Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Aneede Sunday / Sunday of Departed Faithful

Sermon / Homily on Luke 12:32-40

Lectionary Blogging: Luke 12: 32-40

by John Petty, Progressive Involvement

Luke 12: 32-40

32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell 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. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be 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. 37Blessed 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. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39“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. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

Translation:

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father took pleasure in giving you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give alms.

Make money-purses for yourselves that do not become old, an unfailing treasure in the heavens, where no thief comes nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be.

Let your loins be girded around and the candles be burning, and you yourselves like those looking for their lord who might return from the wedding banquet so that, when he comes and knocks, immediately they may open to him. Blessed those slaves whom the Lord, coming, will find watching. Truly I say to you that he will gird (himself) and sit down with them, and drawing near, will serve them.

And if he might come in the second, or in the third watch, and find so, blessed they are. But know this: that if the master of the house had know what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken through. And you, you be ready, for at an hour you think now, the son of man comes."

Background and situation:

The primary source appears to be Q though with significant Lukan reworking. Luke 12:33-34 are parallel to Matthew 6:19-21, and 12:39 is parallel to Matthew 24: 43-44.

Jesus is in the presence both of his disciples and the large crowds (12:1). He appears to be speaking primarily to the disciples, though within earshot of a large number of people. Even though teaching the disciples, "someone in the crowd" is able to interrupt with a question. Though speaking directly to the inner circle of the movement, Jesus' teachings are also "overheard" by a large number of people.

He follows the parable of the rich fool (12: 13-21) with exhortations to live without anxiety. Worry about food or clothing is unnecessary in light of God's providence. "The nations" worry about such things--that is to say, people who think and act in light of the dominant culture's assumptions will find themselves riven with uncertainty and anxiety.

Why so? The dominant culture operates out of the myth of scarcity, i.e. that there is not enough and one must compete for scarce resources. The Jesus movement, on the other hand, is to live in light of God's abundance in which there is plenty for everyone. (It would be impossible to attain a world population of 7 billion people unless there is a significant abundance of food.)

Text:

This change in worldview brings its own anxiety. If we don't compete for food, how will we survive? We don't know any other way!

In light of the anxiety caused by such a radical re-orientation--away from scarcity, and toward abundance; away from anxiety and toward reassurance of God's care--Jesus encourages his listeners not to worry: "Do not be afraid, little flock."

The reason they are not to fear is because "your Father took pleasure (eudokeo) in giving you the kingdom." Eudokeo is formed from dokeo--"to seem"--to which is added the prefix eu--"good." Therefore, it "seemed good" to God--God "took pleasure" in it.

Moreover, eudokeo has a sense of resolve and committment, especially when coupled with dounai ("freely give"). God wanted to do something good for the "little flock" and so freely gave them the kingdom--the reign of God--in which tables are open, status is upended, and all people are treated with dignity. In God's kingdom--on earth as it is in heaven--there is no scarcity.

Note also that God has already given this kingdom. It is not something that kicks into effect after you die or when the world ends, but something that is present right now. It has already been "freely given."

In the world of that time, a gift given now constitutes an obligation to return a similar gift in the future. In this case, in return for God's gift of a new way of life, our return gift is to be given not to God himself, but to the poor. Therefore, "sell your possessions and give alms."

Worry about possessions can run your life, as the parable of the rich fool (12:13-21) illustrates. It's not for nothing that the first disciples had already "left everything" to "follow him" (5:11).

Selling possessions and giving alms is, itself, is a sign of the kingdom. You want to pay God back for his splendid gift of abundance and a healthy way to live in a cause that endures forever? Fine. If you want to give back to God, give alms to the poor. That's the same thing as giving to God.

In God's kingdom, remember, most everything we take to be the natural order of things is turned upside-down, especially status-relationships. Unlike our world, God's kingdom does not operate on a "suck up/kick down" principle. You want to impress God? Give alms to the weakest and most vulnerable.

