“Stingy Pawnbrokers”

Luke 6:24-34 (MSG), Ephesians 1:11-14 (MSG)
South & New Life Presbyterian Churches – November 6, 2016 – ALL SAINTS DAY
The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift

 Ephesians 1:11-14The Message (MSG)

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

Luke 6:24-34The Message (MSG)

Give Away Your Life

24 But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.    What you have is all you’ll ever get.

25 And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.      Your self will not satisfy you for long.
And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.
    There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.

26 “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.

27-30 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

31-34 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that.
If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity?
The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

 

This translation of the Lucan reading today really captures me.

Maybe it’s because it’s SO not the words I grew up with. But the idea of it???? The idea of doing things for others without thought of reward for yourself? THAT’s a message that lies at the heart of every parent or grandparent who’s ever spoken to a teenager, isn’t it?

“Do things just to be KIND, not because you expect anything in return.”

But this translation – using the word “pawnbroker” – caught my ear. The stingiest pawnbroker will give you something if they think there’s something in it for them. That’s neither extravagant nor radical … it’s just business as usual. But GOD’s love?  It’s both extravagant AND radical to the core.

That’s the thing about God’s Love … God’s Grace: We never DESERVE it. If we deserve it, then it’s not Grace … it’s PAYMENT. It’s quid pro quo. But when we get something we DON’T deserve, then it’s a real gift.

And this passage in Luke – remember he’s writing to a NON-Jewish audience. He’s trying to explain JESUS to them. This passage in Luke – we hear Jesus telling us … ADMONISHING us, in a way … to NOT just do things because others EXPECT it or because WE expect a reward somewhere down the line. NO!   HE’s saying that just as God has gifted us with GOD’s Grace that we don’t deserve and can’t earn – that that’s how we’re supposed to treat OTHER people.

 

Paul was conveying the same sort of message in our Ephesians passage that we read in unison.  It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. In other words, it’s through our life with Jesus that we figure out what our life is FOR. It’s through knowing HIM that we come to know what the MEANING is for our life.

Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, Paul writes. He had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. Around here, we call that the KOG – the Kingdom of God. We are all tied together by a cord … a channel … SOMETHING that connects us to each other and to God. And when we learn to SEE that … to RECOGNIZE it … to EMBRACE it … then our lives take on a deeper MEANING.

When we do that, we’re able to really act toward others just out of the goodness of GRACE.

Grace is hard to explain because we don’t experience it much or TALK about it very often in our world today, usually.  Oh … some people do.  Those who have very LITTLE are often more aware of Grace than those who have a lot and for whom everything comes easily. The rest of us can get USED to having everything, if we’re not careful. And sometimes, if we’ve been successful in life – in a career … in our finances – we can lose sight of the EXTRAVAGENCE of God’s love. We might even end up thinking that we succeeded because of our OWN resources … our OWN intelligence … our OWN good fortune instead of recognizing the role that GOD played.

I mean … really … Who could possibly PAY for a glorious sunrise?  How much would we be willing to ante up for these colors of the changing leaves? … or for the beauty of a snow scape on a peaceful field?

Yet we are GIVEN those things without any bill attached … without any expectation of our repayment.

And those are only VISUAL examples … What about the SOUNDS of a loved one’s voice or the TOUCH of a lover’s hand?

THESE are the gifts of a loving God. They’re gifts of GRACE … of peace when we least expect it … of security when we’re beginning to doubt or wonder … of validation when we’re questioning things about ourselves or our place in the world.

And as we lift up those who came before us on this All Saints Day, I think about the gift of Grace that has touched MY life through THEM. I’m sure you feel the same way … those people … parents, maybe … siblings, spouses, friends … maybe our own children who we outlived … maybe even complete STRANGERS … some of them touched our lives with an extravagant love … a GRACE that still moves us even today.

A hurt that went FORGIVEN.

A PEACE that they shared just by being themselves and loving us.

In the case of someone we never knew personally, or maybe didn’t know well … maybe it was a DREAM … a VISION that they held that touched us.  Maybe they believed in US … a teacher maybe … or a minister.

When we choose to live in THOSE moments instead of the moments of privilege where we take everything for granted … instead of the moments of JUDGING others and keeping SCORE … when we choose to live in THOSE moments … when we give freely without any sense of getting anything in return … we are choosing to live in the Kingdom of God.

It’s all AROUND us.

It’s right here and right now.

These SAINTS that we honor today … they are everyday BELIEVERS and QUESTIONERS … just like us. They had tempers and they fell short just like we do. They were afraid and insecure sometimes, just like WE are. They didn’t always get it right. They weren’t PERFECT.

But they had their moments of perfection.

And so do we.

They had their moments when they stepped up and CLAIMED the Kingdom of God right here.

And so do we.

We just can’t let ourselves be Stingy Pawnbrokers.

 

Because we’ve been loved by God – we have love to share.

Because we have been FORGIVEN by God – we can forgive others and ourselves.

Because the Light lives WITHIN us – we can shine that Light into the world.

 

 

The day after tomorrow is Election Day.

FINALLY.

We all know that this is an important – maybe even PIVOTAL – time in our nation’s HISTORY.

And we have been put here for a REASON … we have been put here to take a STAND … we have been put here to be the Body of CHRIST in the world today.

It’s not up to me to tell you who that stand should be for or against … but I AM here to tell you that God works THROUGH us. We are the hands, the feet and, yes,  the VOTE of Jesus here on earth. We HAVE to vote our conscience.

We must NOT use the election booth or our precious BALLOT as an ANGER MANAGEMENT tool … on either side. We MUST look at our values … how it is that we choose to live as Children of God … as the Body of CHRIST in the world … how it is that we live in the Kingdom of GOD and look at what each candidate holds out as his or her VISION … HIS or HER VALUES … and see which ones we believe come CLOSER to our understanding of what God wants for our world.

Luke put it this way, and in a way, I think he’s speaking to our country today: 24  …  it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.    What you have is all you’ll ever get. And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.      Your self will not satisfy you for long. And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.     There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.

26 “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.

27-30 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

We are not the first generation to face frightening times and pivotal elections. The Saints who came before us did, too … and they kept the faith.

Now it’s our turn.

Make sure you vote!

And may God’s Grace wash over us and our nation, we pray.   Amen.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s