August 7, 2022 at Saint Agnes and Saint Peter Churches in Naples, FL
Wisdom 18, 6-9 + Psalm 33 + Hebrews 11, 1-2 & 8-19 + Luke 12, 32-48
Did we just hear warnings, commandments, or suggestions? I counted eight: Don’t be afraid, put on your shoes, sell your stuff, give to those in need, put your coat on, turn on the porch light, stay by the door, and shut the windows. That’s my take on these verses, and it might just be that the last seven are instructions on how to have no fear.
Whatever. The sacred scriptures today give us plenty to think about when it comes to faith, and if taken seriously, these readings ought to give us every reason to take a good new look at this matter of faith because too many people think that faith is a noun, not a person, not a place, but a thing. NOT, says the Word of God. It’s a verb. Faith is not something you have or believe in. It is action. It is practice. It is the movement of our lives. It is what pulls out of our seats as passive or curious spectators changing us into participants. That’s what a faithful person is: person of action, a person who lives, a person who serves, a person who gives, a person who works for the coming of the Kingdom.
People of faith are on the move. They are not stuck in their ways or stuck with their opinions. They are always changing because they are alive and growing. That’s what’s going on between Jesus and his disciples in these verses today. They have been stuck with their old ideas about a Messiah. Here come Jesus, and he awakens their faith and they start to move toward Jerusalem. Remember, Jerusalem in Luke’s Gospel is not just city. It must always make us think of the New Jerusalem, Heaven.
“Don’t be afraid” is what he says to them and to us. Don’t be afraid to let go of those things, places, and attitudes that have been our refuge, our hiding places, or those old things that have given us security and made us feel right. We are a people invited into the future, and we can only get there by leaving our fears, our pessimisms, and like the disciples, maybe leaving behind our old ideas about God. That old idea instilled in too many of us too long ago that God is watching us. Remember hearing that? It’s an image of a God who is lurking in the shadows just waiting to catch us at something and punish us. That was the God the disciples had to leave. The God of the rule book. The God of wrath and anger. The God Jesus revealed as Father is watching all right, but he is watching over us, and that is something new.
We are told that the Israelites ate the Passover meal standing up with their shoes on ready to go. They ate that unleavened bread because they didn’t want to wait for it to rise. We might do well to remember that here. Instead of sitting near the doors ready to grab communion and bolt out those doors in order to get out of the parking lot and go home, we might capture some of that readiness to get out of here alright, but not to go home, not to go back to the same old comforts and the same old ways of thinking and acting, but anxious to get out into this city, this neighborhood and do something because faith will not let us just sit back and watch. Faith will pull us forward, stretch our limits, challenge our old ways of thinking, and lead us to take a risk or two without fear of what someone will think or say, or how they will look at us if we make the sign of the cross.
This place is our launching pad. It’s where we get fueled up and prepped for the journey. It’s where our vision of the future gets focused. We can’t come here to be soothed and sing sweet lullabies. We come here to catch fire, to be singed by the Holy Spirit, and pour out of here with the message of God’s presence, the assurance that someone is watching over us, and that there is a future filled with joyful peace, and a place where everyone will feel at home no matter what they may have done in the past. That is what faith looks like, and it is what faithful people can accomplish. The hungry are fed. The thirsty have full cup. The naked are clothed. The homeless have a roof not a car. Those who are alone will find one of us at their side.