One of the first movies I remember seeing in the theatre was Home Alone. This movie fits well with what we are talking about this morning. In Home Alone, the whole family is getting ready to go on a family vacation to France. The parents are busy trying to make sure they have all their clothes, their toothbrushes, and other assorted items that while important, are certainly not as important as their 8-year-old son. The family ends up focused so much on their own suitcases and belongings that they forget Kevin. They end up leaving him behind because they are focused on peripheral things, not things that matter like their son/brother. I am sure many of us have stories of our parents, family members, or maybe even friends forget about us because they were focused on something else. It can be easy for us to focus on things on the periphery. They seem important at the time and sometimes it is only later that we realize they were not quite as important as they once seemed. I am sure this was true as the parents in home alone realized they left their 8-year-old son at home.
Today’s gospel text is deals with central issues. The gospel writer is sure to point out what things are on the outside and what things are of utmost importance. The text has brought together the ABC’s of many different elements throughout the gospels. This is some of Jesus’ greatest hits. In fact, if you remember the gospel last week, you will notice the theme of not storing up your treasures in heaven is a piece of this text as well. However, Luke combines them here to make a point. He wants to show the readers how to locate the center of our spirituality, the ground of our being. What is important vs. what is not as important. He uses some teachings of Jesus as well as a little parable to take us away from all the details of life in which we can so easily lose ourselves. He takes our head in his hands, as my dad used to do when he was pointing out something to me and I couldn’t seem to see it, and focuses us in the right direction. Combining this alphabet soup of elements for us, the gospel write, Luke, shows us how not to get lost in peripheral issues, how not to miss the center of our lives.
However, there are a couple of things that get in the way living centered lives. First, Border issues are usually the problems in our lives when things aren’t going right. In our text, people have been busy acquiring possessions and finding safe receptacles and structures in which to store them. They have been running around preoccupied with daily details, forgetting why they are doing what they are doing in the first place. Jesus reminds them that the larger issue is to ask what your real treasure is because if you miss the point there, we can be busy buying treasures and prestigious houses in which to store things that ultimately don’t really matter.
Second, there are times in our lives we tend to become entirely confident that the things we surround ourselves at the periphery are the most important things in the world to us. We become convinced that stuff on the periphery is actually stuff that is at the center. Like when I focus on that baseball game again instead of spending time with my wife. This is especially true this year because my favorite team the Cubs have been nothing short of awful. So they should really be on the periphery this year.
Even when we get off track, once again Jesus is takes us to the heart of the matter, to the center of our lives. And then he tells this little parable about servants who are busy running around doing peripheral stuff, not giving a lot of thought to the master who has gone off to get married. But when he comes back, even in the middle of the night, oh what a time this will be! This will be a celebration. He will dress up like a servant, get them to recline at table and wait on them hand and foot. He will get them to share his joy! They will become fellow celebrants. What a time this will be! Are they ready for it? Are they focused on the very reason why they live and work in the master’s house? To share in his joy? To belong to him and to know his love? Or are they busy with peripheral matters that keep them from understanding whose they really are.
Jesus is talking about central things like forgiveness, or the confidence that comes from knowing we belong to God eternally. This has to do with basic principles like relationships with one another that are grounded in love, honesty and a desire to serve. Central to Jesus is a desire to be in relationship with one another.
These are gifts given when the Master comes into our lives, when his kingdom comes. As his servants and followers, we know that we are not talking merely about the kingdom that comes at the end of time. It comes to us also in the here and now, just as surely as the King himself is present with us through our faith in his love for us. Therefore, instead of worrying about all of these possessions we can instead focus on what is most important in our lives. We can instead focus on bringing God’s kingdom here and now. When are lives are focused on the things that are central we are able to accomplish amazing things in Christ’s name. It is then we are able to focus on loving one another.
For that reason, the center of our lives, the place from which our entire motivations daily arise, is joy, the joy that welcomes the master on a daily basis and keeps us focused on sharing God’s love. It is the joy that takes away fear and daily reminds us whose we are. It is the joy that makes us ready to take on the challenges of a new day. It is the joy that assures us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. It is the joy that makes us generous beyond belief and keeps us