Introduction and Call to Worship
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. In our worship today let us seek ways to deepen and strengthen our faith and learn to live in hope, even when our vision is obscured.
First Reading Genesis 15:1-6
The Lord visits Abram in a vision, promising despite Abram’s protestations that, although he is childless, his descendants will be innumerable. Eventually, Abram believes God.
Second Reading Hebrews 11:1-3. 8-16
In faith Abraham obeyed God, even though he and Sarah would not live to see God’s promises fulfilled. The reference to “all of these” who “died in faith” is about Abel, Enoch and Noah. They were, as we are, “strangers and foreigners on the earth”. Our true home is our heavenly home.
Gospel Luke 12:32-40
Words of comfort and assurance, that God wants to give us the kingdom, are followed by an exhortation to live simply and charitably, relying on heavenly rather than earthly treasure. Jesus likens faithful people to slaves waiting for their master to return from a wedding. Those who wait in a state of watchful preparedness will be rewarded.
HOMILY “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
What does the Kingdom of God look like? Any ideas? What would we like God’s Kingdom to be like? One of the joys of our church community is the way in which we can, and often do, catch a glimpse of God’s kingdom here at St Mary’s in our worship. It offers the very best of who we are in song, prayer and thanksgiving back to the creator, inspiration behind all things, and in it God connects with us through his Word, the Bible and his Sacraments, the outward signs of what the Holy Spirit is doing in our hearts and lives. One of those sacramental signs is our ministry of prayer and healing. Our updated parish prayer calendar is available for you to collect from the welcome desk and use at home or work into your daily prayers. At 11am today we have the opportunity for prayer, with the laying-on of hands and anointing with holy oil as we seek the sacramental presence of Jesus to reach into our lives and transform us.
So, we strive for the Kingdom as promised by our Lord, who teaches, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is the father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 13:32) and indeed here at St Mary’s we can, should we choose, be a part of that kingdom breaking anew. And how very exciting that is; God needs you, your gifts, talents, ideas, finance and love. You are essential for God’s plan to be realised and how important that is to hear, even if it can feel at times like we are a ‘Little Flock’ and the burden of some tasks, from making coffee on a Saturday to cleaning the church or so much else, seems to fall onto just a few. The reassurance, even in the face of challenge, comes in the next two verses, “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.” (Luke 12:33,34)
There is so much about our life together as a ‘Little Flock’ that I really treasure. As a small to medium sized church community we can really get to know one another. Our building is the right size for our regular congregation and we are able to work together, as teams of people, to achieve so much for the building up of the kingdom in Thorpe. Today’s Gospel follows on from the much-quoted passage in which Jesus illustrates his teaching with the example of the birds and the lilies. Remember how God provides for each of them. Unlike our fears over Brexit, they don’t need to stockpile food or anything else for that matter. God provides. So today our Lord continues with more words of comfort, even reassurance as he likens people of faith to servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding celebration. The master might come home “during the middle of the night… near dawn”, or “at an unexpected hour”. (Luke 12: 35, 37, 40)
This being awake and prepared is a spiritual call to night-vision! But it is all too easy to sleep-walk through this world and ignore the spiritual nature of God’s creation; that is not so for Christians. We are called to recognise God’s presence in and through everything around us and be alert to God’s call. Yes, Jesus meets us here in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in bread and wine, but the Holy Spirit is alive in the world and the signs of God’s Kingdom are everywhere. We do have spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear, yet we can be pre-occupied with the challenges of day-to-day life, too busy to notice what God is doing in our midst.
Friends in faith, we need to become alert to Jesus’ teaching that our heart’s treasure lies not in material possessions (as I taught last week) or the business of everyday life (as is so prevalent here in Surrey) or the perceived goal of numbers or money, but in sharing our resources and loving, healing, faithful service. Yes, it is true that people aren’t flocking through the doors at every opportunity although we are blessed with a growing congregation overall, and it is true that Saturday Coffee Stop has been quiet this summer, even if the bigger picture has been visitors to church who would otherwise not have made it through the door. As the church of God in Thorpe, what are we going to do to proclaim God’s kingdom afresh among our families, friends and neighbours here in Thorpe and beyond? God is not trying to catch us unaware, or ambush and chastise us, or anyone else for that matter. Faith is about invitation, welcome, love, forgiveness and relationship. These are God’s kingdom values and they are to be shared well beyond the walls of this church.
I know as a Church we have things we are worried about, like our annual increases in parish share but the lesson of Luke’s Gospel is simple; such worry won’t add a single minute to our lives. We are much better to pool our combined resources, strive for God’s Kingdom and remain faithful in our Christian discipleship. To realise this kingdom in our midst requires discipline and faithfulness. This involves engaging fully with the Word of God, faithfulness in prayer, honest reflection and regular worship, especially receiving communion and practising love and charity. And God will do the rest! My prayer is that we may all be willing to allow God to work through us to bring healing, wholeness and his kingdom among this community of Thorpe for many years to come, which is absolutely God’s will for us. May we trust God with the challenges ahead. Amen.
Jesus has three core messages in today’s Gospel reading: it is God’s will that we inherit the kingdom; we must share our resources; and we need to be alert and ready.
To find the quality of relaxed readiness we must engage fully with God’s word, and the sacraments (especially communion) and be disciplined in our lives of prayer, reflection, love and kindness. We are called to be disciples in our daily living and trust everything to God.