12th Weekend after Pentecost (C/RCL) Aug. 6 & 7: "Fight FOMO! Stop Being Anxious and Start Trusting!"

Twelfth Weekend After Pentecost (C/RCL): “Fight FOMO!  Stop Being Anxious and Start Trusting!”

Luke 12:32-40 (Genesis 15:1-6; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16)

August 6-7, 2016

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Manasquan, NJ

            My young adult child and the twenty-something/thirty-something couples at whose weddings I officiate give me my best lessons in pop culture.  During premarital counseling one of the young people referred to FOMO – ‘He has FOMO, Pastor Mary.”  She laughed when she said it, so I knew it wasn’t contagious.  I thought to myself, “Kristiane mentioned FOMO recently.  But what does it MEAN?”  I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of conversation or look as clueless as I felt, so I didn’t ask.  I tried to figure it out from context.  She used it a second time and the light went on in the attic of my brain:  Fear Of Missing Out!  FOMO is short for Fear Of Missing Out!!  WHY do we book ourselves too tightly and pack too much into our schedules?  FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out!  Hey, something important may happen when I’m not there and then I’ll be on the outside looking in, hearing about it afterwards.

            The Message paraphrase of today’s Gospel refers to FOMO!  Jesus says:

“Don’t be afraid of missing out.  [No FOMO necessary!]  You’re my dearest friends!  The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. 

      “Be generous.  Give to the poor.  Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on.  It’s obvious, isn’t it?  The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

(Luke 12:32-34)

            Our Lord tells us we shouldn’t worry because God will give us the kingdom.  The kingdom isn’t a set place, like a beach house or a piece of property someone inherits.  The kingdom makes an appearance, at least a little, cameo, fleeting appearance, any time and any place God’s will is done -- on earth as it is in heaven.  The food pantry blurb in this weekend’s announcements say that when our volunteers went to deliver groceries we’d collected in the shopping carts last weekend, there wasn’t a single can of coffee on the shelves.  Other weeks we’ve heard there was no soup, no cereal, no canned fruit.  The food pantry is a BUSY place.  Why?  The sad reality is that not everyone in Monmouth County, one of the wealthiest counties in our fair Garden State, can feed him or herself, provide for his or her own family.  The reality of that much food insecurity is obviously not an “ideal state” in God’s mind or in ours.  But the fact that hungry people have somewhere to go for help, at least once a month, makes God glad.  Our Family Promise guests arrive in another week.  The fact that they’re temporarily homeless is also not an “ideal state” in God’s mind or in ours.  But we can be sure it makes God very happy that they’re not sleeping in their cars.  Jesus famously said:

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…  [J]ust as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”  (Matt. 25:35, 40)

            Those with the spiritual gift of mercy minister directly to the hungry and homeless, feeding or housing them this day or this week.  Those with the spiritual gift of advocacy raise local awareness of social ills and lobby state and national legislators to enact laws that address poverty and prevent hunger and homelessness in the first place.  God’s will can also be done – or not -- in the halls of power.

Last week’s Gospel included the parable of the rich fool, the greedy farmer.  He did NOT “live happily ever after.”  He came to an abrupt and a bad end.  Jesus cautioned:  “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”  (Luke 12:21)  I’m a little sad that this week we didn’t roll right into the next passage, “Consider the lilies of the field” (Luke 12:27), which is one of my favorites….  But this Gospel also is a nice continuation of the theme that

·         “…one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”  (Luke 12:15c)

·         The Holy Spirit calls us to value spiritual things over material things.  As people of faith, we are to spend our time and money on what’s important to God – sorting out and serving what’s eternal, not what’s expedient.

·         Jesus says over and over: we are to receive material blessings with a grateful heart and share them with an open hand, realizing that much of what comes to us is meant to flow through us to others.

People in Jesus’ day were no strangers to worries about feeding their families and making a living.  That’s why Jesus told them to chill, to consider the flowers of the field and the birds of the air, for whom God cares.  He cinched the lesson by saying: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  It’s interesting that He adds, “Sell your possessions, and give alms.  [Read: give the $ to the poor.]” (Luke 12:33a)  In other words, empty your hands of meaningless “stuff” so that God can fill them with real treasure.  Stop being anxious about ending up destitute or about potential acts of terrorism in Rio (or in NYC) or the next US break-out of Zika or the trajectory of this presidential election season, or whatever else keeps you up at night.  Stop being anxious and start trusting that God has your back.  Or, as the sign in front of the Glendola Fire Dep’t says, “We have your six.” 

Pastor Frank Watson is with us this weekend to open up Holy Trinity’s “rare book treasures.”  We call them treasures because they’re very old and very special: Bibles, hymnals, books of sermons.  They include Luther Bibles in German, Civil War and World War II soldier editions of the New Testament and psalms in English.  Luther would clarify that even the volumes of Scripture HOLD rather than ARE treasures.  They are but mangers that hold the Christ…  the living Word of God, who says to all of us, including our youth headed off to college, “Do not be afraid, little flock...”  Don’t have FOMO.  “Don’t be afraid of missing out.”  As those of us heard who were anointed at Prayer Around the Cross on Wednesday evening, “You are God’s child, now and always.”  Know that the Father wants to give us the kingdom!  We are not in danger of missing out unless we absent ourselves or become distracted from the Creator by the creation, separated from the Savior by the secular bright and shiny things that catch our eye and capture our attention.

I love the story of the would-be disciple who went to a Buddhist teacher and asked to be his student.  The teacher nodded his head and slowly began to pour tea into the visitor’s cup – kept pouring and pouring until the tea brimmed over the cup, filled the saucer and started to flow onto the table.  “Wait!  What are you doing??” cried the visitor in alarm.  “Teaching you that you must empty yourself before you can be filled with anything.” 


Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham