Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras
Luke 13: 32-40
August 7, 2022
Parker Palmer, a wise Quaker writer, told some years ago a story about his experience on airplane. “Palmer was a passenger on a plane that suffered the fate some of us have experienced. The plane pulled away from the gate, taxied to a far corner of the airport, and just stopped. He could hear the engines wind down, and his heart sank.
The pilot came on the intercom and said, “I have some bad news and some really bad news. The bad news is there’s a storm front in the west, Denver is socked in and shut down. We’ve looked at the alternatives and there are none. So we’ll be staying for a few hours. That’s the bad news. The really bad news is that we have no food and it’s lunch time. Everybody groaned. (This was back when they still served meals on airplanes.) Some passengers started to complain, and some became angry. But then Palmer watched as one of the flight attendants did something remarkable.
She stood up and took the intercom and said, “We’re really sorry folks. We didn’t plan it this way and we really can’t do much about it. I know for some of you this is a big deal—you are really hungry or you have a medical condition and need lunch. Some of you might not care one way or another and some of you need to skip lunch. So I’m going to pass around a couple of breadbaskets and ask everybody to put something in the basket. Some of you brought snack, something to tide you over, some of you have a few LifeSavers or chewing gum or Rolaids. And if you don’t have anything edible, you have a picture of your children or spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend or a bookmark or a business card. Everybody put something in and then we’ll reverse the process. We’ll pass the baskets around again and everyone can take out what he/she needs.
What happened, Palmer said, was amazing. ‘The griping stopped. People started to root around in pockets and handbags, some got up and opened their suitcases stored in the overhead luggage racks and got out boxes of candy, a salami, a bottle of wine. People were laughing and talking. She had transformed a group of people who were focused on need and deprivation into a community of sharing. A world of scarcity had become a world of abundance. 
Scarcity terrifies us and makes us greedy and selfish. It distracts us from serving our neighbors in need. A scarcity mindset makes fear a central of our lives. The opposite of scarcity is abundance. Jesus knew that his followers were impoverished and lived by a scarcity mindset. He intends to free them from a scarcity mindset and to live in the abundance of the kingdom of God.
In the verses that precede today's gospel reading, Jesus tells his followers, "9 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (10: 39-31).
The passage for today continues with the same teaching—trusting God to provide for you and serve your neighbor. The text plays out in two movements. The content of the first deals with wealth and possessions. The content of the second deals with preparation and service. I will explain the two movements.
The content deals with wealth and possessions.
Jesus wants to calm down his followers' anxiety by assuring them that the kingdom of God is already theirs. He uses a tender statement to talk to them, "Do not be afraid, little flock." This statement reveals our Lord's gentle and compassionate heart. He perceives his followers as little lambs who need the protection of their parents and their shepherd. The main point of the text is not to find security in wealth but to put our trust in our heavenly Father. To have the kingdom of God means not to attach much importance to earthly wealth but to heavenly one.
Our Lord Jesus encourages us to overcome our fears and "Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven" (v. 33). This is a huge step to take. I want to ensure that you understand that Jesus "doesn't mean to sell all one's possessions; he doesn't even say the word 'all!' A little wealth does no harm."  Jesus invites us to be compassionate to those in need. He wants us to use our possessions to help others. Our Lord wants us to shift our understanding of almsgiving from an expression of sharing our excess with the poor to an expression of solidarity and sharing privileges with others.
Jesus introduces us to a new world order where sharing resources is the foundation of the kingdom of God. Greed, selfishness, and earthly possessions are not part of this kingdom. Solidarity with the oppressed and the poor is embedded in its system.
The Content That Deals with Preparation and Service.
Jesus invites his followers and us to be prepared for the second coming of Jesus Christ through serving others. Being generous to others is connected with service. Jesus gives two parables to prepare us for his second coming. A parable about slaves who wait vigilantly for their Lord to return home (12:35-38) and the parable of the householder who needs to remain alert because a thief will not let him know when the break-in will occur. These two parables describe how Jesus responds to our readiness and his coming suddenly. Jesus reverses the order between slaves and master. The master takes a role of a slave and serves food to his faithful servants. This master symbolizes Jesus Christ, who will reward us for our faithfulness.
How this teaching applies to us today?
During Jesus' time, the Roman economy suffered from inflation (an increase in prices). Jesus experienced inflation. Now, inflation hits many of us right where we are most vulnerable—in our wallets. Take, for example, how inflation increases your cost of living. More and more people are becoming poorer. I'm sure many of you used much of your savings to cover your expenses or help your family in need. The rise in gas prices has affected us. Lots of people are worried about what to eat and drink. However, do not let inflation stop you from serving your neighbor and preparing for the coming of our Lord.
Jesus encourages us not to invest our deepest treasure in the things of this world because we will find ourselves no longer serving God but money (Matt. 6:24), which can lead to anxiety coming from the uncertainties of money (Matt. 6:25-34). As all of us know, our money is eroded by inflation. What will happen to our money if the stock market crash or the bank fails? Can you be sure that what you saved will be enough to handle the inflation or crash of the market? No, but you can be sure that our Lord will continue to provide for you and find a way to help you to stand on your feet. Our gracious God opens new ways by which we can more adequately and wisely meet our obligations and needs.
For us who experience inflation, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (v. 32). Calm down your anxiety and trust the Lord, who promised to take care of you. Calm down and trust the Lord, who will provide for you. As we face this inflation, let us continue to help our neighbor who is in need. By doing so, we claim that we put our security in the Lord, not in earthly possession. Let us stand in solidarity with the underserved because by doing so, we claim that the kingdom of God is here on earth. When we serve our neighbor, we prepare ourselves for the second coming of the Lord, who will reward us.