“Do not be afraid, Little Flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
One of my own first memories of my father was of traveling home in the car together. I was just a little guy and we were headed home from somewhere in his grey Honda Civic.
Our little neighborhood called Trayton Woods was made up of tri-level late 1970s homes, all tucked in around a little pond, and at the entrance of the neighboorhood was a little convenience store. It was called Farmer’s and it was just a little country store, but they had candy and treats and all kinds of things that get the attention of little people.
Things were different back then. I didn’t really have any sugar to eat, ever, growing up. No sweet cereal, no desert after dinner, nothing like that, but sometimes when we’d travel by Farmer’s Dad would stop and go in and get a snickers bar.
So I remember him coming back to the car with that candy bar and then we drove home and we sat together at the table and he got out a kitchen knife and a small plate and cut the snickers bar into bite size pieces, and I ate them with delight.
He would do that sometimes – stop and get a Snickers and cut it up for me – and every time, all the little pieces of snickers were for me.
He never had one bite of that chocolaty, pea-nutty, nougaty goodness.
God is our Father, who loves us, and gives to us, and cares for us, and delights to be in our company.
My father was not perfect, and I imagine your father was not perfect, and no earthly father in this life can be perfect, but we have a perfect Father.
We have a perfect Father, who loves us; who created us, who takes good pleasure in us. We have a Father who wants what is best for us and who gives of himself for us.
Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
The word for “good pleasure” that Jesus uses, “eudokew” means “delight, pleasure, and approval,” and it is the same word the gospel writer uses to describe how God feels about Jesus:
“And when Jesus had been baptized the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove and a voice came from heaven, you are my son, the Beloved, with you I am “eudokewed”…in you I take delight, with you I am well pleased.”
So, if you dare imagine it – God our Father, feels the same way about us as he feels about his Divine Son, Jesus, who is one with him in love through all eternity.
God feels the very same way about you.
That is to say he loves you and me and all humankind with a love we can begin to imagine and describe and understand, but which we cannot plumb the depths of.
It is our Father’s good pleasure to give us everything – the very kingdom.
All that belongs to God has been given to us, and this is the reason Jesus can say to us “do not be afraid.”
And it is good to hear these words because there is so much we could be afraid of.
Last week we heard of mass shootings in an El Paso, Texas, Wal-Mart that claimed the lives of twenty-two people, with two dozen more injured; and then of a shooting in the middle of the street of a popular shopping area in Dayton, Ohio where nine people were killed and twenty-seven more injured.
We could be afraid to go out of the house, or to gather in public places, or be afraid of the mental health of our country.
We could be afraid of the open racism that motivated the shooting in El Paso, where the gunman went looking specifically to kill Mexican people.
We could be afraid that as a country we’re so divided that we have no hope of securing our schools, our places of worship, the places we shop, or our own homes.
We could be afraid, but Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
And Jesus tells us how not to be afraid.
Jesus says you can sell your possessions, you can give money to the poor, you can share the resources God has entrusted you to be faithful with, you can be ready to serve, but the way not to be afraid is to remember who your Father is and get involved in his mission.
Our fear is diminished when we get involved in reaching out beyond ourselves to extend the love we know God has for us, to a world in need.
This past week the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, our national church body, met for its triennial Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee. Over 700 called and elected persons, clergy and lay representatives, were gathered by the Holy Spirit to do the work of the church, to be about the mission of Christ.
One of the actions taken approving a memorial that declares the ELCA a sanctuary church that is committed to serving and supporting migrant children and families in communities across the country.
In response to the crisis on our border of detained refugees, the ELCA is declaring that we intend to provide shelter for undocumented immigrants. The ELCA could also fight individual cases of deportation, press for the end of mass detentions and lift up immigrants’ voices; and take “prophetic action” to extend “radical hospitality” to immigrants and immigrant communities.
Christopher Vergara, who works on immigration issues in the ELCA’s Metro New York Synod spoke to CNN saying,
“Christians have offered sanctuary for 2,000 years, continuing an ancient biblical practice in which cities and houses of worship provided refuge and asylum for people fleeing injustice. Today, (our) effort (is) to protect undocumented migrants from needless jailing procedures and deportation, and to address the dire situation within the Department of Health and Human Services that has resulted in the stripping of services to refugees and unaccompanied children.”
Our church is getting involved in God’s mission.
Neither this memorial nor any of the ELCA’s proposed actions break U.S. law, but they are the ELCA’s efforts to say that the God who is Father to you and to me is Father to all and “eudokews” all people, God takes good pleasure in each person.
God our Father, if we dare imagine it, feels the same way about you and me as he feels about his Divine Son, Jesus. He loves us with that same fatherly love.
And he invites us to extend that love to a world that is often afraid – afraid of violence perpetrated against people who are different, afraid of being alone, afraid of being without basic resources; afraid of tomorrow.
I think of the ways we are called to give witness to God and the ways I have seen you show where our treasure is.
I think of all the women and men who gathered here yesterday for Bob Mahanes funeral – of all the women who made wonderful, delicious food for Susie and the family and their friends to gather around. Of all the men and women who ushered and set up the sanctuary and cared for this family in grief, to show them the good pleasure God has in them.
I think of the eight Epiphany members who arrived home just yesterday after 7 days of building and refurbishing homes in Jonesville, VA. I can’t wait to hear their stories. I can’t wait to hear about the friends they met and how the experience was a chance to show the good pleasure God has for us and the people of Jonesville.
I think of all of you who are parents or have little people in your lives and how you work so hard to guide and nurture the little ones in your life.
I’ve talked with so many parents, who know what its like to pick stuff from up the house and make a dinner and get everyone to the table – where a good, hot, nutritious meal is waiting – only to have the child fight, fuss, and refuse to eat – aren’t they programmed to eat?! – and maybe its not their fault…maybe they’ve had a tough day….but you don’t give up.
A Father’s love and a Mother’s love doesn’t give up. It is a love that tries to give your child what’s good for them even when they don’t want it, even when it seems impossible, even when the child mistakenly thinks they know better.
Like a patient Mother, like a patient Father, God tries to lead us to the things that are good for us. He tries to get us to receive the things that are nourishing to us; that will benefit us and benefit one another.
We have a perfect Father who encourages us to share what we have.
We have a perfect Father and to take care of each other.
We have a perfect Father who calls us to pass on the news that he “eudokews” all people…that he takes pleasure in us, his children — Each one.
All of us.
You and me.
We have a perfect Father, whom we can trust.
Today and always.