'Do not be afraid' (Luke 12:32-40)
"These are anxious times. There are anxieties about finances, health, as well as the weather.
How comforting to read the Gospel this morning."
The actor Vincent Price told the story of how he went to see one of his own films at a local cinema. He, of course, was famous for horror movies and the film he was watching was particularly scary. There were two young women sitting in front of him who had been frightened out of their wits during the film. As the credits were showing, he tapped them on the shoulder and just said, ‘did you enjoy that?’
They leaped out of their skins.
Why do we watch scary films? I suppose they give an adrenaline rush and they stretch our imaginations and provoke a curiosity about the darker side of human nature.
We can explore these emotions because we are in a safe environment. Vincent Price was a bit mean. He seemed to have stepped out of the silver screen and turned fantasy into reality.
Many films portray an apocalyptic future for humanity. They imagine the devastating destruction of civilisation usually with a righteous remnant battling it out against a zombie army or a rampaging fire or flood.
Their story line is stepping out of the screen as fiction becomes fact.
A report this week said that ‘The risk of global societal collapse or human extinction has been “dangerously underexplored”. 
These are anxious times. There are anxieties about finances, health, as well as the weather.
How comforting to read the Gospel this morning.
Jesus says: ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’
That is Good News. The future is a gift already given. The kingdom of God – the promised reign of God in a restored creation – is already in our possession.
As followers of Jesus, we put our anxiety in perspective. We are in God’s good hands and we have no need to fear.
The Psalmist says: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, the mountains tremble with its tumult.’ 
The danger of telling people that the world is facing catastrophe is that it paralyses rather than empowers people to act. Fear makes us defensive or freezes us.
It is true that to say that we have no need to fear is irrational when there are good reasons to fear.
The Gospel has something important to say.
Our future is a gift not a certainty.
When you receive a gift you feel obliged to return the favour in some way.
This is God’s gift. ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’
God has promised us our future. In return sell your possessions and give alms.
There is a sustainable, hopeful future for humanity, which is a gift from God the Creator. In trusting that God will bring it about, then we need a different way of being in the world, which rejects the economics of consumption and waste. A way which gives and shares.
The Gospel says that we need new purses – literally moneybags – purses with an unfailing supply.
We are in a cost of living crisis. Our spending capacity is significantly reduced with the biggest hit being felt by the poorest.
O for a purse that doesn’t run out and a credit card which never maxes out. There are times when you can take the Bible literally but I’m afraid this is not one of them.
The ‘moneybag’ we have is filled with a different treasure. Jesus says, ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’.
Our values are reflected in how we spend our money, how we pursue our careers and how we engage within our communities. Deep down, we all know that our real treasure lies in friendship, community and in the people we love.
Jesus takes us one step further.
Our treasure lies in the Kingdom of God. Once we identify with the Kingdom then we know where we both individually and as families and communities should place our time and resources.
‘Strive first for the Kingdom of God and his justice and all these things will be given as well’. 
If we invest our trust, our commitment, our duty, our identity with the future God has promised, then we are no longer frozen in fear but proactive, co-creators with God.
I imagine that children still play ‘Hide and Seek’. One child will count to twenty and then shout ‘coming, ready or not!’
You could be forgiven for thinking the teaching of Jesus regarding the second coming is a bit like that. ‘Coming, ready or not!’
‘Be dressed for action!’ If you want to seek first the Kingdom of God then you have to be dressed for action.
I must confess on the few occasions when I have had to wear clerical robes for a service, the thing that I have found most difficult is not tripping up on the hem of the robe.
To be honest, I find them annoying and pretentious but never mind.
Being dressed for action – gird your loins – be ready to move.
In Jesus’ day servants would need to tie up their long robes so they didn’t trip over them when they were serving the meals.
Jesus is saying if you treasure the kingdom then you need to be ready to work.
He is also remembering the Hebrew slaves waiting to leave Egypt.
We read in Exodus: ‘This is how you shall eat .. your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the Passover of the Lord.’
Jesus is telling us to be ready for the call to freedom.
Be open to the opportunities to make a difference – to ring the changes.
Jesus reinforces this with a parable.
The master returns from a wedding feast. The servants have been up all night preparing for his return. They are ready to open the door as soon as he knocks.
We are not given a picture of Jesus coming into our world to share our misery. This is a resurrection image – he is coming from a party. He has been out all night living it up.
They are ready to serve him.
But while they have girded their loins in readiness, the Master sits them at the table, girds his loins and serves them.
Our Master transforms every relationship.
He does not stand on ceremony.
He does not expect to be feted as an honoured guest.
Rather he is already there, kneeling at our feet. Apron around his waist and attending to our needs. Serving us as he will serve us shortly as we share bread and wine.
This is the mind-set of the Christian.
We anticipate the coming of Jesus into our lives –as individuals but also into the mess of the world – into those realities which are causing us so much anxiety.
Who knows when this Master will require us to open the door to him? Whatever crises we may be facing, the Master is returning with the expectation that his servants will have been working hard to feed and care for him.
The future will be a joyful breakfast for God’s servants. But there is no cause for complacency. We need to work at it to be ready.
Then Jesus tells another parable. If the owner of the house had known what hour the thief was coming he would not have let his house be broken into.
If you live close to Union Chapel, you know what it is like to be disturbed by our burglar alarm in the middle of the night. We have an alarm. We need to be vigilant. Our insurance company require us to have done all we can to make sure property is not stolen or vandalised.
We live in a very security conscious society. CCTV is everywhere, Public buildings are surrounded by concrete barricades, even if heavily disguised. We make sure our homes have good locks.
Security is tight on our borders. There are long queues at Dover as new controls on the movement of people and goods replace the freedom of movement afforded by membership of the European Union.
Overwhelmed by the enormity of the interlocking crises of our time, it is understandable that we put up more and more defences.
On several occasions, the New Testament describes Jesus coming as a thief in the night.
This is when he comes. When our defences are the strongest. When our resistance to change is hardest. When our conviction of the rightness of our way of life is most secure.
Jesus comes in nature’s warnings that disaster is imminent if we don’t change our ways.
He comes as our defences are penetrated by desperate people crossing the Mediterranean and the English Channel in flimsy boats.
He comes in the solidarity of people on the margins.
He comes as young people awaken the consciences of their parents.
God’s kingdom is stirring – God’s treasure is freely available - and there are choices to be made –
We can succumb to the fatalism of doom-laden scenarios -
Or we can gird our loins, prepare for a resurrection breakfast, be ready for the unexpected.
That is realism.
Not the scary horror actor leaping out of the screen to freeze us but a loving Saviour who has always been and always will be serving us with hope, courage, and wisdom.
 Psalm 46 1-3
 Matthew 6.33
 Exodus 12.11‹ back