"God's 'To-Do' List" – Luke 12:32-40
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell 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. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be 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. Blessed 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. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. “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. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
I couldn’t get past the first line of today’s Gospel. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
I think I latched onto that first statement because the rest of the passage seemed like a pretty long “To Do List.” Sell your possessions… Give alms… Make purses that don’t wear out… Be dressed for action… Have your lamps lit… Do this… Do that… Be ready at all costs.
See, I’m not wild about “To Do Lists” when they come from somebody else – just ask my wife. I can have my own list of things to do – and I do. I keep one on my phone or on a pad of paper in my office. But as soon as someone else makes a suggestion or adds something to my list that doesn’t line-up with my plans, I get stubborn, pretty quickly. I’m not necessarily proud of this. It’s not one of my better qualities. Again, just ask Christa.
And truth be told, Jesus’ “To Do List” today, doesn’t always line up with mine. And, I’m guessing it doesn’t always line up with your list of things to do at every turn, either. “Sell your possessions… Give alms… Store up for yourselves heavenly sorts of treasures – not all of this earthly stuff, like cars and houses and clothes and shoes; like savings accounts and retirement funds, 401K’s and 529’s… And be dressed for action… Have your lamps lit… Be ready at all costs for God’s coming among you. Live a life that would make God happy and proud enough that should God show up at your door, you would swing it wide with joy, show God around, such that God would be so happy, so pleased, so proud of your life and faith that God, God’s self, would hike up his drawers, tighten his belt, pull out a chair for you, and make you a drink or serve you dinner.
The “To Do List” at our house is too long if we know one of you people might be stopping by. I can’t imagine what it would look like if we really lived like Jesus was coming over.
And this is the challenge of our life and faith, really, in a general sense, is it not? It’s not a “To Do List” that includes running the vacuum or mowing the lawn for a dinner guest. It’s the “To Do List” of keeping our priorities straight and our actions pure and our faith strong so that we’re living right in the eyes of our God and in keeping with our best intentions for ourselves, for our family, and for the sake of the world around us.
And I think that’s what Jesus is encouraging us toward today. To live with an expectation that God is always and already with us, or watching, or on the way to us – as God has always been. Jesus himself – his very presence on the planet – was a reminder and an embodiment of that reality. So his words and his teaching today are a call to keep God’s “To Do List” ahead of our own when it comes to the choices we make, from one day to the next, about our own lives in this world.
And God’s “To Do List” can be long, challenging and intimidating, even. It is as different, perhaps, for each of us, as we are different from one another. It means doing with less so that the least among us can have more. It means accepting God’s forgiveness for our own sins and it means forgiving the sins of those we’d rather not. It means loving one another, and our enemies. It means standing up to injustice when we see it. It means praying for and voting for and working for peace in the world. It means living and shopping and consuming in ways that care for creation. It means eating and drinking and exercising in ways that care for the temples that our bodies are meant to be.
God’s “To Do List” is personal and private. It is public and political. It is long and hard and exhausting…especially when we look at it as someone else’s list of priorities, instead of our own.
Which is why I keep going back to that first statement from Jesus; that thing he says before he gets to the list: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
It reminds me of Jesus’ words a couple weeks ago when he asked, “If your child asked you for an egg [presumably to eat] would you give him a stone?” Or, “If your child asked for fish, would you give a snake?” Of course not. And that’s not how God operates, either. “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” “God wants this for you.” “God desires this for you.” “Do these things…live in these ways…and see if God will not pour out the blessings of heaven into your lap.”
See, the other thing I’m reminded of in all of this is that God’s Kingdom is already among us, thanks to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I mean, it’s not only something we’re waiting for at the end of time or on that day when we’ll meet our maker. God’s Kingdom is alive and well among us in this world – we just have a hard time seeing and experiencing and sharing it – because we tend to look in all the wrong places or we live in ways that don’t reveal it to us. And it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom, not just then and there, on the other side of eternity. But it is God’s good pleasure, God’s desire, God’s intention to give us the Kingdom, right here and now, as a sign of things to come.
So Jesus’ word for today is an invitation to live in ways that will allow us to experience the Kingdom of God, right where we are. “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” And if you want to see yourself some Kingdom… if you want to experience for yourself what that Kingdom is like… if you want to share a little bit of that Kingdom with somebody else…
Be generous in ways that surprise even yourself – and you’ll get a glimpse of the Kingdom… sacrifice something for someone who needs it – and you’ll experience and share some measure of God’s Kingdom… seek out the least of these and give them a hand – and God’s Kingdom will be among you… forgive that someone who makes your blood pressure rise whenever they cross your mind – and you will experience a Kingdom kind of peace which passes all understanding… start a conversation with someone who looks or lives or who believes differently than you do – and God’s Kingdom will be at your fingertips… send a note to someone who’d be surprised to know they were even on your radar, let alone in your prayers – and God’s Kingdom will be in your midst, and in theirs.
Jesus reminds us today that we don’t have to do any of the many, various things on God’s cosmic “To Do List,” but that because of God’s grace – God wants to give us the kingdom, after all – we are blessed to do whatever we can manage.
And not just blessed, but better because of it… Kingdom dwellers, even… children of God… change-agents… ready to see, receive, and share the riches of God’s kingdom among us, for the sake of the world.