August 8, 2010
Luke 12:35-38 (1)
"Do Not Be Afraid, Little Flock"
Rev. Lauren J. McFeaters
As they travel those final miles to Jerusalem, Jesus takes what time they have left, and instructs his disciples on how to deal with their fear and anxiety. Jesus knows the human heart. He knows how easily we worry, how readily we fret and fuss. He knows how we brood and mope and fritter away our lives on things for which we have no control. And Jesus knows it is our anxiety and fear which produce our greed and grasping; our endless search for the thing which will ease us and calm us and fill the void.
In the New Testament, anxiety is not always considered to be a negative. We know of Paul's “anxiety” for the Corinthians, and Timothy's anxiety for the welfare of the Philippians.
Here however, Jesus is concerned with the worry that distracts and diverts us from the gospel life. Here, Jesus is concerned with our preoccupation with materials things, as if having things can protect and shield us; as if things give meaning or grant security.
What is it about Christians and anxiety? We worry ourselves sick. Our anxiety has a life of its own. It’s noisy and obnoxious. We are on whole a vexed group of people. There isn’t anything we won’t worry about. Just think back over your worries of the last 48 hours. It’s enough to fill an ocean.
Our worry and anxiety become an idol we bow down to on an hourly basis. Like Fred Craddock says, our anxiety and worry reflect a lack of trust in God; and a lack of interest in the Gospel life. (2)
Here’s what Jesus says that breaks through it all: “Don't fuss about what's on the table or in your closet. There is so much more to your inner life than food, more to your outer appearance than clothes. Take for instance the birds of the air, free and unfettered; carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.”
“Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don't fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don't you think God attends to you, takes pride in you, does God’s best for you?”
Jesus looks us right in the eyes and says, “What I'm trying to get you to do is relax, to not be so preoccupied so you can respond to God's giving. People, who don't know God and the way God works, worry over these things, but you know God and how God works. Steep yourself in God and you'll find your everyday human concerns will be met. You are my dearest friends and God wants to give you the very kingdom itself.” (3)
Jesus is utterly determined that we recognize, when we put God first, we are met by the only One who meets the deep needs of our souls. (4)
For many years as a young girl, I had the pleasure of spending some weekends at my grandparent’s home in Coraopolis, PA. It was in the days when the milkman arrived on Saturday mornings and set the glass bottles full of milk in the side door cooler; when the local farmer would pull his cart up the street and my grandmother would choose corn, limas, and tomatoes for dinner; the days when my name would appear in the local newspaper announcing:
Miss Laurie McFeaters from Upper St. Clair, PA is visiting her grandparents Josie and Edwin Oellig and will be attending the Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning.
I only lived 30 minutes away, but my name somehow appeared in the paper.
But bar none my favorite part of the weekend: more than watching Petticoat Junction; more than playing Go Fish; more than putting on white gloves and a hat and standing on the church pew to sing the hymns; was watching my grandmother put a piece of tissue in the kitchen window each morning.
My grandparents lived right next door to my Great Aunt Catherine and as soon as she woke up in the morning, my grandmother, would take a piece of Kleenex tissue – being from Mississippi she said “Klen –x”; she would take a piece of Klen-x and make a bow by scrunching it in the middle. Then she’d put it up on the window ledge so my Aunt could see it. This was my grandma’s signal to my aunt that all was well; it was the start of a new day and the house was awake.
We’d wait for Aunt Catherine to add her Kleenex to her kitchen window and I’d watch my grandmother smile. It was a stunning, beautiful smile. Never mind that there were only 15 feet between the houses and that either one of them could have knocked on the other’s door. Never mind that someone could have picked up the telephone.
“Grandma,” I’d ask, “are you afraid that something is going to happen to Aunt Catherine during the night and you have to check that she’s still alive this morning?”
“Why honey,” she’d answer, “no, no, no. I trust the dear Lord is taking care of us. Don’t you know it’s just a pleasure every morning to say thank you to God for each other. God takes great pleasure in our thanks.”
The Kleenex signal sends a big message: good morning; thank you Lord; God takes great pleasure in us.
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
When Jesus says, “Do not be afraid” it is not a gentle suggestion, but a stunning call to obedience: Do not be afraid. When Jesus says “it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom,” it is not an admirable opinion, but the gospel truth in which we can have complete and utter trust. God alone is worthy of our trust. God’s faithfulness is constant and sure.
Perhaps you saw the essay, awhile back in The New York Times Magazine, called “Coveting Luke's Faith.” This is not the Luke of the Gospels, but rather a 4-year-old named Luke, and it's an essay written by his mother Dana Tierney.
Dana Tierney is a woman raised in the church, who attended Sunday School as a child, but who finds herself unable to believe in God. She is troubled by this and feels she is Amissing out.@ She watches family and friends who rely on God, believers who have what she calls “an expansiveness of spirit.”
She says, when “they walk along a stream, they don't just see water falling over rocks; the sight fills them with God’s pleasure. She assumes she and her husband have stranded their son in the same spiritually arid place they found themselves in.
But when her husband is sent to Iraq, and she begins to be filled with fear and anxiety, her son Luke is calm. He misses his daddy very much and she thinks he’s not worried because he’s just too young to understand.
But one night as they’re watching TV, a story flashes on about a soldier serving in Iraq. Dana Tierney says, “I tried to switch the channel, but Luke wanted to see, so I let him. But the soldier started talking about how afraid he was and about how dangerous it is.”
Then out of the corner of her eye, she says, “I saw Luke steeple his fingers and bow his head.”
“Sweetheart, what are doing?”
He doesn’t answer. Silence. Then he raises his head.
“I’m saying a prayer for Daddy.”
“That's wonderful Luke.”
She’s bewildered that somehow she had made her little boy embarrassed to pray for his father. She says a mustard seed of faith [and trust and ease] had found its way into our son and now he was revealing that he could move mountains.”(5)
The cleansing of our hearts from worry,
clears the way for trust
trust, not in the abundance of what we have,
but in the abundance of what we are to God.(6)
Luke knew that both the gospel writer and the four-year-old.
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is God’s good, good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
(1) Luke 12:22-32 NRSV: Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will God clothe you B you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying.
For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for God's kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure
to give you the kingdom.”
(2) Fred B. Craddock. Luke (Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching). Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990, 163-164.
(3) Adapted from Eugene H. Petersen’s The Message: The New Testament in Contemporary English. Luke 12:22-32. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Publishing Group, 1993.
(4) Fred B. Craddock. Luke (Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching). Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990, 164.
(5) Dana Tierney. ACoveting Luke's Faith.@ The New York Times Magazine, January 11, 2004, 66.
(6) Fred B. Craddock. Luke (Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching). Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990, 164.
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