Messages of fear fill our world: fear of violence, disease, financial ruin, or simply being out of fashion. Often the message of the faith community gets lost in our fear of a contrary culture, an angry God, or a disappointing self.
How refreshingly different are Jesus’ words: “Do not be afraid”—a simple yet profound declaration of God’s never-failing love. Do we sometimes feel overwhelmed by a culture increasingly indifferent to our faith? Yes, but Jesus identifies with the “little flock.” God does not panic at the signs of institutional decline, the growing numbers of those called the “nones” (not identifying with any organized religion) and “dones” (alumni of the church who aren’t going back). Nor should we.
We do not remain oblivious to the concerns, fears, and doubts of those around us. Rather, we take seriously the promise given by Jesus: “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We do not create this kingdom nor are we to preserve our feeble efforts at kingdom building. Jesus and the Father (by the Holy Spirit) bring about the kingdom—the righteous rule of God. We look to see where God is at work building the kingdom and join in the process.
Naturally we fear, which is why Jesus reassures us. We don’t feel guilty over our fears; we acknowledge the reality that God has already anticipated them. We therefore have no need to live under their power. Jesus reminds us that God is at work. God intends and is able to bring about God’s kingdom. God will do it in God’s time and way. In the meantime we are “the little flock” under God’s protection.
Father, the One who builds the kingdom, show me where you are at work in my world and give me the willingness to join you in the task. Amen.
ThelessonfromIsaiahandthepsalmcallthe people of God to “Hear!” The message has to do with sacri ces and burnt offerings: God does not want them! The sacri cial system had come to be understood as a means of attempting to manipulate God for self-centered purposes, and the texts there- fore call for worship that is God-centered. The Gospel lesson also calls the people of God to decision. Our use of nancial resources is inextricably linked to our conviction that the future and our destiny lie ultimately with God. What we believe about the future affects how we live in the present. This af rmation is precisely the message of Hebrews. The entrusting of one’s life and future to God is “the reality of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen.” For those who trust in God’s reign, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.”
• Read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. In what ways can you let go of a self-centered focus in worship?
• Read Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23. What are your antidotes to worry? How do they allow you to deal with anxieties in your life?
• Read Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. What allows you to focus on the awe and wonder of being held in God’s grace?
• Read Luke 12:32-40. Where do you see God at work in your life? How is this awareness a part of having your “lamp lit”?
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