Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness
August 7, 2022 Rev. Dr. Darlis Swan
Grace and peace to you from God our father and the lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Promises, promises…we all make promises and break them. Others break their promises to us. Some of these promises don’t seem to matter, but there are those that change our lives. In our marriage ceremony, the couple say to each other, “I promise to be faithful to you until death parts us.” This is a vow made before God and the assembly gathered to witness to the covenant or agreement made between the two people. But even a promise this serious and joyful is sometimes broken.
Then there are the promises we make to God. We promise God that we will be faithful and follow God’s direction, but then the ways of the world tempt us and twist us away from God, and we break those promises, too. We would like to keep those promises – but on our own terms! So we pray for God’s help – “let your loving kindness be upon us, as we place our hope in you. “ (Psalm 33:22)
In today’s lessons we read about the promises that God makes! God promises Abram that (although childless) he will have a child from his own DNA. He shares an incredible vision of faith with Abram – he shows him the stars in the sky and tells him that he will enjoy countless heirs – as many as those stars! Then he promises him that he will be blessed, not only with many descendants but also with much land. Of course, Abram is not just passive here, he wants to know when this is going to happen because he thinks he has been faithful to God, and he has no heirs yet. But Abram believed God – even though he didn’t understand God’s timing. He knew that those promises would be fulfilled because God promised, and he knew that he had to wait for God’s own time.
The only reason we 21st century Christians are able to wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled is that we have faith – and that faith comes to us as a gift. Just as we prepare for any important event in life, we actively wait for Christ to return and make everything right with the world. We attend to the things that God asks us to do: we take care of the needy – we feed the hungry and provide shelter for those who are not able to do that for themselves. Here at Christ Lutheran there are so many ministries that reach out to the community that you are truly attending to all the needs of others. So, you are making every effort to follow God’s commands - believing God’s promises.
In our gospel lesson (Luke 12:32-40), Jesus is saying, “Don’t be afraid. I will give you the kingdom. Use your stuff so that you have permanent benefit from it. You will be happy if you are ready for my return.” In other words, Jesus is telling us not to be afraid, to enjoy our things, and be happy! That sounds rather simple doesn’t it? But none of us really do that! Most of us search for something or somebody to give us hope and meaning! We say, “life would be perfect – if only.” That’s why our efforts alone, can’t make us happy. We need what god promises us – just as Abraham and Sarah and all their descendants.
So, let’s look at these promises of Jesus: “Don’t be afraid. I will give you the kingdom.” It seems if we read the papers, watch TV, or check our phones, we begin to believe that we need to be afraid of just about everything – starting with what we eat and drink! And when we learn of horrific tragedies such as the school shooting in Uvalde, we wonder if there is anyone who can promise to keep us safe. Sometimes it even appears that the media intends to keep us on edge – living in fear.
But Jesus promises us that whatever happens to us in the world, his kingdom is ours and we are free to live in the hope of his promise. Sometimes we simply fear our own failures – failures to succeed (that is by the world’s standards), to love, to provide for ourselves in the way we would like. But even those failures can be overcome by God’s promises to restore us and help us to go on and try again.
When fear keeps us from living and loving as God taught us, God’s forgives and gives us a second chance. Even with these promises, we have a hard time forgiving those who may have wronged us – because of our fear. I have heard some people say that sometimes we just may not be able to forgive completely or even need to – depending on the nature of the offense.
But our scriptures tell us that forgiveness really comes from God alone who overwhelms us with love. When we simply receive God’s love and let it wash over us, we no longer need to be afraid. If we fail, God picks us up, dusts us off, and puts us back on the right track again!
The next promise in the gospel text is: “You can keep your stuff forever." There is an irony here. That happens only when we give it away. That’s what is meant by keeping it forever. When we give our treasures where we see that it is needed or where we want our treasure to be, we keep it forever. That can refer to our money. But it is not just about money – the real treasure we have is our relationships – especially the good quality of those relationships. One of the things you treasure here is quality music, and that has always been true in my family. We had a piano in our home that was played daily when my brother and I were growing up. When it was time for my parents to downsize and move into an apartment, they tried to sell that piano. One day my mother called me to tell me that she had given away the piano. I was shocked to hear that it was to a young mother and her daughter who were strangers! When I asked why, my mother told me when the little girl sat at the piano, she knew that piano would fill a home and hearts with love as it had for us. Our heart is – where we have experienced fellowship. For many that would be in the community here at Christ Lutheran. The good news of Jesus Christ is a treasure to be shared!
The next promise of Jesus is “Happiness.” This does not mean that we Christians are free from suffering and pain in this world. It means that we are not simply frantically doing what needs to be done in our lives at home and here at church– but in all ways we are preparing to receive God’s promises! Just as we prepare to receive Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper! We do this through remembering our baptism and our prayers and all the ways we open ourselves to the presence of Christ in the bread and wine. When we hear those wonderful words inviting us to the Lord’s Supper, we know part of God’s promise will be fulfilled for us today.
As we do all of this we are actively waiting for the Lord’s return. We are building relationships with each other so that together we will make Christ’s promises known to the world outside these walls. The kind of happiness Jesus talks about comes to us as we wait together for his return with anticipation! When we hear the words such as, “Come to the banquet for all is ready,” we know Jesus is with us now and forever.
So, let’s erase, “if only…” from our hearts and minds and simply expect Jesus to come to us! We have all experience the delight - that immediate happiness when a loved one arrives home after being away for a while. Let’s await Jesus as he comes to us and be prepared to receive him with joy. “Let your lovingkindness be upon us, as we place our hope in you.” (Psalm 33:22) Amen.