Luke 12: 32-40
“Are we there yet?” “Are we there yet?” Have you ever been on a road trip and heard this refrain from the back seat? I myself had said it many many times as we’ve driven home along the #1 from Calgary – “Are we there yet? Please?” Sure, getting there is half the fun, but sooner or later, you really want to get to the other half.
Does it seem like this is how we live our lives? Are we often waiting for the next destination, the next roadside attraction, rest stop or milestone? Maybe we’ll sometimes go as far as to put off our appreciation of the present moment in favour of what might come. Everything will be great once this arrives, or I get this answer, or when I’m finished with this or when we’re finally there.
It was no different for the early Christians. They were collectively crying from the back seat, “are we there yet?” Throughout Jesus’ ministry they were waiting for Jesus to get busy and kick the Romans out. Sure, they loved all the amazing things he said and did but they were living under a foreign occupation and they wanted their freedom. Some were hoping that Jesus would shift more from the love your neighbour stuff to the action movie wrath of God vengeance stuff.
But then he died and they were still living under occupation. There was of course all that talk that Jesus would be back and so many held out hope that this first visit was just the warm up – he’s going to return and then, look out – he’s going to be ticked. And he did come back – that’s what we celebrate every Easter – Jesus, in some mysterious way returned and touched the lives of his followers. As promised, after 3 days, the metaphoric temple was rebuilt. But they were still living under occupation. The work still wasn’t done.
So maybe Jesus’ rebirth at Easter wasn’t his “real” return. He must be coming back and soon to finish the job. This is where the community of Jesus followers were when Luke wrote these words. They thought that he’d return within their lifetimes but no matter how many times they asked, “are we there yet?” the answer was always, just around the next corner – and we in Saskatchewan know how far the next corner can be.
Luke is offering this story as a reassurance that Jesus is coming but also some encouragement. No, his arrival hasn’t yet happened but we must be ready. We don’t want to be taken by surprise and have Jesus arrive while we’re doing something that would show our lack of faith. We’re the servants and when the master gets back, we don’t want to be caught with our feet on the coffee table sipping the masters single malt.
Two thousand years later and we’re still waiting for this second coming so that Jesus can finally finish the job – reward those of us who are living just right and punish them, who are the heretics, criminals, and ne’er-do-wells.
And boy, wouldn’t you just love to have a kick butt kind of Jesus show up about now? Sure, if we look at the numbers, we’re living in the safest time in history but when you watch the news, it sure seems we’re living in a great big global mess. We could sure use some divine intervention about now. Jesus keeps teasing us with this heaven, realm of God stuff, but we sometimes find ourselves in the back seat calling out the familiar refrain, “are we there yet?”
Well, there’s a debate going on in university classrooms and churches around the world. Some are saying that yes, we are there – we have arrived; we just failed to notice. The second coming that Jesus promised did happen on Easter morning and the reason we failed to acknowledge this was because Jesus didn’t do what we were hoping he’d do. His return didn’t fit our priorities. He didn’t get the job we were hoping he’d do done. Then again, when did Jesus ever concern himself with fitting the good news of the Gospel into human priorities.
Some are saying that we have arrived, all we have to do is open the car door, get out and start living into heaven.
Maybe you love this idea of heaven being a reality, that the second coming has happened. Maybe this rings true in your hearts and you’re ready to search out God’s realm in our daily lives. On the other hand, maybe you think this is a bunch of horse hooey and that Jesus’ return is still to come, maybe soon. I’m not going to tell you the answer, because I simply don’t know. I have my own ideas and beliefs, but for someone who stands up here and talks for 15 minutes every week, I really don’t know all that much.
And maybe it doesn’t matter which is true. Jesus yet to come, Jesus has been here already – when the rubber hits the road, whatever we believe, we’re called to live out that belief the exact same way.
Jesus tells us in this reading that we’re to collect treasures that do not decay – give up on possessions and give our earthy wealth away because in the end, what’s it worth anyways? Now normally here, this is where I’d talk about giving of our wealth to benefit those who are poor, and this is something that the Bible talks of a great deal, but in this case, no. Jesus is telling us to give up on earthy treasures for our own benefit. This is one of those readings where the theology is pointing to some pretty firm pragmatism. Build up your own heavenly treasure. Fear not because it’s God’s pleasure to serve you in heaven.
This is something that I believe, most of us know already, but maybe haven’t completely accepted because it’s not what we’re taught. We’re taught that in the end, it’s the one with the most toys that wins. We’re taught that we need to put our faith in pension plans and mutual funds. We’re taught that our purpose in life is to feed the economy because this is what will save us. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t save for a rainy day but anyone who lost their savings in the 2008 recession knows how secure we are when we depend on the economy for our salvation. Or maybe you lost your money in one of the other recessions, downturns, and crashes that happen every 8 to 10 years.
And all those belongings that fill our houses? I have had the privilege to conduct many funerals over the last 10 years and you know what never comes up? I’ve never heard a eulogy, I’ve never given a message where a person is remembered or admired for how much stuff they owned.
What’s the treasure that we need to collect in order to live into the heaven that is already here or to be ready for the heaven to come? I believe it’s about relationships. It’s the love of God and neighbour. It’s about combatting hatred and fear with compassion and offering those on the outside a place within. It’s about being that friend who is ready to offer a kind word or hug to someone who feels pain – because I’ll guarantee that this offers far more healing than hours of retail therapy. I know that in my own life, if tragedy strikes, if I’m hit with hard times, if the moths eat away at all my belongings, I have God accompanying me through that pain and I have a community of people who love me and will be there for me. That, my friends, is heaven.
I don’t know if Jesus is coming back to walk the earth as flesh and blood. But if this is it, if this is heaven, it behooves us to build up our holy treasures of love between all our siblings and with God. And if Jesus is still on his way, well I sure don’t want to be caught with my feet up so still it behooves us to build up our holy treasures of love between all our siblings and with God. Then, when someone asks, “are we there yet?” We can all, whole heartedly answer, “Yes, we’ve arrived and isn’t it beautiful.”