Signpost for Sunday 7 August 2016: Isaiah 1:1,10-20; Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40.
I had a bit of trouble with this week’s gospel reading. It starts off all very reassuringly telling us not to be afraid, then after a couple of verses it’s warning us to be ready and waiting with our loins girded. It ends up telling us we’ll get a good hiding if we eat, drink and get more than merry. On top of all that, half way through Peter, who may well have been as confused as I was, asks, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” (verse 41). Although verse 42 begins, ‘The Lord answered’ I’m not sure he does at all, strictly speaking.
In the end, as usual, I looked at the things that struck me on first reading to see if could make any sense of why they had struck me at all.
There’s something interesting about the very first verse here, for a start: it states that God has already given us the kingdom. Surely that means that the kingdom of God is something that is present right now. It’s not something that only kicks in after we die, or after global warming has done its worst.
Then the historical context around the giving of a gift. Whenever someone gave you a gift in the first century CE, it was not just polite, it was obligatory to give them a gift of similar value in the future. Here’s the author of Luke seems to suggest there’s no gift you could possibly give God that literally comes anywhere near the generosity of his gift of the kingdom. Of course, God knows that, so instead “sell your possessions and give to the poor.” But what’s also interesting here is that Jesus’s injunction for his hearers to give alms doesn’t focus on the needs of the poor. There’s no talk of how much better off the poor will be with the alms we give them. Instead, we will be better off.
A final thought I discovered on reading an article by Maryann-McKibben-Dana the other day: There are two or three thousand verses on wealth and poverty in the Bible — as opposed to homosexuality, which is mentioned in just six verses of scripture (http://www.politicaltheology.com/blog/the-politics-of-scripture-luke-1232-40-maryann-mckibben-dana/). Ask yourself which subject the church is expanding so much of its time on in heated debate? It ain’t the issue of wealth inequality.