Grace Presbyterian Church

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Sermon: Dressed for Action

Grace Presbyterian Church

August 7, 2022, Pentecost 9C

Luke 12:32-40

Dressed for Action

Back in 1986, an unknown author by the name of Frank Peretti got a novel published that would create quite a sensation in the then fairly staid world of “Christian” literature. Titled This Present Darkness, the book took events in a stereotypical American small town as a shadowing of grand and epic battles between the angels of God and demon hordes intent on overthrowing the kingdom of God. 

The book spawned a sequel, Piercing the Darkness, and in one of the two books (I can’t remember for sure which, but I think it must have been the second) came a scene that, even at the still-youthful age I was then, made me stop, blanch with horror at what I had just read, and gather up both books and throw them away. 

In the scene, the aforementioned heavenly battle seems to be going badly for the angelic good guys. One of the angelic captains begins to sound an awful lot like he’s despairing and pleads out loud for the Christians in that small town to pray harder, lest the battle be lost and God’s forces overthrown. 

Think about that, folks. The kingdom of God would be overthrown unless one person started praying harder, whatever that means. I lack the words to emphasize how theologically and biblically wrong that is without resorting to words like “heresy.” 

I could remind you of our little jaunt through the book of Revelation in the Sundays after Easter, which pointed to the ultimate conclusion that no matter how badly things might seem to be going at any given point, God wins in the end. The Lamb is on the throne, the Holy City comes down, all that good stuff.

It would be remiss of me, however, to overlook the words of today’s reading from Luke’s gospel pointing us to the same basic thought. Indeed, the very first sentence found in verse 32 illustrates just how untenable and unviable that Present Darkness scenario is. 

Do not be afraid.” You can easily lose count of the number of times that God, or an angel, or Jesus (as in this case) says these words in Luke’s gospel, going back to the beginning of the book in which it has to be repeated multiple times to folks like Zechariah and Mary and the shepherds in the field. This sentence is good counsel enough, to be sure, but what follows is jaw-dropping, if we stop and think about it.

…for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”

Listen to that again: 

…for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”

Just give it away, apparently. It gives God pleasure to give us everything that is God’s. Let your mind be blown. And let this sentence inform those seemingly unbearably radical instructions that follow; if God is pleased to give away everything to us, can we not do the same for the world around us?

Does that sound like a kingdom that is going to be overthrown by some human weakness?

Or take the next section of the reading, the call to … waiting?

Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit…” is reminiscent of one of those late parables in Matthew’s gospel, the one with the young women waiting for the wedding party when their lamps run out of oil. But, while “Dressed for Action” could probably be sold as a Hollywood action title, it’s also not exactly a call to storm the battlements. Jesus then follows this with a parable about slaves waiting for their master to return from such a banquet, with the wildly unfathomable promise that the master who finds those slaves waiting and ready would turn around and play the role of the servant and serve those slaves. If you ever visit Monticello, ask the docents how many times Thomas Jefferson did that for his slaves. 

But again, this outlandish reward is not for any harebrained act of whatever, but for nothing more than waiting and being ready – dressed for action and lamps lit. Not storming the Capitol or taking over the legislature to pass all manner of religious-oppression laws; only to wait for our Lord to come to us. Maybe even to give us the Kingdom since that apparently gives God pleasure to do. But the faithful response is to wait to be led by the Lord. 

For a God whose good pleasure it is to give us the Kingdom, Thanks be to God. Amen.

Hymns (from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal): #396, Brethren, We Have Met to Worship; #402, How Lovely, Lord; #350, Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning

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