THE REV. ROBERTO DESANDOLI
9th Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16
Luke 12: 32-40
Luke 12: 32-40
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 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. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 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. 37 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. 38 If 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[a] would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
“All of the [descendants of Abraham] died in faith without having received the promise, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for the people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland”
-(unknown author), Hebrews 11: 13-14
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”
-Jesus Christ, Luke 12: 34
In this morning’s Scripture readings, we have been invited into a conversation about where our true citizenship is.
Where our true citizenship is.
To which place do we belong?
To the nations of this world or to the Kingdom of God?
Living honestly, we must say that we are (at best) dual citizens, but on which citizenship to we put our hope and our faith?
Where is our property and our treasure, where have we stored up things for ourselves: here or there?
And how do we know? Are we made sure of our true citizenship by the place we can see and hear and feel? Or do we find our citizenship in a place that requires faith to see?
Who are we? And more importantly, whose are we? Do we belong to ourselves, to our own sense of reality, or do we belong to God in the promise of the Coming Kingdom. The one that requires us to come humbly before His Son, Our Lord, and learn faith?
Recently, I saw a poster for the 1969 Peter Fonda film “Easy Rider.”
The poster immediately grabbed my attention, because, being not more than a larger version of my ten-year-old self, I am absolutely fascinated by motorcycles. This poster immediately took my eye because it featured the real star of that movie: Fonda’s iconic custom chopper; long handle bars, long chrome forks, and American flags painted on the gas tank and helmet, the most iconic motorcycle in movie history, and maybe even beyond that.
But aside from the shiny spectacle of chrome and gears, there was something else on the poster that grabbed me right away, and that was the tagline at the top:
“A man went looking for America. And couldn’t find it anywhere…”
What a great movie tagline! simple, evocative, succinct, and profound in a groovy 60s kind of way: just because we have an earthly citizenship, just because we know to which earthly nation we belong, doesn’t mean we can see what it is we belong to.
That it’s not only Heavenly Kingdoms but also earthly nations that take faith and searching to believe in.
Faith, as defined by the author of Hebrews this morning is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”
And whether that thing we’re striving to believe in is the Kingdom of God, or America, or Canada, or our plans for our earthly treasure, I think we can all agree that we need faith to believe in them.
Rather than knowing the things we want to one day arrive into.
We hope for the Kingdom of God without laying our hands on the whole thing.
We hope for the ideals of our earthly nation, or for any of the earthly schemes or plans we have dreamed up.
All of these things take faith.
But, Christ reminds us, our faith is better placed in one kind of kingdom than the others.
In our current era of “prove it or lose it,” the invitation to have faith in the Kingdom of God is perhaps a more difficult one to heed than it was in other times.
These days we want our hopes to be “proven” before we invest. We want to see the science, we want to see the data, we want to know (not by faith but by fact) that we will achieve the thing we are promised.
To the world around us: faith is foolishness.
Faith is foolish, faith is wishful, faith is not something that serious scientific people waste their time on.
Except that they do.
Rational people have faith.
Worldly people have faith.
Scientific people have faith, there are some of us here now.
All people have faith of some kind or another.
It simply isn’t possible to go about in our world without faith in something.
On the occasions when I pack up my suitcase and passport and go across the ocean to different countries, I have faith that those border guards will see the word “Canada” printed on my little blue book and connect that misspelled Indigenous word with a real earthly meaning: that this man is a citizen of a place called Canada, that such a place exists even if we haven’t seen it, and that through this citizenship this man has certain rights and responsibilities.
That’s faith in an earthly citizenship.
And even though this faith is interesting and necessary, it’s hardly the most important kind of faith-in-citizenship there is.
As they began to speak about the heavenly citizenship of the Kingdom of God, the author of Hebrews talks God’s role as creator and covenant maker.
The author says that: by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
If we think that the world consists of those things which are seen and that faith came afterwards out of a belief in make believe we have got it completely backwards!
God came before all that we experience with our senses. Before there was a cosmos or an earth or a human being wondering “what is?” there was God, and it was not until afterwards, after human beings were created with love in His image, after our fall from Eden, that we began to look around us and decide that what is (and what is decidedly broken) must be all there is.
In our sinful state we chose brokenness.
In our sinful state we chose to forget God and His word behind the world.
In this way, the author argues, the story of Scripture, the story of Israel, the story of Abraham and his descendants is a story about humanity remembering what is real:
In their brief history of Israel, the author talks about Abraham, and the covenant made between he and God, and God’s promise that this old and childless man would have offspring as innumerable as the “grains of sand on the seahore!”
And as Abraham had his offspring, his covenant with God continued through this lineage, on through the first generation and the second and all the way down the line, through King David and Isaiah, through Daniel and Amos, and all of the people named in Scripture as Abraham’s descendants.
Each was given a part in God’s covenant and God’s plan of self-revelation.
They each had that in common.
Only that is not the only thing they had in common. The author tells us that there is something else they shared:
All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for the people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
Each confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on earth.
That is another way of saying that each knew that their true citizenship was not in the land under their feet, or the language they spoke, or the music they played, or even in the heritage of their bloodline, but that their true citizenship was in their place as people of God, a people who hoped for, and sought the coming Kingdom of God.