Besides, simply at the level of a mundane business deal, the way people live now doesn't make sense. We worry about supposed "assets" that will inevitably decline. Jesus asks: Why not invest yourself in something that does not become old and worn-out? Why commit yourself to perishable goods that may be stolen or damaged?

Instead, invest in the "new economy of God": "Make money-purses for yourselves that do not become old, an unfailing treasure in the heavens, where no thief comes nor moth destroys."

If one's treasure has been kept to one's self, one's treasure is always at risk. If one's treasure has been given to the poor, it is "unfailing." If your treasure is with yourself, your heart is directed toward yourself. If your treasure has been given to the poor, your heart is with the poor--or, in other words, with God.

Let your loins be girded around and the candles be burning, and you yourselves like those looking for their lord who might return from the wedding banquet so that, when he comes and knocks, immediately they may open to him. Blessed those slaves whom the Lord, coming, will find watching. Truly I say to you that he will gird (himself) and sit down with them, and drawing near, will serve them.

The reference to girded loins recalls the passover experience of the early Hebrews (Ex 12:11). Girded loins means fastening your clothes in such a way that you wouldn't trip over them if running, or get caught up in them if working. It's an expression meaning heightened anticipation and readiness for action. (The early Hebrews girded their loins because they could smell freedom.) Be like that, Jesus says.

Be like those who wait for "their lord (kurios)" coming from the wedding banquet. The word kurios is used twice (12: 36, 37) and clearly refers to Jesus in each case. Moreover, he is coming from a wedding banquet, an event of great festivity and gaiety. Indeed, the wedding banquet is an important biblical symbol for the Great Banquet at the end of time (Is 25:6, Rev. 19: 7-9).

The Lord is not grim-faced as he "comes and knocks." He will not come with a fearsome accounting of one's misdeeds. He will not come with pious exhortations to try harder. He will not come to put anyone in their place.

Quite the contrary. He's coming from a party. He has a spring in his step and a song in his heart. To those who are watching for him, "he will gird (himself)"--that is, he too is in a condition of heightened anticipation and readiness for action--except that, in his case, his action will be to "sit down with them, and drawing near, will serve them"!

Talk about status reversal. Just as serving the weak is the same as serving the Almighty, so the Lord comes to his "slaves," draws near to them, and serves the them. (This is what God's reign looks like. Oddball and out-of-sync with our current arrangements it may be, but this is the way that wins in the end.

And if he might come in the second, or in the third watch, and find so, blessed they are. But know this: that if the master of the house had know what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken through. And you, you be ready, for at an hour you think not, the son of man comes."

The problem is one of delay. As Joel Green notes, Luke is emphasizing, "first, ...the certainty of (the Lord's) coming, and, second, the uncertainty of his timing." (p. 499) (Incidentally, Luke seems to be assuming the Jewish practice of three watches in the night, as opposed to the Romans' four.)

Curiously, Luke gives us an image of the Lord as "thief." He is not alone in doing so. Paul used the same image in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, as did the author of Revelation (3:3). The thief is surreptitious, like Jesus. The thief quietly breaks in, like Jesus. Most of all, you don't know when the thief is coming, like Jesus.

This is how it usually works. We tend to identify with the "master of the house"--the oikodespotes, "the master of my domain," as Jerry Seinfeld puts it. If we think our house, or our lives, are about to be broken in to, we will post up our defenses--psychologically to be sure, even physically if we feel enough threat.

That's why the Lord uses so much misdirection. He comes in ways we do not expect, and a time we "think not" (he hora ou dokeite)--"an hour that seems like nothing." He doesn't bother trying to tear down our puny defenses. He sneaks around them instead.

See Also:

First Thoughts on Luke 12:32-40
by William Loader

Devotional Thoughts for Sunday of Departed Souls
by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Exegetical Notes on Luke 12.32-40
by Brian Stoffregen

Precious Words to a Precious People
by Alan Carr

"To whom much is given, much is required"
by Edward F. Markquart

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for Aneede Sunday

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