Audio transcript available at https://youtu.be/hJglSNqrzPE.
Well, on this joyous morning when we are about to baptize precious little Yak into the Kingdom of God, I am so glad that we have this reading. The gospel today tells us something about the Kingdom and it is baptism that gives us citizenship of that kingdom. Jesus begins with some lovely words: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” One of the things that I often wish, is that we had a recording of Jesus speaking to us, so that we could hear the tone of voice. This passage is one of those moments when we can hear, even from the printed page, the tenderness in Jesus’ voice, he cares for us so much. “Do not be afraid, little flock,” he says, and takes us in his arms for comfort. So often we see Jesus as a school teacher, the Rabbi, standing up there and telling us what to do, but there are these glimpses of Jesus the mother hen, hiding us under his wings for comfort and protection. And Jesus’ love is part of the Father’s love- they operate as a unity. It is God’s pleasure, to give us the kingdom, Jesus says. We do not need to be afraid because the God of all power and glory wants us to have the kingdom. But can you grasp the reality of that? I can’t. What does it mean, ‘as it pleased him God, has given us the Kingdom’? Jesus has been talking a lot about the Kingdom, in fact there are 42 direct references to the kingdom in Luke’s gospel. And it begins right at the beginning with the annunciation when the angel tells Mary that Jesus will reign over the house of Jacob for ever and that his kingdom will never end. Then at the very beginning of his ministry Jesus says that he must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God to all the cities. We know from the prayer that Jesus taught us that the Kingdom is where God’s will is done. At the Passover meal, Jesus tells us that it is after his death that the kingdom will be fulfilled. The kingdom is something that we are living in now and at the same time we are waiting for, it’s the now and not yet! And our Father wants to give it to us and we accept the Kingdom when we are baptized.
Giving us the kingdom is more of the divine generosity that includes forgiveness and unconditional love, God’s grace and blessing poured out on us. In fact it is all bound together, as we are united with Christ, part of the same vine that is planted in the soil of the kingdom. The divine generosity should leave us totally incapable of fear. What can we fear when we are part of God’s eternal kingdom? Certainly not the things that happen to our bodies, or the question of what to eat or what to wear. We should be free from anxiety.
And the knowledge of this should draw out from us an equal generosity. “Sell your possessions,” Jesus says, “and give to the poor”. You don’t need to hang on to stuff that is worthless in Kingdom terms. Choose, Jesus says, between treasure here on earth or treasure in the kingdom, which can’t be destroyed or wear out, so never needs to be worried about. This is all about embracing life in its fullness, instead of worrying about stuff.
And when we have leant this lesson we can get ready for the next exciting development. We can kilt up our skirts and have our lamps lit for the coming of our master. We need to be ready, Jesus says because the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. But this is not a passive waiting- no we are living active, kingdom centred lives while we wait, but always ready for Jesus. We need to be ready for the bridegroom even if we have to wait all night. We wait and the creation groans as it waits, and we live in the now and we live in the not yet.
The master that we wait for is not a hard task master, he is the kind of master who will gird up his loins and serve the slaves. In fact he has already served the slaves in his death and resurrection. That great reversal where the Lord of the Universe chose to give up his power and glory to suffer and die is the paradigm that the whole of the kingdom fits into. This great heavenly banquet that we are given a glimpse of here is the same reversal, where the ones who should be the slaves are being cared for by the master of all. And this is what living in the kingdom looks like. It is all about service for others. Just as God’s generosity should draw us into generosity, so should we be prepared to serve one another, because Jesus is prepared to serve us. And when Jesus comes and finds us engaged in the kingdom work of service for our fellow Christians and the wider world, we will be blessed.
This is a marvelous call to the fullest life imaginable- not full of possessions but full of kingdom work and kingdom joy and total freedom. The challenge for us is to be able to give up on the things that we cling to. And it is a journey, a process for all of us, I think, and perhaps easier for some than for others. When the anxiety hits because of a kingdom decision that we have made we need to hear the gentle loving words of Jesus, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
And for baby Yak, as he becomes part of the kingdom and as he grows up as one of Jesus’ little ones, we pray that he, with all of us will know the gentle care of our Father in heaven.