Luke 12 vv32-40
I want to take you back to 13th Century Italy Not actually a great place to be. Wars, political
violence. Religious strife, particularly between Christians and the Muslim world, abject poverty for many and massive wealth for others causing resentment and tension – sounds pretty familiar!
And yet amidst all of that 2 very special people were born around the small town of Assisi—Francesco Bernadone and Chiara di Offreduccio St Francis and St Clare and it is St Clare whose feast day the church
celebrates today. How fitting that the Gospel reading is a challenge to us all about possessions and wealth about our availability, about serving Christ with a humility and an attentiveness that brings happiness and fulfilment. Qualities that epitomised her
life. St Francis has always got the bigger press through history – and Clare has been a secondary figure- I could comment that today women are still having to play second fiddle to men in the church but perhaps I won't go there this morning!!
For St Clare and the poor Clare sisters who lived with her weren't looking for glory in the worldly sense, they didn’t see the
life that they were called to—poverty and simplicity, and a rejection of violence and privilege and status —as a grand gesture that elevated them above other believers. They just simply had faith, they took Jesus' words to heart, they took them
seriously and they lived them out in their lives. They saw in Jesus, someone different, someone special, someone radical, someone they believed to be the Son of God. They saw that Jesus spoke to those like the Samaritan woman at the well and the tax collectors,
they saw that Jesus not only noticed lepers but healed them He blessed the peacemakers, he drew the lowest, the poorest and the most despised into the embrace of a loving creator while challenging the powerful and the overly religious to let go of those things
that came between them and their heavenly Father. Clare took to heart Jesus teaching about the last judgement, when people would be held to account for how they treated the hungry and homeless and dispossessed of the world. How he challenged his hearers to
sit lightly to the things of this world and to embrace the things of the next. Balancing the paradox that the Kingdom of God is yet to come and yet is here among us, shaped by who we are, how we pray and what we do. In a time of instability and uncertainty,
they chose to do the most foolish thing of becoming powerless and poor.
They renounced and reclaimed—they renounced privilege and reclaimed integrity; they renounced
power and reclaimed trust; they renounced status and reclaimed love. They renounced wealth and reclaimed joy. They renounced authority and reclaimed servant hood.
The path Clare and Francis and their followers chose wasn't an easy one – to us it seems incredibly austere and harsh . But when they fasted, for example it wasn’t to deny life but to increase their dependency on God. It was
a revival of Kingdom values, challenging a powerful, rich and often corrupt church. It was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, born in joy and longing, in weakness and obedience and lived out in exuberance, passion, hard work, faith,obedience and trust. They
were ridiculed, they were misunderstood, they went cold, they went hungry, but gradually more and more men and women saw in their way of life something of the Kingdom of God, something of the life and love of Christ. Something that made them question their
own values The pope himself was deeply moved by St Clare's example and she was canonised not long after her death. No mean thing for a women to be honoured in such a way!
800 years later,Poor Clares are still among us, still following Christ, they are found encouraging, they are found, teaching, they are found sharing in the suffering of others, they are found inspiring communities to
share resources. They are found drawing us into a deeper relationship with creation. Some are within religious orders; others are in movements calling for economic and social justice; some are helping others explore reconciliation. Some are quietly,
living out their lives prayerfully, lovingly and simply in cities and towns, in slums and in villages. Like all saints, they aren’t perfect but they make a difference in the same way we all can—doing what wecan to show that love is ever present
in the world. They are awake, alert and ready to meet the needs of others in Christ's name. And significantly, they under gird all their doing with being and with prayer and they de- clutter. Giving away, all that comes between them and God's calling on their
lives. In taking time out to be still, they get more done. In being silent, they have more profound things to say. And in giving away they are enriched- we all are.
most of this morning won't be rushing home, listing everything we own on ebay and giving the money to charity, we aren't asked to. But I hope we might all ask ourselves a few simple questions as we give thanks for and celebrate the life of St Clare.
What is our treasure? Where are our hearts. What might we give away or give up. Do our possessions possess us ? How can we simplify our
lives. Who are we called to serve? Where might we make a difference, however small? what might you renounce? What might you reclaim?
leave you with some words of St Clare herself.
"Gaze upon Jesus, consider Him, contemplate
Him, and as you desire to imitate Him totally love Him, Who gave Himself totally for love of you."