T h i s _W e e k ' s _S e r m o n
ear can be a good thing, for it can keep us from falling.
One of my high school summer jobs was working with a tinsmith who flashed chimneys, installed gutters, and cleaned our gutters. One job was four floors high. We could not use extension ladders, so we got up on the steep pitched roof and inched our way along the edges cleaning debris out of the gutters as we crawled along with our shirts off thinking that would help stick us to the shingles. It is obvious that the thing that kept us from falling was the fear of falling: knowing that we could fall.
However, fear can be destructive if we allow ourselves to obsess about unrealistic fears. It is a good idea to check our skin for skin cancer twice a year, or have our medical doctor do it at our checkup. It is not hard to do. However, we have all known folks who could turn something like that into an unrealistic phobia. Fear can be a good or bad thing.
In our story we hear Jesus telling us, His beloved "little flock," to trust in
him and to not be neurotically fearful. Sure, we need to be afraid of evil, and
we need to know our weaknesses; but, with our hand in His hand we are safe. Jesus
instructs us to make strong purses that will last because we can count on His
abundance. Most believer's lack of funds is not because of lack of resources
but because they do not utilize biblical principles and frugality when making
financial decisions. Financial fear can be alleviated by sound planning.
Let us choose to live by Jesus' assurance to us: "Fear not, littleflock..." However, Jesus' promise is conditional upon our remaining a part of His, "little flock," of believers. He is not making a blanket promise to those who are not party to the covenant. One of the great benefits of being a disciple is that we are given a sense of security. We are like a child who feels so secure in the families love that they have no fear of being cast out. We are Jesus' adopted brothers and sisters in the household of the Father. He will never leave or forsake us. We should feel the security of the family. We have no fear about God deserting us.
You may have heard the story about a five year old that had spent his early years in foster homes. He had never drunk a full glass of milk as each child was only allowed to drink down just one swallow. In his new home a big glass of milk was set beside his plate at suppertime. The little fellow looked up and asked, "How deep can I drink?" His new mother said, "Drink it all down, it is all for you!" This is how we should feel in our Heavenly Father's family. All of His blessings and rewards belong to us; we are in the family now. God will not leave us or forsake us.
However, we can sure leave Him. We have all known children, and sometimes adults, who have willfully forsaken their faith and the family of God. One of our preachers had a young teenager run away from home. After a year his family had almost given him up. Then one afternoon the mother was standing at the kitchen window and saw her boy coming home. He was filthy and his hair was matted but the Mother embraced her son and said, "Boy we have got to clean you up before Daddy gets home!" The young man took a long overdue shower and found some clothes that almost fit his taller but thinner frame. Mom had called her husband and when the son came into the den he was embraced by his loving Father.
The Good News is that we can come home again! God always awaits our return home. But we have to make the trek back into His outstretched arms.
It is through the spiritual process of overcoming our problems and fears that we experience a heightened closeness to God. We learn that in relying on God, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," that we can know for certain that we are in His Little Flock. Jesus casts out fears not so much by taking away our problem; but rather, by giving victory amid the pain--- and that's the greatest victory of all.
Luke's Gospel then goes on to remind us to always remain dressed and readily awaiting our elder brother Jesus' return to earth to take us home.
One of the powerful forces that has enabled the Church to be strong during most of its two-thousand years of waiting has been this concept of readiness. For all of those members of the Flock who have already gone to be in the Heavenly Family, Jesus' returned to receive them at their deaths. However, we the current Flock, the Church active in this life, are called to await a cataclysmic return of the Lord during our lifetimes. In other words, we are called to be ready at all times, whether Christ Returns during our lifetime or at our death. The point being that we are ready no matter when Christ comes. The upside is that believers have been encouraged to remain awake and alert.
We are not supposed to know when that time will be. Jesus used the analogy that if the homeowner knew exactly when the thief was coming then he would be awaiting the thief Likewise, we are called to remain on high alert at all times, bathed and dressed and ready for whatever.
The sad news is that the runaway preacher's kid who returned home and responded to God's call to be in missions, was tragically killed in an airplane crash just a few years later. But the Good News is that he was dressed and ready on that day that Jesus called him home and now he is in Glory waiting for his own little family to come home to him this time.
"You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at and unexpected hour." (v.40, NRSV)
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor