God invites you to a life of abundance and joy, living in God’s way for your life and for the life of the world.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 19 C
Texts: Luke 12:32-40; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
A few weeks ago we heard the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray.
One thing he taught them: pray, “your kingdom come.” Today we hear this marvelous promise from Jesus: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Ask for God to rule in your life, Jesus says, and know God is delighted to make that happen.
So if we’re unaware of God’s kingdom in our lives, if we’re not following God, it’s not because we haven’t asked. We pray the Lord’s Prayer all the time. And it’s not because God doesn’t want to give this; this is God’s dream, God’s pleasure.
So, maybe our problem is that we don’t want to live under God’s rule right now. Martin Luther, teaching the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism, said God’s kingdom, God’s reign, surely happens without our praying for it, but in this prayer we ask that it come to us.
Maybe we don’t have it because we just don’t want this gift.
God’s Word today is very helpful for this, because we hear exactly what God’s kingdom is.
Jesus can be confusing when he talks of God’s rule and reign. Sometimes he speaks as if it’s the life to come after we die. Sometimes he says it’s near, within us right now. Sometimes we can’t tell which he means.
Today we see the truth: God’s kingdom isn’t a geography, a place you go to. It’s simply everywhere God’s will is done, everywhere God rules and reigns. Calling God’s kingdom the “reign” of God might be more helpful, because we see we’re not talking about either here or there, but a quality of life, a way of obedience, that exists now and of course in the life to come after death.
Remember Jesus’ prayer: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.” God reigns wherever God’s will is done. Both now and forever. On earth and in heaven.
And today, God’s Word gives clear signs of what God’s reign looks like, when God rules as God wills.
Our first vision begins with Isaiah, who shares a message with a number of the Hebrew prophets.
God’s prophets, including Isaiah today, knew most certainly that God’s reign is anywhere justice prevails. God’s reign exists when those who are most vulnerable are protected and cared for. God’s reign exists when no one is poor or hungry or in need. This we also get from Jesus today. Jesus’ first command for living in God’s reign is to free yourself from the tyranny of your possessions, and share with those in need until no one is in need.
It would be nearly impossible to miss this vision in Scripture unless you deliberately wanted to avoid the truth. God’s longing for a world of justice and peace, abundance and life, safety and joy, fills both the Hebrew Scriptures and the writings of the New Testament. Again and again God raises up prophets like Isaiah to call God’s people to live in such a way that they look like God is truly in charge.
Today, Isaiah joins several prophets in condemning the worship life of Israel. But Isaiah and the others condemn people acting as if worshipping God is living in God’s reign. The prophets are clear: live in God’s reign first, care for those who are poor, do justice, be kind, share all you have. Then, in that life in God’s reign, your worship is worth doing, and blessed both to you and to God.
Another way to recognize God’s reign is that those who live in it live for others, not themselves.
This is what happens when you start living in justice, sharing all, loving as God loves, as Isaiah calls. Your life is focused on caring for others, looking out for others’ needs. This is God’s reign.
Jesus’ parable of the alert servants doing their jobs while their master is away is all about this. Jesus says that if you choose to live under God’s reign, you willingly put yourself under God’s service. You choose God’s work above all. And God’s work is always serving others.
Again, it would be impossible to miss Jesus’ modeling of this, or his call to his followers to be servants to each other, unless you were trying to avoid seeing it. It’s one of the deepest taproots to Jesus’ understanding of discipleship, and a clear sign of God’s reign.
The last view we see today is this gift from Hebrews: living in God’s reign doesn’t always mean seeing it in full.
This beautiful meditation on faith reminds us that faith isn’t believing in specific teachings, it’s trusting God, living in relationship with God, and following.
But living in God’s reign means trusting in God’s goodness and promise, even if you don’t see it bearing fruit all the time. The long list of faithful followers Hebrews begins today with Abraham, continues in next week’s reading, and it has one thing in common: these all relied on God and followed in trust, even though none lived to see God’s promise in Christ fulfilled.
This is the real treasure in heaven Jesus talks about. You might not see everything healed, everything restored, God’s way of justice and peace in all things, as you faithfully live into God’s reign. The fulfilling of God’s dream of a world of blessing, justice, abundance, and peace, might not happen in your lifetime. But your treasure is that God is good, and Christ will bring about this reign that God dreams for.
And as Hebrews says, it doesn’t matter what you actually see fulfilled. Just be faithful and rely on God. Or, as Jesus says, just always be about God’s work. Or as Isaiah says, learn to do good. That’s enough.
Don’t be afraid. God’s pleasure is to bring you into this reign of God, welcome you into this way of being that brings life.
The Triune God dreams of a day when this will be true in all this world, with all creatures. But God’s reign and rule are very different from earthly rule. God has no police force to keep you in line or punish you when you live otherwise. God has no army to defend God’s way of life.
God rules by invitation, and by empowering. By sending people to you to call you to this way, in hopes that you’ll see it’s the only way to find abundance and joy, even in this painful world. By going to a cross, not using power and might even to stop the death of God’s Son, so that you and the universe could see that such vulnerable love destroys evil’s power and brings unstoppable life. By sending you the Holy Spirit to empower your servant life under God.
The invitation is yours: Come, live in the joy of God’s reign, for your sake, and the sake of the world. What will you do with it?
In the name of Jesus. Amen