Sermon Text: Little Flock
Our reading from St. Luke’s Gospel today reminds me of my grandparents and great-grandparents. I have countless sweet and special memories right now of each one of them. I remember as if it were yesterday racing around Great Grandma Miller’s house, taking turns with my brothers and sisters, whipping through the rooms in her wooden wheelchair, hearing her laugh and clap, then eating mountains of her jello heaped with real whipped cream, fresh from Great Grandpa's cows. I remember Grandma and Grandpa Howard hiding candy bars and dimes under a bed upstairs in their house, treasures we “thought” were ours to find and keep whenever we visited them. Our Grandpa Kohinke convinced Grandma Kohinke to let us have chocolate milk on our cereal when we spent an overnight at their house. And all of them had tender names for us, like “Little Plums” and “Honey Buns”. Best of all was the absolute certainty that each of our grandparents loved and cherished each one of us, no questions asked. When we were with them, we felt totally loved, protected, and safe from any fear. That was a true given! When it came time for them to tell us to set the table for supper, wash the dishes, or do some other chore, I am hoping we were only too happy to oblige and do what they asked of us.
We hear a similar tenderness when Jesus calls his precious disciples his “Little Flock” in Luke’s Gospel account. We can only feel certain that they know and feel his enduring love and care for them very deeply. With his added words,“You do not need to be afraid; God loves you and desires for you to be happy and safe, to live protected and forever within the gift of the kingdom,” we can imagine (believe!) that the disciples are most willing to do the things Jesus asks them to do: “sell your possessions, give your money to the poor, get dressed for action (you are servants to others now), light your lamps, be prepared.” Brothers and sisters, this is God’s call upon our lives, too. We believe that God intends for ALL persons everywhere and at any time to be happy, healthy, and whole. To be loved, to be safe, to have a place in the kingdom forever and ever. And that God will accomplish it through US!
Sadly, life on earth does not always feel safe or loving for everyone, as God continues to intend it to be. Sadly, too, many people are not willing or able to be Jesus’ “Little Flock” and act with courage, faith, and vigilance, to share unconditionally with others, especially with the people St. Luke writes about, people suffering and in need. Sadly, we do not always believe we are existing in God’s kingdom on earth with bombs being dropped on innocent people, with human violence rampant across the globe, with racial tensions, hatred, bigotry, and a perpetual disparity of food and other resources distributed for human survival. How is it (Henri Nouwen asked) that some people starve and face horrors in their daily existence while others have a surplus of food, money, employment, safe homes, happiness, respect, and civility? Why are some people cozy and safe while others are unable to live without fear?
These are mysteries - raw injustice, inequalities, humans wounded and in pain everywhere, in families and communities, in countries, at borders and boundaries. We must understand that God’s kingdom cannot exist within all these and other horrendous conditions. As Christians, as compassionate human beings, we must long for, pray for, labor relentlessly for our hearts and minds and spirits to be moved toward a greater and perfectly inclusive love and more pervasive, lasting peace so that God’s righteousness can break in (Henri Nouwen), making the world a safe, happy haven for everyone. This cannot be done in words alone; it has to be accomplished through our actions. We will not accomplish peace, security, and freedom for everyone in God’s world with the most dangerous weapons ever existing being employed, with some of the most damaging words ever being spoken. Desiring lasting security and an absence of fear and violence and disparities of human life, we must turn to God, we must build our security on God and not on weapons in any form. We cannot exist in God’s good kingdom accepting, condoning, ignoring violence, dissension, hatred, sickness anywhere or with anyone. We have God’s important instructions for the rescue, repair, and redemption of our brothers’ and sisters’ brokenness, the salvation Jesus desires for all people.
It would be “nice” to live in the deliciously warm and safe cocoon of a grandparents’ home forever and ever. But we exist in a world rife with fearful and destructive things. It need not be this way! It continues to be God’s good pleasure that all persons have beautiful, hopeful, productive lives. We have to work really hard for it. God gives us days and hours to love, to serve, to know who we are and why we are here and to share our abundant blessings! May we engrave God’s promise, passed through Jesus upon our loving hearts. “Do not be afraid, Little Flock, my kingdom is yours. (And yours to share!)” AMEN.