Your Father’s Good Pleasure – Pastor Noel

8/7/16   Proper 14, C   12th Pent.   St. John’s
 “Don’t be afraid, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Or, as I like to say this, “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
And— “Abram trusted God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
WOW—two of my favorite verses on the same day!
Imagine that! God’s kingdom is ours, not because we work so hard to deserve it, rather we deserve it because God wants us to have it.
Imagine that just trusting God, or believing God, is righteousness! What the King James Bible calls “being right-wise with God.” Woo Hoo!
So, this gift of God’s kingdom—what does that mean for us?
It means that there is nothing we can do to get the kingdom, God’s presence. God just gives it to us. We don’t need to do all those things that will make us into “good” people. We can’t work our way, or buy our way, into God’s presence. It is a gift from God—God just gives it to us.
To accept a gift, we say “thank you” and then use the gift to show our thanks.
To accept the gift of God’s presence, that’s all we need to do.
Accepting the gift, living in the kingdom, may change our lives a bit—and THIS change is good!
One sign of the kingdom, Jesus tells us, is peace. “Don’t be a worrier.” This is not a glib cliché, like “don’t worry be happy.”
It is having faith, or trust, that God is in charge, and God will help us find ways to really live the kingdom.  God won’t do it for us, but God will help us do it.  That is how to have peace.
Jesus is always inviting us to have peace. That is another amazing gift from God. With God’s help we can learn to set aside our fears and have that peace.
Travelers’ Insurance once had an ad that said it will help “take the scary out of life.”
I wonder—what is scary for us that auto insurance can take away?
If we want to repair our car after an accident, I guess insurance is a good thing.
But what if what scares us is our health, or our  relationships, or jobs, or violence in the world, I guess that auto insurance won’t help much. It won’t take away those scaries.
God can help take away those scaries—through prayer, through meditation, or what’s called the “relaxation response” we quiet our minds and our bodies, our souls and our hearts.
When we have that peace that only God can give, we can let go of fear, of worry, and God can help us find ways to live the kingdom that is ours.
Jesus says that one way to live the kingdom is to sell our stuff so that we have money to take care of those in need.
That idea can be a real “scarie” for us—get rid of the stuff that defines us, makes us who we are?
But, even without Travellers Insurance, this doesn’t need to be scary.  God has already given us the kingdom—what more do we really need?
I read of a church that decided not to have flowers for worship, but to start a mission fund with that money, and invite folks to add to it. They have raised thousands to help folks in and out of the parish.
It does feel good to know that what we have done is helpful to others, but that’s not the reason Jesus gives us this invitation.
He has made it clear in the gospel story we heard last week that possessions get in the way of our relationship with God, and with each other.  And, no matter how much we appreciate our stuff, it has a life span, just like us.
And Jesus isn’t saying that we should get rid of everything. He asks us to look at our priorities.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” he tells us. If we take a look at our check books, can see where our hearts are.
Maybe it’s at Dave’s and the oil company and the bank and the cable company, and nothing left over.  So, maybe all we can give is a few minutes a day to sit and talk with God. Do it. It’s the best way to make life richer and more peaceful.
Jesus also warns us that “the master” can come back at any moment. This is not a threat—it is a promise. We may not have time to prepare when that happens, so prepare now.
Being at peace with life and living the kingdom by focusing on God and not our things—that is how we prepare for the master’s return.
Jesus said that he is with us always. There is never a time when we are away from his presence, through the power of Holy Spirit.
We may still think that Jesus is talking about “heaven”, after this life, but he is talking about the times we encounter him today, right now.
This is an encounter to anticipate with joy and wonder. When and how will Jesus be known to us today, who will make him manifest to us?
We encounter Jesus in the bread and wine of the Eucharist that God has blessed to become the Body and Blood of Christ. Holding out our hands in supplication, we receive this gift that feeds our bodies and souls. We become rightwise with God.
We encounter Jesus everywhere we go, and if we are prepared, we see and know him in all the people we meet each day. Are we prepared to be Christ for them as they can be for us?
In the Collect we prayed to live according to God’s will. God’s will, God’s yearning, is that we love God as much as God loves us.
This is how we find the peace that overcomes our fears, our “scaries” (even without Travellers’ Insurance) and opens our hearts to all God’s people. This is how we stay tuned in to God so that we are always prepared to meet the master, Jesus, wherever we find him.
That is why I am so excited and empowered by Jesus’ words, “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”