
For the glory of God
Amen