Tag Archives: Do not be afraid

Taking Jesus seriously

Ordinary Time 19C; Pentecost 12C; Proper 14C

Readings
Isaiah 1.1, 10–20
Hebrews 11.1–3, 8–16
Luke 12.32–40

Right there in chapter one of his book, Isaiah tells Israel that God does not ‘like’ its worship services in the great Temple of Jerusalem. God says,

When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen…

So, how do you feel after a service of worship? Do you enjoy our services? Perhaps ‘enjoy’ isn’t the right word. Perhaps I should ask how you ‘respond to’, ‘experience’, ‘appreciate’ our services.

Maybe you don’t enjoy worship all that much. If not, why not? Often, when people say that they mean the music isn’t right for them. Or the sermons are too long. Or we should have Holy Communion more often, or less ‘liturgy’—whatever that is.

Maybe we feel that the Pentecostals have got it right, with their exuberance, their songs and their spontaneity. Or the Orthodox Churches, with their mystery, icons and incense. It may even be we’re ok with the way things are.

But let’s face the real question: If God didn’t like Temple worship back then, then the real question is not what we think about worship, but what God thinks about it here in Centenary Uniting. How does God respond to our worship?

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“It is your Father’s good pleasure 
to give you the kingdom”

Devotions: Bremer Brisbane Presbytery meeting

Readings
Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16
Luke 12.32-40

Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12.32

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11.1

Faith is ‘the conviction of things not seen’, the gift of God that enables the believer to stand firm in the midst of difficulties and trials. Or at least, faith reminds the believer where to go to find help in the midst of those difficulties and trials.

Faith is ‘the assurance of things hoped for’, the means by which we lean into a hope-filled future—not because we’re optimists by nature, but because it is God’s future.

Hebrews 11, the great faith Chapter, gives us examples of those who lived by faith in Old Testament times: Abel, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Rahab and others. It tells of those who

through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

More than that though, it tells of those who

were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two (according to tradition, the prophet Isaiah met his death by being sawn in two by a wooden sword), they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

All of these, whether so-called ‘winners’ and so-called ‘losers’, had faith—they had conviction that gave them the power to conquer or endure; they had assurance that there was a promised future in God’s good time.

We too live by faith. Yet unlike these Old Testament heroes, we see the promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ; but like them, we see it by faith.

But there is one further dimension to our faith. It is built on Jesus himself, upon God’s taking flesh and living our life. It is built upon God’s humility in dying our death. And it is built on God’s authority over death.

We see more clearly than our ancestors that God is a seeking God, a finding God, that God is looking for partners in bringing about the new creation. We have the word of Jesus:

Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Isn’t that wonderful? It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom, little flock though we may be. It is the Father’s pleasure for us to work with him in revealing the nature and the contours of that kingdom in our own day. It is the Father’s pleasure for us to live faithfully, whether the ‘results’ of our work look like ‘success’ or ‘failure’ to us.

There’s a sense to me at least that Hebrews 11 describes a heroic quest for the promises. I’ve already used the word ‘heroes’. Yet for me, faith isn’t heroic. Really, faith is all we have. Whether we are ‘successes’ or ‘failures’, whether life is going well or badly, whether we ‘escape the sword’ or are ‘sawn in two’.

And we have faith because in and through Christ, it is God’s good pleasure.

Now, today, it is our turn to live this life of faith. To live with conviction about the present and assurance for the future. To receive the kingdom, and to be generous in sharing it with others. It’s God’s good pleasure. Amen.

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