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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

It Is God's Good Pleasure - 08/11/2019

This week our Gospel reading starts us right off with Good News, which is appropriate because the Greek word for “gospel” literally means “good news.”

So in today’s Good News, Jesus says to us … to all that is frightening and even terrifying …  to everything in our lives that is hard and intense – Jesus says we need not fear any of it because it is God’s good pleasure to give us God’s kingdom in which to live and love and die and rise again in Christ.

So let’s consider what this Good News implies. First of all, it implies that Jesus and therefore God, knows that life and our experiences here can most certainly try to scare us or overtake us. “Life happens” to all of us and it matters that our God puts that out there … that God acknowledges this stuff does happen to us.

We screw up our relationships. God sees that. People hurt us and disappoint us. God sees that too.

Those with power abuse it and sometimes mightily. Evil finds dark corners and tries to hide from God and work its life-sucking ways. We get sick and our bodies get broken down. Our loved ones die and our souls feel shredded in that loss. Our young people take too many scary risks as they begin to figure out who they are and why they are … just like the rest of us did at one time or another.

And God sees it all.

This has long been the view of the children of Abraham. Our psalmist reminds us of this today when she sings “The Lord looks down from heaven, and sees all humankind. God sits firmly enthroned and watches all who dwell on the earth. God fashions all their hearts and observes all their deeds … Truly, your eye is upon those who fear you, O Lord, upon those who wait for your steadfast love, to deliver their lives from death, and to keep them alive in time of famine.” (Ps 33: 13-15, 18-19)

So our Good News implies at the very heart of it that God sees us in all our happy moments and the crappy ones too. God sees our amazing capacity to love one another and to accompany one another, and God also sees our grief and our ancient tendency to form cliques and clans and nations set against other cliques and clans and nations. God sees where we as people created in the image of a Good God are using our gifts and abilities for the good of all creation; and God sees those shadowy places where sin and evil desperately try to get a good foothold on that creation too.

God sees it all and wants us to know this, so that we also know … we are never alone. God is right with us every step and misstep and uneven step of the way.

This Good News implies something else too – God has done more than just see these vast and variable human experiences … God has also acted in response. And we know this because of who is delivering this Good News to us today … Jesus, who we Christians profess to be God in flesh. Our Good News reminds us that our God is One who would not be satisfied with creating all of this, and all of us and then just sitting back and watching us fumble our ways through human existence, like some epic game of Fortnite or something.

No, this One we call God sought to experience the human walk too, to see it through human eyes, feel it through human hands, to smell it, hear it, and taste it through the human senses.

God not only sees this world and all that is in it, God knows it, first hand. In Jesus, God sought to experience what it is to be created human in order to connect the human and divine stories more than ever before.

And, of course, God also came to us in Jesus for reasons and in ways that are much wider and deeper than the human imagination, more medicinal and healing than we could even know to need. God came among us as Jesus to be offered up freely as the cosmic remedy to humanity’s brokenness, to save us through the Messiah’s perfect faith.

It is through that perfect faith that Jesus continues to call us and teach us, to embolden us to continually stretch our neighbor-loving, God-fearing ways. (By “fearing” I mean living in awe of an omnipotent God who seeks life and abundance for creation and especially those who are without power and voice and agency.)

It is through that perfect faith that God in Jesus came to die for us, and then defeat death and open a clear Way to an eternity in God’s presence.

It is through that perfect faith that we are brave enough to pray – Our God in heaven, your name is above all others … your will be done, on earth, as in heaven.

 It is through that perfect faith of Jesus that we come together around this bread and wine to remember who we are and the cross that marks us forever, the table where we eat of our powerful freedom to receive forgiveness and offer it.

It is through Jesus’ perfect faith and God’s good pleasure that the Psalmist’s plea has become our life: through this bread and wine our lives are delivered from death and we are kept from spiritual famine.

And there is one more thing we should remember about this hefty dose of Good News at the very start of our Gospel reading today which was not implied, but quite explicit – we have nothing to fear, and all of this is so because it is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.

Do not gloss over these words too quickly. This is God-promise to us, no less astounding and sure as God’s promise to Abram.

It is God’s desire to know us and be able to relate to us. It is God’s joy and sorrow to have come live among us and then die for us so we would never be trapped in human brokenness.

It is God’s delight to show us a way to remove the yoke of sin from our shoulders. It is God’s wish to assure us that death is crushed and we will be reunited with Jesus and our loved ones in the fully revealed Kingdom of God.

It is God’s good pleasure to give us life, to join our human walk, to save us from our brokenness and, when our times comes, to bring us safely home.

This is our Gospel today – our Good News and God’s good pleasure that in Jesus, this has been made our story and our confidence.

It is God’s grace come down upon you, and everyone you’ll ever encounter, freely. Good News indeed.

Jesus doesn’t leave it there though, does he? He rarely does. As followers of Jesus we know that the abundant and free-flowing grace of God is one half of the Christian equation. On the other side of that equal sign is our response to God’s good pleasure.

Here I think of Lutheran theologian, pastor and activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed for trying to defend the world and the Gospel from Hitler. He once said that while we Lutheran’s profess that God’s grace is free, it is not cheap – it comes at a cost. That cost is that Jesus expects us to behave – or at the very least, practice our way into behaving – as though we truly believe that in Jesus, God’s good pleasure is that the Kingdom of God has come … not will come or came once and then left, but has come, as in now.

So “sell your possessions and give alms,” Jesus urges us.

Jesus is talking about much more than sending money into a favorite charity here. While those generous responses are often the lifeblood of organizations doing important work to help neighbor, Jesus is talking about something much more holistic than putting a check in the mail to your favorite cancer-fighting organization or Lutheran World Relief.

This is more than a transaction – Just as God come among us in Jesus is so much more than just a transaction. This is a call to relate – to share more than just anonymous physical resources where needed – Jesus also calls us to share our power and agency, to leverage our privilege for the sake of those without.

This can feel costly to us. The Gospel Way – the Good News Way – is not always the popular way at the morning coffee clutch. It’s not always the easy way in our houses of government. It is often not the Way those of us with white privilege and agency and plenty of voice want to hear.

The Good News Way – the Way that shows the world it is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom, can often fill us with fear because brokenness and sin is often driven by fear. It can make us feel like we are overwhelmed because our brokenness and sin left unchecked by God’s forgiveness seeks to overwhelm hope with despair, unity with division, freedom with indebtedness, confidence with apathy.

Thankfully, this line of thinking takes us right back to the beginning of Jesus’ teaching for us today. When, in the course of our Jesus-following ways, we become frightened or even terrified, when we are faced with what is hard and intense, our practicing ears hear Jesus …

“Have no fear little flock, have no fear little flock, for the Father has chosen to give you the kingdom, have no fear little flock.”

Please join me in singing our Promise from God, # 764, Have No Fear Little Flock.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~

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