Have you ever had that experience when you were so excited for Christmas or a birthday celebration because you had found the perfect gift for a loved one and you could not wait for them to open it? Can you think of one of those gifts that you were thrilled to give because it was just right? Of course, we try to get meaningful gifts all the time, but once in a while, we have that experience of getting something extra special.
About 20 years ago, Dan needed a new jacket–he had mentioned in passing that he liked those bomber-style leather jackets, but it was really not in our budget since I was staying home with the kids and they were all involved in activities.
I was not making a lot of money with my home business, but I decided I was going to figure out how to buy Dan a leather jacket. I booked extra appointments, sold extra products, and before Christmas, I made enough money to buy Dan this beautiful black leather jacket with a zip-in lining so he could also wear it in the St. Louis winter. I could not wait for him to open it. He was so surprised, and truly loved it.
Giving my husband whom I love, something that he wanted and needed that made him feel special and loved gave me such delight and pleasure. Don’t you love that feeling? Is that not why we buy gifts after all? Not just to please the person we are giving them to, but because giving them something special also gives us pleasure and delight?
Jesus said: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
We do not often think of God’s delight and pleasure in giving us, God’s beloved children, the special and wonderful gifts God wants us to have. No, many of us were raised to believe that God is grumpy, judgmental, and stingy; that we are always supposed to appease this God with our prayers, our good thoughts, and our better behavior so God will toss a few meager morsels of forgiveness or blessings our way even though we do not deserve it.
But this is never the God that Jesus describes! Jesus shows us a God who is an intimate, close and loving parent who cherishes, knows, and provides for the people God made and loves: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Jesus describes God's generosity as One who gives out of pleasure, and delight, out of being well-pleased (like God was at Jesus Baptism and his Transfiguration!). God gives to treat us specially, and with joy, like a loving mother caring for her children, like someone gifting their beloved with the perfect gift, like a father doting on his children.
Think about it: If we experience such joy in giving something just right to those we love, imagine that feeling of love multiplied a gazillion-fold to infinity, by the God of the universe who desires to give us the fullness of God’s presence in Jesus, in love, in forgiveness, in community, and in the Spirit’s power!
• Can you imagine this?
• Can you imagine God’s pleasure in giving us grace, and all that we need?
• Can you imagine God’s delight in giving us the ability to love?
• In giving us family and the church to help each other?
• Can you imagine God’s joy in giving us the ability to share generously? In giving us the Spirit to multiply goodness and Godness and justice in the world?
God’s up there thinking, “ooh this is awesome! I can’t wait until they open and experience these gifts! When are they gonna get it?” How much longer ‘til Christmas?!
When we embrace this God that Jesus really shows us, we begin to understand why he starts this passage with “have no fear, little flock.” God delights in giving us all that really matters. Then there is nothing to fear–nothing we lack, nothing that we need beyond what God willing and lovingly provides for us. Indeed, what is there to fear when we completely trust that God loves and provides for us now and in the life to come? God can’t wait for us to know and fully grasp what we’re getting!
When we embrace this loving God who delights in giving us love, community, forgiveness, daily needs, and the gift of Jesus Christ–the very gifts of the kingdom for us, the rest of what Jesus says makes more sense: for Jesus calls us to treasure the God who treasures us. Jesus invites us to make an unfailing treasure in heaven that is above all else.
1. Jesus asks us to also delight in loving God, as God loves us! We treasure the God who treasures us by putting God first in our lives by giving God our time, our prayer, and our gratitude.
2. Then Jesus asks us to treasure God by generously sharing God’s gifts to us, with those who need extra help. As we treasure God, God’s gifts multiply—like loaves and fishes!
3. Finally, Jesus calls us to treasure God by finding ways to live according to God’s design for human flourishing–which includes that all are fed, clothed, housed, and given opportunity for livelihood—that’s what the kingdom of God looks like!
Jesus clues us into the great reversal of the kingdom with his veiled story about himself as the master who returns and serves the slaves their meal. Has not our master and Lord come to feed us all with his own body and blood and given himself to save our very lives? God has treasured us so much to give his only Son for us, feeding us with bread and wine of forgiveness.
Then he asks to go from this table and embody a society where the imbalances of the world are set right–and all have an equal seat at the table of God’s treasures. And we can do all of this without fear, little flock, for our loving God delights in giving us all we need now, and forever in Jesus. We trust that as we share God’s treasures—God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s resources, they multiply! And so does our experience of God’s blessings—more delight, more love, more joy!
Did you know that Dan still wears his black leather jacket today, 2 decades later? Not as often in Texas–but it’s still in the closet and whenever it’s cold enough, he wears it. It has been repaired, restitched in places, re-lined, and specially cleaned. Other clothes have been passed along, and replaced, but this jacket remains. Why?
• It’s not because he loves leather–if that were true, he’d toss this jacket and get a new one.
• It’s not because we can’t afford it–we are much better off than we used to be, and he could buy any jacket he wants.
• Dan still wears a 20-year-old jacket because he treasures it as a gift of love, and he feels treasured and loved when he wears it.
It is God’s good pleasure and delight to give us the kingdom and all that we need. In Jesus Christ, we feel treasured and loved taking the same careful stewardship with all of God’s gifts––to treasure them, make them last, re-stitch, recycle, caring for creation and the people God made—feeling loved and treasured with every good gift–
• every moment of forgiveness,
• each experience of prayer,
• every blessed meal,
• each worship service,
• every clean drink of water,
• each piece of music that helps our spirit soar,
• every sticky kiss from a child.
And when we have something we no longer use or need, we hold it lightly and pass it on, advocating for that day when all will be fed and housed.
We do not know when Jesus will return in all his fullness, but when we treasure the God who treasures us, Jesus enables us to take good care and have no fear, little flock.