Saturday, August 7, 2010
Some Sermon Notes for Sunday, August 8 2010
"Be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." Luke 12:40"
Be ready...the Son of Man...an unexpected hour
These are the three notions from Sunday's gospel lesson that have stuck in my craw after thinking about it a bit. Be ready...Son of Man...unexpected hour. So without further ado let's jump right into some good ole fashioned commentary reading.
L.T. Johnson, Luke: Sacra Pagina
First things first. The Lectionary stinks. Yeah I said it...there. The Lectionary STINKS. Sure it's generally a great tool for reading the bible in the context of worship, but man the divisions that committee came up with are the pits. I didn't need Johnson to tell me that either.
Johnson takes the Lectionary text (Luke 12:32-40) and has it divided between two sections (Luke 12:13-34 and Luke 12:35-48). Why is this important? Well, basically it's because we read this week what we should have read last week, "Where your treasure is their your heart shall be." You see Jesus was trying to use that chestnut on the man who asks Jesus to arbitrate in the family inheritance dispute that started in Luke 12:13. SO that unfortunately, we have a great little retort from Jesus that feels more like a fortune cookie than a "get your act together buddy" smackdown. Our Sunday text really belongs in a section that's about...wait for it...wait for it...READINESS. Our text for this Sunday is really about what it means to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man. Ready for what you may ask? Nothing really, JUST THE END OF THE WORLD! (Cue Dum-Dum-DUUUUM music)
You see that whole section before with the guy who wants Jesus to arbitrate in a disagreement over inheritance is a chance for Jesus to tell his disciples not to worry about the mundane stuff of human existence. This is proverbial chicken feed compared to what you should be worried about and that is the stuff that God is worried about namely the Kingdom of God. That's how Johnson sees it anyway; the mundane stuff isn't comparable to God stuff.
Here's the kicker: there are two kinds of servants; the ones who have faithfully tended the house while the master was away and the ones who acted like they were the master. But on Sunday we're only gonna hear about the first kind...so how do you preach a sermon about the coming of the Son of Man without the fuller context of the whole of the 12th chapter of Luke? I have no idea...darn lectionary and it's crazy editors!
N.T. Wright, Luke for Everyone
Bah! Same divisions of the text for Wright and L.T. Johnson!?!?!! You're no help Tom! No help at all! (Just kidding Professor Wright. Yes, I would love to come to Aberdeen or wherever and study New Testament with you. You're paying for my full tuition and giving me a stipend of 20,000 pounds a year? That's fantastic!)
Wright focuses his commentary on preparedness of the disciples and the inherit failure of those who have tended the religious life of Israel. The disciples are the good servants and the Temple tenders are the bad servants. But that would be too easy for Wright and far too easy for Luke. Wright goes on to say that the issue is that whoever is tending the Temple and the religious life of Israel holds the remarkable responsibility of caring for the Kingdom of God while the King is away. (Those in the gender neutral camp and the post-colonial liberation theology camp will give me just a bit of linguistic wiggle room here I'll be happy...and thanks.) Those responsible for God's work in the world are tasked with a great and mighty work that requires the reordering of their priorities and a deep sense of the weight of office. No matter if you're a disciple, one of the twelve, called to represent the New Israel for the life of the world, or the keeper of the keys of the Temple and her precincts YOU BETTER BE READY AND FAITHFUL STEWARDS. (Man I'm using a lot of caps aren't I?)
Jesus is Coming...Look Busy
Next to the "I've Found Jesus...He was behind the Sofa the Whole Time" bumper sticker the "Jesus is Coming...Look Busy" works better here. Our text is a text of promise and warning all tied together. God brings judgement against those who claim to be God's servants. This judgement is sometimes a happy thing (when you're a prepared and faithful servant) and other times its a terrifying one (if despite your servant status you decided to act like the master).
(Whether you are a disciple or a pharisee you're going to get what's coming to you.)
I think Sunday's passage means that God's call is to be ever vigilant that the work we are doing on God's behalf is motivated properly, carried out properly and constantly under review regarding motivation and activity. We don't just get to look busy and say we're about God's business. Our business isn't always God's business and God will bring God's business into being whether we are properly involved or not. In order to be a part of God's business, we need to lay hold of Christ and his work. He makes it possible to take part in God's business through the power of the Holy Spirit, and at the same time calls us to keep tabs on our motivations and activities by patterning our motivations and activities on his. We don't get to look busy and worst of all we don't get to think we're untouchable because we're the Church (especially because we're the church). Instead we're called to trust the Holy Spirit sent to guide and comfort, and look to the example of Christ's life, death and resurrection for the reality of God's business.