Luke 12:1-12

Summer Requests — FBC Laurens

June 23, 2013

Take a look at the two pictures that are being displayed on our screens this morning. On the right is a fish weathervane and on the right is a picture painted by a California college art professor back in the 1930s. What do both of these items have in common? Both were brought to the PBS series Antiques Roadshow within the last few years and appraised by two of the program’s experts. The results of the two appraisals however could not have been more different from each other.

The owner of the fish weathervane had purchased his object from an antique dealer. At the time of purchase, he was told that the weathervane was from the late 19th or early 20th century and that it came from New England. It was considered somewhat rare and in excellent shape. As a result, the owner paid $17,500 for it. The problem, he would learn on Antiques Roadshow, was that his fish was a fake. It had been made to look old though it was actually made in recent years. And, rather than being worth $15,500 it was in reality worth about $500. Antiques Roadshow, May 23, 2011

The painting to the left was also brought to Antiques Roadshow. It had been a housewarming gift to the couple who owned it. The painter had once been the man’s college art professor and he had gained some notoriety. When the couple married, friends of theirs from the art department had given them the work as a gift for their new home. They had always treated it as an object with significant sentimental value but not really as a piece of art with overwhelming monetary value. As a result, you can imagine the shock on the wife’s face when the Antiques Roadshow appraiser shared with her that her housewarming gift was actually worth roughly $500,000 and that this price might be conservative. The art teacher had actually become very famous and in recent years one of his paintings had sold for $21 million. They didn’t have just a meaningful housewarming gift to hang over the mantle, they actually had a priceless work of art. Antiques Roadshow, June 10, 2013

In the end, both of these items failed to live up to claims associated with them. One object claimed to be worth a great deal but was actually quite common. The other object was regarded as having no real value but was in truth a priceless piece of art. Both gave a false sense of what they really were.

In our passage today from Luke 12, Jesus offers a very similar message to both the Pharisees and to his disciples. Both, were giving false impressions of their true selves, but, like the fish and the painting, they were doing so in quite different ways. On the one hand, the Pharisees were claiming to be devout followers of God. They claimed that God’s commands and laws were their lives’ focus. But, Jesus pointed out that while they may have obeyed the letter of the law, they fell far short of the spirit of the law. In other words, while they may have been strict law keepers, the real ways that they treated others and the real by-products of their obedience didn’t seem to be in keeping with that of people that were making the world a better place. In essence, Jesus said they were hypocrites, their real life actions suggested that they were far from the people they claimed to be.

On the other hand, Jesus’ disciples also received similar criticism from Jesus but again in a much different way. They truly were devout, committed followers. They truly did desire to serve God with all of their being and to care for others in a just, loving and gracious way. They were the real thing when it came to their lives of faith. But, when asked if they were believers or when invited to testify or witness to their faith in public settings, they were apprehensive to do so. They too were not what they claimed to be. As a result they too were living as hypocrites.

What is interesting is that Jesus here expands our understanding of the word hypocrite. Through this passage, Jesus teaches us that sometimes hypocrites try to be something they are not. And, at other times, hypocrites are those who are unwilling to admit who they really. The Pharisees, like our fish from Antiques Roadshow, claimed to be something they were not. But, the disciples, much like the painting from Antiques Roadshow, were also equally hypocritical by not being willing to admit who they really were.

From my perspective, this text provides a significant idea for us to consider for a few moments this morning. As believers, we have long heard the church point out folks who are hypocrites because they are not who they claim to be. But, how often do we as people of faith, wrestle with the other side of hypocrisy. How often have we considered that our Achilles heel may be an unwillingness to be who we really are? In essence, Jesus was calling his disciples in their private and their public lives to be who they really were. But, what about us? As Christ followers today, what does it mean to be careful to live as we truly are?

Sir Ken Robinson is a writer and speaker on the subject of creativity. Not so long ago, I heard him tell a story about his son James, who when he was young, was given the role of Joseph in a community children’s production of the Nativity Story. What caught Robinson’s attention on the night of the performance was the moment when the children playing the three kings and bearing the three gifts for the baby Jesus emerged on the scene. Rather than coming and saying we bring thee “gold, frankincense and myrrh,” here is what happened. The first child did say, “I bring you gold,” but the second child got out of order and said, “I bring you myrrh” and then the third child said, “and I brought you Frank’s gift.” In the midst of that funny moment, what caught Robinson’s attention is that everyone wanted to quickly correct the children who didn’t understand that they had done anything wrong.

While certainly one child had gotten “Frank’s gift” confused with “frankincense” but what did it really matter if one said “gold, myrrh and frankincense rather than “gold, frankincense and myrrh”? Was that really important? In turn what spoke to Robinson is that while there was something good about wanting to provide some correction, he was a bit taken aback at how quickly those present wanted to stifle these three children by explaining to them exactly the way things were supposed to be. Robinson’s point was that we are often very quick to create in our minds exactly how the world is supposed to work and thus we feel a need to immediately reject people’s attempts to suggest any alternative — even when it comes to reworking the order of the gifts given to baby Jesus. Sir Ken Robinson, Ted Talk, Posted June 2006,

In essence, I would say to us is that something similar is in danger of happening to us as people of faith. What I mean is that we come in here and we remind ourselves of who we really are, but then we go back out there into the world. In turn, we are often unwilling to be who we really are out there because the world is often operating according to a different template. Our fear is in wondering how the world will respond if we offer an alternative way of thinking, speaking or acting. If we say what really drives us or if we actually live according to the true beliefs and calling of our heart what will the folks out there think?  Will we be told that we have it wrong? In term day after day, we allow others to dictate how life works and what we are supposed to think while we betray our true selves and what is the real calling of our hearts.

And Jesus says, do not live with hypocrisy. Don’t be something that you are not, but be who you really are even when everyone else says you have it wrong. Say what you truly believe. Say it with love and grace, but, say what you believe. Act as you really are. Act with care and compassion and with others in mind, but, be as you really are. Don’t be conformed to this world — but by the renewing of our mind and our faith — let us be who we really are.

Now, I know what you are wondering. What about verse 10, where Jesus speaks of “blaspheming” or not have reverence for the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? I think in part, this verse can be understood exactly in light of what we are saying. On the one hand, it can point to those who time and time again, refuse to accept God’s desire to love them and change them and who never are willing to show reverence for the movement of God’s Spirit like the Pharisees in these verses. But, it can also refer to those, who have received God, but who daily refuse to listen to God’s spirit by being unwilling day after day to be the people that God has uniquely created us to be. After all, how can God ever forgive us of failing if we are never willing to risk trying? How can God forgive us for falling short of being who we are if we are never willing to attempt to be who we truly are?

Let me end by asking what will define us? Will what happens in these baptismal waters define and dictate who we are? Or will the culture out there dictate who we are? There are real, unique, creatures of faith with amazing possibilities in all of us. Are we willing to open ourselves to what God wants to do in and through us and risk being who we truly are? Amen.