“Do not be afraid.” The angel’s words to Zechariah and then to Mary in Luke 1 appear again on Jesus’ lips in today’s reading. These words and variations of them appear frequently throughout scripture to remind us to let go of anxiety, worry, and fear and to trust in God’s care and provision. God is pleased to love us and to give us the kingdom. Jesus reminds the anxious disciples not to worry about what to wear, eat, or drink. These sweet words offer affirmation to the disciples—the little flock Jesus addresses—and by extension to us. Do not be afraid. God wants to give us the kingdom.
The kingdom God promises does not include wealth or possessions; it does not promise bank accounts, big houses, or the mountain chalet or lake cabin. In fact, with knowledge of God’s kingdom, we can sell our possessions and give to the poor. Jesus invites us to look where our attachments lie. What do we cling to? What are we holding on to? What gets in the way of responding to God’s call to live lightly and joyously in the kingdom?
I heard a story about the death of a stingy rich man in a small community. People were curious about his money. One person asked the funeral director, “How much did he leave?” The director replied, “All of it.” We cannot take anything with us. Maybe that can shake us loose from the constant striving, acquiring, and worrying about the future.
God wants to give us the kingdom, the assurance of being loved, forgiven, accepted as we are and thus empowered to live in peace and harmony with all creation and all people. Set your heart on living in God’s grace and be at peace with all.
Repeat throughout the day, “Do not be afraid.”
The prophet Isaiah brings a harsh message to the Southern Kingdom of Israel. Although they are performing sacrifices and observing feasts, they have lost their heart for God. God wants no more meaningless sacrifices but instead wants the people to repent. The psalmist proclaims a similar message from God. The people’s sacrifices have become pointless because they have forgotten God. The primary offerings that God desires are thanksgiving and ethical living. The author of Hebrews sounds a note of harmony, emphasizing that Abraham’s faith in action—not his performance of religious duties—brings him favor with God. Jesus teaches that we cannot rest on our laurels of having faith. Instead we should remain vigilant and continue to perform acts of charity, including caring for the poor, as a response to our faith.
Read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. Consider the author’s difficult questions: Is there blood on your hands? Does your worship lead you to acts of mercy and justice?
Read Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23. How do you offer thanksgiving as sacrifice and go in the right way?
Read Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. How do you demonstrate faith as a verb, not just a noun?
Read Luke 12:32-40. God promises us a bountiful kingdom, but we cannot take our worldly possessions there. How do you work toward living as if you are already in God’s bountiful kingdom? How do you help to create it?
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