They desire a better country (says the author) that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
The author of Hebrews reminds us that even though we can point to hundreds of different people in Abraham’s family tree (a quick google search told me that there are between 1200 and 1300 distinct people named in the Bible), all with their own names, and stories, and families, and homes, that these things are NOT what gives them their identity and citizenship.
All of these 1200+ people has a name and a family and a homeland but their true citizenship is not in these things, not in the things of this world, rather their true citizenship is in their faith in the Kingdom to come.
Friends, we may live in a time where realities such as faith and the Kingdom of God do not seem to stir hearts the way that they used to.
We may live in a time that demands to see the evidence before buying into faith.
But the simple truth is that whether we believe in the Kingdom of God or not, whether we believe in the faith that is necessary to believe in the Kingdom of God or not, this Kingdom and its citizens are truly those with the most sure sight.
There have been warlords who have changed the maps of the globe.
There have been scientists who have greatly affected earth’s population through the invention of weapons and medicine.
There have been technologists who have changed the way that we communicate like never before.
But even these individuals, with their ability to understand and mold reality to their liking, cannot claim to know the “worlds behind the word of God” if they do not know whose they really are.
Knowing whose we are.
Knowing by whose word we were called into being.
Knowing by whose blood we were redeemed and saved.
Knowing that which is our true Kingdom and citizenship is worth more than all the words and inventions of this world.
This world will pass away.
This world is passing away.
And for how often troubling, and jarring, and confusing this truth is, we who have faith know that it is not a threat to who we are or whose we are.
God has prepared a city for us.
God has prepared a Kingdom for us.
We have been invited into this story of remembering by the one who made the covenant available to all people who call on the name of Jesus Christ. The word behind the world, made flesh.
Not only for us but for all of those billions who came before and all of those billions who may come after.
None of us were created in the image of God to be Canadians or Greeks or Jews but rather to be citizens of the Kingdom of God which we know, by faith, is arriving. Soon and very soon.
When Jesus taught the crowds in the Gospel of Luke this morning, He spoke about these same truths and these same realities.
Our Lord began by telling them:
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Well, that’s great news, isn’t it? That’s really fantastic and comforting but what does that mean? What does it mean to know and to have faith that God is building our true home and Kingdom for us?
Knowing that we have been made free in this promise what should we do?
And He answers:
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 shall be also.
Make a purse for yourself, my friends.
Make a purse for yourself in which you can store the treasured promise of the coming Kingdom.
But before you do that: “sell your possessions, and give alms”
Where you are going you don’t need the things of this world.
Knowing that you have a true Kingdom and citizenship in God, why do you need any of the things of this world?
Cast them aside.
Only… it’s not quite that easy is it?
It’s not easy to trade our earthly purses and wallets for heavenly ones.
It’s not easy to take all that we have collected in this world and to give it to the poor and the needy.
It’s not easy to live lives wholly satisfied in the promise of the coming Kingdom.
As wonderful as the promise is, as true as God has been to us, we still struggle to let it all go, don’t we?
What is missing?
It is one of those paradoxical gifts of God, that we are made free in the promise of the Kingdom and yet must wait until we have arrived there to have the kind of hearts needed to accept this freedom completely.
We are not there yet.
We have the promise and the story and the history and the passport but we have not yet passed into that Heavenly Kingdom.
Though Christ Himself tells us that it is God’s “good pleasure” to give us the Kingdom, we still do not feel like Kingdom citizens.
We do not live as perfect Good Samaritans, we do not perceive ourselves with the eyes of God that see each of us as lost coins or lost sheep that He will stop at nothing to recover, we do not see the potential within ourselves as human mustard seeds, who are about to bloom and give life to other living things.
And so we wait.
We wait and we pray
We wait and we read Scripture
We wait and we live our lives with eyes to see and ears to hear all the ways that this Kingdom is revealing itself around us.
We stand in the tension between this world and its promises and the promises of the world yet to come.
We stand in the tension between the purses we have fastened for this world and the purses we have been offered in the Kingdom of God.
And every day offers the opportunity, not only for inspiration, not only for a deepening of faith, but also for the occasion of temptation.
We are often tempted by the things of this world.
Tempted to spend less time praying for things unseen and more time collecting and coveting the things seen.
Tempted to spend less time actively believing and living our lives in God’s story and more time living our lives by the stories of this world.
We are dual citizens, both of the Kingdom of God and the fallen world at hand, and the world at hand is hard to ignore.
The Good News of this state of things is that even though we are dual citizens, even though we are tempted by the things of this world, even though we do doubt the faith that has been placed there by God, finally it is not our faith that will grant us access to the Kingdom.
The faith that will welcome us into the Kingdom of God does not live or die within our human hearts but rather has been here since before there was a here.
It is the same faith that spoke the words behind the world.
It is the same faith that made God faithful to us in His covenant with Abraham.
It is the same faith that made God pour Himself out in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; opening this covenant to all.
And it is this faith.
This eternal, infinite, global, unstoppable faith that loves you and has given YOU citizenship in the Kingdom of God.
Not because it is seen but because it is beyond things seen.
The Good News for us this morning is that even though we are waiting, even though we are dual citizens of earth and heaven, even though we have heard the words of Christ and struggled to believe, there are signs all around us; encouraging us to keep believing.
We need not be lost looking for a nation we cannot find. Because it exists all around us right now! In the hearts of our friends in Christ and in the words of God whose good pleasure it is to give us the Kingdom.