Dressed For Action

A woman, a long time member of the community, shook hands with me as she greeted me after the worship service. "That was a wonderful sermon," she said, "just wonderful. Everything you said applies to someone I know."

She may not have gotten the point of the sermon, but she WAS listening. I don't expect that everyone is going to hear my sermon the same way. Each sermon preached is for each person listening. Each person listening will hear what they are ready to hear. The Holy Spirit interprets for each person, but each person has to be prepared to hear. I want so badly for the youth to hear what the Holy Spirit wants them to hear, but most of the time they aren't listening.

They've gotten to where they are and they know little to nothing about what is contained in the Bible. Oh yes, there are exceptions; there are a couple who know stories of the Bible. But for most, their church family has let them down. They aren't equipped to deal with the challenges of life. They're not dressed for action.

But, of course, much of their church family isn't dressed for action either-they don't know the stories of the Bible either. In today's Gospel Jesus talks about being dressed for action. Just prior to that he says, "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."

Reading the same passage from Eugene Peterson's translation, THE MESSAGE, "Get yourself a bank that can't go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It's obvious isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being."

So, it's obvious, I hope, that Jesus may be using earthly analogies like purses, banks, robbers, thieves etc., but he's really talking about spiritual matters.

I'm going to go through most of this passage line by line, and I'm going to use THE MESSAGE translation. As lovely as the NRSV may sound, it's just not something to grab on to. I can't believe that if Jesus were right here in person this morning that he'd speak to us calling us his "little flock." He'd know that he'd have to use terms we could easily relate to. So, I'm using THE MESSAGE translation because I want you to understand the fullness of this passage because it's for each one of us here and now.

The Gospel lesson today brings a strong message to all of us. Be dressed for action. That is, God expects you to be God-ready for life. If you're here today, you are not here for the reason you think you are (for a special occasion, or that your parents made you, or your spouse made you or you promised to read or usher or greet). The Holy Spirit brought you here today, and every time you come here. There is something you need to hear every time you come to worship. It may not always be in the sermon; it may be in the Scripture, the prayers, the hymns-but there is something YOU need to hear every time.

Jesus tells us not to be afraid of what life challenges come our way. He says, "You're my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself."

The kingdom is not some mysterious place. Oh, yes, an awesome place, a place of spiritual mystery because we cannot fathom its depth and breadth. But the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven is within you. Jesus tells us in other places that God, through Christ, has brought the kingdom to us. The kingdom of God is at hand.

When we think of a kingdom, we think of a huge space, a space as big as you can imagine, as far as you can see and more. That sort of enormity God wants to give to us. So God has placed that within us. And he is giving us the ability to use all that the kingdom has to offer.

But we need to listen. We need to be dressed for action. We need to be ready to hear. He gives us instructions on how to open up the doors to that kingdom. The doors to the kingdom are through our heart. We need to cultivate attitudes from the heart because those are what will prepare us to listen, what will make us be ready to hear.

Jesus continues, "Be generous." That doesn't mean only with money. It means with your time, your attention, your listening, your caring, your compassion. Be generous, not stingy, not selfish.

Jesus continues. "Give to the poor." Again, that doesn't only mean money. It means give to those who are poor in spirit-encourage, uplift, tell them you appreciate who they are. It means give to those who are poor in attitude-be positive with them, assure them, strengthen them. It means give to those parts of YOUR SELF that are poor; the parts of your self that don't know the Scripture, that don't know how to pray, that don't know they are loved. Give to those poor parts of YOUR SELF the spiritual food they need so you can be a whole person, a grateful person who is a light to others.

Jesus continues, "Get yourselves a bank that can't go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from the bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It's obvious isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being."

Your head and heart is where you need to store things up that will benefit you, that no one can steal from you. If you had a Bible in one hand and your wallet full of money in the other and a robber came up to you and demanded one or the other, which would you give him (or her)? You'd give him the Bible because you could always buy another Bible with your money. I guess I'd ask you, when was the last time buying a Bible for yourself was a priority-where you would have purchased a Bible before purchasing some food or paying the rent or whatever. I'll bet that there are some folks here who have never bought a Bible for themselves. I'll even bet there are some folks here who don't own a Bible, and some who do but don't know where it is. Think about what's important to you and what your priorities are, and think about where Jesus, or Scripture, or worship, or prayer fit into your priorities. Think about your money offering to God. Do you put that aside first? Do you put anything aside at all if you don't come to worship? Do you only think about it the day you come to worship?

The Bible contains all the wisdom you will need to be ready to meet the challenges of this life and all you need to prepare you for the life after this life.

"Keep your shirts on, keep the lights on!" Jesus says. Be dressed for action. Be alert. Pay attention. Be ready for what God wants you to hear, what God wants you to learn that is for your own benefit in living a life full of challenges so that you aren't overwhelmed by them but come through them even stronger. Especially so that you can help others with what you have learned from God. What you learn is not just for yourself. God never teaches that. What you learn you must share.

"Be like house servants waiting for their master to come back from his honeymoon," Jesus says. They're "awake and ready to open the door when he arrives and knocks." That means you're ready to hear what the Holy Spirit has for you-what Jesus is trying to teach you, knocking at the door of your heart and understanding. Not from the outside trying to get in. He's already IN. He's trying to get out of your heart into your consciousness, into how you live your life. As it is in heaven, in your spiritual self where God is, so on earth, how you live out what your inner, spiritual self is telling you.

But we have to be ready to open the door when he knocks; to open the door from our heart into our consciousness and the living of our lives. And Jesus says, "Lucky are the servants whom the master finds on watch! He'll put on an apron, sit them at the table, and serve them a meal, sharing his wedding feast with them."

That means Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will share all his spiritual powers with us to use now, and we will share in his resurrection. In the Gospel of John he tells us that when he goes to the Father we will do even greater things than he has done because we will have the power of the Holy Spirit available to us. But we have to be ready to receive the Holy Spirit. Awake, willing. Attentive. We have to be dressed for action.

It's not a one time thing. It's a readiness thing. We must keep feeding our spiritual self so that we're ready for anything the Holy Spirit wants to teach us. The more prepared we are, the more we are ready to learn and the more the Holy Spirit will teach us. And it's all for our benefit. God wants to serve us. Wants to give us the very kingdom. All we have to do is show God that what he has to give us is important to us.

You know how it feels, don't you, when folks don't think what you have to say or offer is worthwhile? Very often parents or adults treat children and youth that way. But even as adults, maybe even in a church setting or on a committee or board, some have made you feel that what you have to say or offer is not worthwhile.

Can you imagine how God feels when we don't want what he has to give us? When we don't care enough to listen or pay attention? When we don't care enough to use the guide book he has given us? When we don't care enough to communicate through the wonderful gift of prayer he gave us. Can you imagine?

So, that's it. Somewhere in that or in the worship service today God has a message for you. I hope you were ready to hear what God thought you needed to hear.

And, of course, it isn't only at church that God is to speaking to us. It's every day all through the week. Be dressed for action. Keep feeding yourself spiritually just like you feed yourself physically. You can get just as sick spiritually by not feeding your spiritual self as you can if you don't physically feed yourself-even sicker, because if your spiritual self is sick, it affects all aspects of your life-your perspective, your attitude, your health.

In Jesus words at the end of today's lesson he says, "So don't you be slovenly and careless (that is, dress for action; attend to your spiritual self). Just when you don't expect him, the Son of Man will show up." That is, every day Jesus shows up in your life. Are you aware, listening to the Holy Spirit? Or are you looking elsewhere for your treasure? Amen.

Read more sermons by Pastor Brie