God’s “Good Pleasure”

The text of the sermon, based on Genesis 15.1-6 and Luke 12.32-40, preached with the people of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC, on the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, August 7, 2022.

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From Advent through the Day of Pentecost, we retell the Jesus-story of his coming, birth, life and ministry, death and resurrection, and his sending the Holy Spirit to remind us of who he is and to empower us to continue his ministry.

Today, we continue our trek through the second half of our church calendar year, the Season after Pentecost. The primary color is green. A symbol of growth. For we are meant to deepen our understanding, even more our living of the Jesus-story. In the words of the hymn, we, day by day, are to see him more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly.[1]

Today, we hear God’s word to Abram, “Do not be afraid.”

Remember, God called Abram and Sarai to leave their homeland, promising that they would be progenitors of a great nation. This childless couple, Abram, 75 years old, and Sarai, not much younger, without a halting step or hesitant word went forth. For their trust, God considered them righteous. Many trials they endured, journeying through foreign, often hostile lands. Throughout, bearing the burden of their continued barrenness, they, in desperation, doubted the fulfillment of God’s word.[2] Responding to Abram’s lament, God reiterates the promise, saying, “Do not be afraid.”

Centuries later, Jesus consoles his disciples, saying, “Do not be afraid.”

Remember, Jesus had called them, most, ordinary fisherfolk, saying, “Follow me.” Without a halting step or hesitant word, they cast their nets aside. In the early days of Jesus’ ministry, his teaching amazed them. His parables, employing everyday images, reflecting on ordinary experiences, opened their eyes to the deepest heavenly truths. His miracles opened their hearts to the highest heavenly proofs of his Divine identity. But the more he talked, the blessings of which he spoke were not earthly. Thus, he cautioned his followers not to worry about material treasure.[3] Even more, opposition from both religious and political powers grew. To be a disciple of Jesus was an itinerant, humble, and dangerous enterprise.

Thus, he said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

Today, to us, his present-day disciples, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”

Good thing. For there is much to fear. The tolling bell of the world’s ills and life’s woes is constant. Among them…

War and its attendant calamities of death and destruction and the provocation of deepening hatreds and cycles of revenge…

Those historical, thus far ineradicable, seemingly eternal, surely infernal –isms involving race and sex where peoples, by virtue of color and gender are treated as lesser by persons and systems, individuals and institutions…

Nationwide, worldwide ideological upheaval where the art of politics, always intended as a means of human cooperation, is reduced to an act of domination and the crude reduction of the complexity of our human identity and interaction to the simplistic directions of liberal left or conservative right…

Gun violence anywhere, at any time, threatening the lives and well-being of anyone.

Always, there was, is, and will be much of which to be afraid. Yet what we possess can counteract our very natural, often very prudent human fears. God’s promise. “Do not be afraid…for it is your Father’s good pleasure” – desire and delight, intention and action – “to give you the kingdom.”

Kingdom. (Or, as I oft say, kin_dom, a term of endearment that is less monarchical and hierarchical, more relational and familial.) A word we ascribe to God’s life and nature. God’s being and doing of love, unconditional benevolence, and justice, impartial fairness. For all people, at all times.

Yes, we pray, “Our Father, Thy kingdom come.” Yet Jesus proclaimed, “the kingdom of God is at hand.”[4] Where? In his life and ministry. And “the kingdom of God is within you.”[5] How? Through the Holy Spirit.

The kingdom of God is here. In us. We are the bearers God’s love and justice. All that ever remains is for us to be who we are and to do what we do, which is the same as who God is and what God does.

And when, not if, we are afraid, remember these words of a familiar hymn, truly, a message of Divine comfort:

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,

For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.”[6]

© 2022 PRA


[1] Words attributed to Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)

[2] See Genesis, chapters 12-14.

[3] See Luke 12.22-31.

[4] Mark 1.15a

[5] Luke 17.21b

[6] Words (1787) by K. (anonymous); attributed to George Keith (1639-1716)

#fear #donotbeafraid #Christiandiscipleship #thekingdomofGod #loveandjustice

1 thought on “God’s “Good Pleasure”

  1. Thank you Paul!!

    We surely do need this sermon right now!! Fear is everywhere and across all fronts!! Should we go to that outdoor concert where it is more safe to avoid Covid, yet makes us a potential target of any deranged shooter!! We force ourselves to do the things we enjoy not because of our fear but because of our faith!! I’m so appreciative of you including the words of that inspirational hymn because we certainly need that right now!! This week I’ll continue to read my fav words of this sermon “ The kingdom of God is here. In us. We are the bearers God’s love and justice. All that ever remains is for us to be who we are and to do what we do, which is the same as who God is and what God does.”

    Love!

    Like

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