I wonder where you fit on a being prepared scale? Are you like the very best scouter someone who is always well prepared for everything or are you a bit last minute and a bit of a winger? Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
This passage about being prepared reminded me of Rachel’s fabulous sermon a few weeks ago about Mary and Martha. We all know that story and often will honour that it is not a story about ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ or vice versa. It isn’t about either or but both and, perhaps more especially where they fit together. I am drawn to the Martha though that Rachel described I would love to be a planner I am not a planner (I am sure if you ask Rich after the service he will confirm and affirm that I am the worst planner ever!). Like Martha in the kitchen looking on at Mary sat listening at Jesus feet when I here of those who are not up at silly o’clock finishing sermons because they are written over a week in advance simply requiring a tweak, or the husband who says but it is on the calendar knowing that the unprepared person in the house never ever writes anything on the calendar or looks on the calendar. We are in holiday season and holidays force us to be prepared. I have no doubt in our home in two weeks time there will be the usual family scenario. At around 9.30am with a desired set off time of 10am the words will be said “everyone else’s things are packed and in the car we are just waiting for your stuff where is it.” Now I will be being Martha I will be doing the things regarded as pointless like cleaning floors and toilets but where will my things be? In the drawers or wardrobe if we are lucky but potentially still drying!! Oh and if you call at 10am we won’t ever have left and my things may just be being packed then…Like Martha I just long to be prepared which is what our Gospel this morning is all about. Luke shares these words from Jesus that we do not need to be afraid if we are only prepared.
The words that Jesus’ speaks were first spoken to the Israelites as they prepared for their sudden exodus from Egypt. As the Israelites were preparing for the Passover. They are told to be fully clothed as they eat that meal prepared for their journey so that they could be up and off at a moment’s notice.
Jesus in his development of the words retains this strong sense of urgency. Jesus is engaged in a running battle with the powers of evil. Not only is he issuing a challenge to total loyalty in the face of opposition. Not only is he saying that God’s kingdom now demands a complete reordering of priorities. A crisis is coming, a big showdown, for which they must be prepared. Jesus knows that in the events that will lead to his death his followers are going to face challenges and they need to be prepared to withstand them
I wonder whether for us there is a message that has been our theme for weeks now. If we love the Lord our God with all our heart, strength and mind then we will be prepared to turn to God, to focus on that simple command in all times and circumstances so that as Jesus is preparing the disciples for the tough times ahead we are prepared to follow Christ even through our darkest valleys and through the greatest challenges and storms.
We are back to faith. For those of you who were here last week I challenged you to a faith audit I wonder how many of you did that. I would be delighted to hear the outcomes of it if you did and I going to make the challenge again for those of you who haven’t or missed it. Last week we explored the rich fool and he was incredibly shrewd and I don’t think he was not prepared indeed (and here is the Mary and Martha esque rub) perhaps he was so prepared that he had not left room for God or God’s kingdom. We talked about how especially at this time of rising living costs we might be auditing our finances and how we spend our money and who with and this was probably something that people do quite regularly and often and I wondered how often we audit our faith in the same way. How often do we think about how we spend our time, what motivates us, how we give of what we have, what might be distracting us from God and how our values and priorities align with the values and priorities of God.
Faith is sometimes presented as necessarily divorced from evidence. If you can prove something then you don’t need to have faith to believe it. The story of Abraham related in Hebrews would seem to suggest a different kind of faith to that. Faith is not an irrational decision to step out into darkness, but a choice and often a choice which is made through what is known and experienced. Faith at its best is an adventure with God and in any adventure there is risk and uncertainty but that is different to the idea that it is just plain stupidity.
Abrahams faith starts with conversation with God. We are at an advantage we know Genesis before Abraham and we know what happens after Abraham. We have been through creation, met the very first people, witnessed the flood and the saving of Noah. Abraham is already embedded in the story. We know nothing of his upbringing but he is connected to the story through a list of his ancestors. The Lord when they meet we can assume is known to Abraham at least through his heritage. Abraham does not take a groundless leap of faith to follow God and leave his land he follows the promise of a son something that matters to him. The promise and therefore Abraham’s faith are built on experience and relationship.
Hebrews commentary on Abraham makes faith the air that Christians must breathe to live. Like Abraham we are part of the ongoing story – all of us. We don’t start from nothing and our stories will have consequences for those other Christians in community with us and those experiencing our community from the outside. Hebrews reminds us that the patriarchs don’t see the completion of God’s plan though they see enough to be able to guess and to be excited. They understand enough to be able to live their lives in a way that will enable future generations to play their part and participate in the story too. Like Abraham we live with a mixture of knowing God from what God has already done and longing to see what is still unknown. Part of Abraham and perhaps our legacy too is discontent – a restless certainty that what we already know about God is never enough and there is always more. Desire and discontent seem strange things for us to value in faith but our Hebrews passage tells us that they are what make God willing to be identified with us – ‘not ashamed’ to be our God.
So we are building an exciting picture of faith. Based on a knowledge of God, but fuelled by a longing to know God better, align our priorities and values with the values of God and God’s kingdom to grow deeper in relationship with God and to abide in God’s love and see it grow in and through us. Faith then is not dogged persistence against all evidence, it is an adventure with God, adventure contains excitement based on what we have already experienced the thing that has got us out of bed and through these doors this morning. Let’s follow our Gospel words this morning as a church community and as individuals. So words I never thought I would say once let alone two weeks in a row lets audit! This week take time to examine your faith to really think about the adventure you are on with our amazing and ever loving God and share it, witness to it and inspire others in and through it. Lets examine our faith together as a community, inspiring and exciting each other by our different stories, adventures and motivations. As Jesus asks us lets be prepared and be willing to risk the adventure of faith let’s do that as the community of St Peter’s together with God in the gloriousness of our diversity and grounded in the desire to Love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength. Amen.