Monday, 12 August 2013

live from your future- Luke 12

Throughout Luke 12 Jesus is calling us to reexamine out priorities. He brings to mind many things that we could be worried about and then shows God’s perspective. Are we afraid of being killed? Jesus reminds us that God does not forget even a sparrow who dies, God will take care of us even in death. He values us so much that He has every hair on our head numbered (Luke 12:4-7). Are we so afraid of our uncertain future that we disregard the needs of others in order to accumulate possessions? As we saw in Jesus’ parable last week, the rich man who had so much wealth he tore down his barns and built new barns could not take his wealth with him when he suddenly died (12:13-21). Are we worried about food or clothing- starvation or nakedness? Or, are we consumed by specialty coffees, designer clothes, fancy cars, and other signs of success and comfort? Jesus reminds us to not let these worries distract us from what is most important- Life is more than food and clothing. What is most important is striving for the kingdom of God (12:22-31). Place your attention on eternal things, not temporal things. God is taking care of you. God cares even for sparrows and lilies. God even desires to give us His kingdom. God is for you, he is not against you .    
Jesus is teaching us that the fears and worries we have evaporate when we look at them through the eyes of eternity. He is encouraging us to set eternity as our perspective- to live with the eternal reality as our present reality. Reexamining and transforming our perspective and priorities is a theme that runs throughout the entire Gospel. Over and over Jesus calls us to metanoia.  We translate it as “repentance”, but its full meaning has to do with transformation of the mind and heart. It means shifting our priorities and shifting how we see the world, others, God, and ourselves.
It is the first step in most, if not all, religions. We encounter some truth and then we adjust our lives and out thoughts and feeling to that truth. It can be a joyful experience, or it can be a painful experience, but this kind of encounter is never a dull experience. … We can ignore the encounter with truth and shut ourselves off from experiencing it, but that is the road to spiritual blindness.
To give a very concrete example, we can look at the present environmental crisis and we can ignore it, … or we can allow that truth to affect us and bring us to metanoia. We can allow our emotions, our thoughts and our actions to be transformed by the truth of the environmental crisis we are facing.
Falling in love can bring about a metanoia. When we are confronted with the truth that we truly do love this person our emotions are transformed, our thoughts are transformed, and our actions are transformed in such a way as to bless that other person and draw you closer to them.  
If it’s true that God has made us a part of an eternal reality, then that truth will have an effect on how we think, and feel, and act.
Jesus is calling us to continuous metanoia- transformation of heart and mind- repentance. Repentance has gotten a bad rap. It is a word that has all kinds of negative connotations. It is true that metanoia can bring about tears and the realization that one needs forgiveness and has acted in destructive ways, but metanoia also includes transformation from ways of thinking and feeling, and ways of behaving that are not beneficial and that don’t ultimately lead to lasting happiness.    
Repentance has often been associated with fear of fire and brimstone. But, notice Jesus’ first words to us in this Gospel reading “do not be afraid little flock”. Jesus is not calling us to fear. Jesus is calling us to Metanoia in order to receive what God wants to give us. “Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (12:32).  It is as if He is wanting to hand us the Kingdom but we aren’t paying attention. We are distracted.  
I remember going through some of my childhood things. I remember coming across a picture I drew and as soon as I saw it all kinds of memories flooded back into my mind. I think I was about 8 years old and it was a picture on me reaching for a yellow belt. It brought to mind a belt test I attended as a part of my Karate class. I didn’t pass the test, but I wasn’t ready for it and the rule of the school was that everyone tested when there was a belt test- ready or not.  I remember feeling crushed by that experience. I received numerous belts since that time and I studied martial arts for quite a few years, so when I look back on that picture it’s actually quite embarrassing to see how worried I was by that experience. I felt that embarrassment numerous times going through those memories. It didn’t get any better when I found my journal from when I was a teenager.  I look back on those fears and worries that haunted my mind and they seem fairly trivial now, even to the point that they embarrass me to remember them.
I wonder if we will feel the same way looking back on our lives from our deathbed, … or from the point of view of eternity with God.  Will we look back at our present fears and worries and feel embarrassed that we spent so much energy on will then seem trivial?
This is why Jesus says “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He is telling us that our concerns about wealth will be one of those worries that will seem trivial from our heavenly eternal perspective. He is telling to not let ourselves become distracted by these temporary things. He wants us to think with an eternal perspective.
What if you could write yourself a letter from the afterlife? What do you think that letter would say? What advice would you give yourself? What would you tell yourself to do? What would you say to yourself about your present worries from that eternal perspective?
I sometimes imagine what it would be like to be a teenager again knowing now what I do. I think I wouldn’t worry so much about a lot of the things I did worry about. Jesus is wanting us to be our eternal selves right now. He wants us to live our lives now from the perspective of eternity right this moment.  
Jesus calls us to be awake. He wants us to be awake to the fullness of reality- Including the eternal reality. Living in that eternal reality means living conscious of God’s presence and action in the world. Could it be that we are so distracted by our trivial worries that we fail to notice God right in our midst? The writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (13:2). Could we be so distracted by our worries and fears that we pass by angel without noticing them? Jesus does not want us to go through our lives sleepy and numb. He wants us alert and awake and ready.
Jesus says “be dressed for action and have your lamps lit” (12:35). Expect God at any moment. Be ready to receive Him at any moment. Jesus then tells us that if we are ready then when He arrives our master will come and serve us (12:37). Be ready. Be awake so that you will receive his blessing.   
We might be tempted to say to Jesus, “well those are beautiful words, but I live in the real world Jesus. What you’re saying just isn’t realistic. I live in the real world.” … But, if Jesus really is who he said he is, then he knows the real world better than we do. It might seem daunting to transform our minds and hearts this way, but just try is with little everyday worries. When we learn to think with an eternal perspective in little everyday things, then we will eventually be able to deal with bigger worries this way.    
          Jesus’ goal in these teachings is that we will not be enslaved to the worries of this life. He wants us to see a greater horizon than the one we often use. When we are able to see with this greater, eternal perspective we will find that our fears and worries evaporate. Then our attention is free and we are fully available to receive what God wants to offer us.


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