Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Luke 12:32-40
Your Father delights in giving you the Kingdom!
Do you like to give gifts?
I was a child in the 1950’s. Even though my father earned just a modest income, the Christmas tree was always surrounded by huge piles of gifts, filling half the room. My parents delighted in giving us kids as much as they could afford and then some.
As a parent, I too, delighted in giving my boys an abundance of gifts, at Christmas time and other times. Now, I delight in giving gifts to the grandchildren. It gives us great joy to give good things to others, and to see the delight in their eyes as they receive our gifts.
… Our passage from Luke begins with this promise: Your Father delights in giving you the kingdom. This is good news for us to cling to, because in the weeks to come, the news from Jesus isn’t always so good.
Even in today’s reading, it is hard to hold onto the promise. Sell all your possessions and give them to the poor – and delight in doing so. “What!?” we say! “We need that stuff. How can we live without it?” It’s pretty hard for us to believe that living in the woods with the other homeless people would be good for us.
Jesus says, “Make wallets that don’t wear out. Fill them with God’s treasure instead of money.” I know if I go to Publix, they are not going to be happy with the promise ‘The Father delights in giving you the kingdom.’ They are going to want my cash or a valid credit card.
Jesus says, “Be ready to welcome the kingdom, as servants waiting for their master after a wedding. The master feels so good, he delights in waiting on the servants.” But Jesus adds, “Be ready at all times, because there is no way to know when bad things will happen. It’s so much better to put your trust in God than in anything else. God gives you the things you can really delight in.”
What Jesus is saying is that we need to place less value on what we have, in order to place a greater value on what Jesus has to give us. Jesus is offering us the kingdom, God’s kingdom. But the kingdom is not abundant pantries, fancy cars, the latest electronic gadget. The kingdom is God’s reign and God’s presence in our lives.
Early in Luke, Jesus lays out his description of God’s kingdom. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He never loses sight of this, and we shouldn’t either.
… We begin today several weeks of readings from the Prophet Isaiah. He tells us in no uncertain terms what the kingdom/reign of God looks like, and what it doesn’t look like. God’s reign looks like justice and help for any who are oppressed, especially the widows and orphans.
God’s reign does not look like sacrifices performed with wickedness in the heart. God is passionate about the evil of the people: notice the verbs used – hate, fed up, can’t stand, repulse! (CEB) God is not delighted with the way the people are acting.
But after the condemnation of the way things are, there is an invitation and a promise. “Come, let’s work together. Obey me, put me first in your lives, and I will once again delight in giving you wonderful gifts.”
… We pray every week, every day, that God’s Kingdom will come, and that God’s will, will be done. We want God’s justice to reign; we want God to delight in giving us gifts, and we want to delight in being in God’s presence.
I’m reminded of Marion. Mike and I met Marion in the small church yard outside St. Peter’s Scottish Episcopal Church in Stornoway, Scotland. It’s a small congregation in the largest town in the Outer Hebrides.
Other church buildings in town, Presbyterian and Scottish Free Churches, were locked up tight as a drum, open only on Sunday mornings and for Bible study some mornings and evenings. St Peter’s was wide open this Monday afternoon, with a sign inviting folks to enter, look around, stay for prayer.
There were brochures available with information about the building, which dated back two hundred years. The baptismal font was new, though it looked old, but under the cover was an ancient stone bowl. The church bell was once the town bell, and it was still rung every Sunday.
The congregation is several hundred years old, and currently, they are in a renewing mode. They have a new priest, a young woman from Canada named Shona Boardman. In order to determine the future direction for St Peter’s, they have entered into a prayer process, which will conclude in a day of prayer in September.
As Marion told us about her congregation, she glowed. She was there that day working in the flower garden, but was delighted to stop and talk with us about her congregation. I can’t help but think that God is also delighted in the ministry of St Peter’s.
… Let’s think about our congregation. In what ways does God delight in Hope? …
Friendship, hospitality, commitment to serve neighbor, cooperation, respectful decision making, laughter, parties – joy in being together
These are the ways in which we can see the kingdom of God at Hope.
The kingdom of God is very much about the community as a whole, and not so much about the individuals that make up the community. Yet the individuals also need a sense of the delight of God in each of us.
The cross tells us that even though we are sinful, and our actions do not always please God, God still delights in spending time with us, and delights in giving us good things. Under our Christmas tree, there is the wonderful gift of hope in the form of a baby Jesus. Every time we confess our sins and receive forgiveness, there is the constant reminder that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked by the cross of Christ forever.
These promises, these gifts of hope and forgiveness are the gifts God delights in giving us. Are they not, indeed, better than the newest IPhone?
Please pray with me. God of abundance and delight, you shower your gifts upon us. Help us look to you for the best gifts in life, and to see your presence as the most delightful gift of all. Amen