Fr David's Sermon
12th August 2007
‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’ Lk.12.32
Visit the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi and you can admire the splendid fresco’s detailing the life of St. Francis – at least the ones that survived the recent earthquake. The church is large and ornate, built to honour the Saint and yet it is doesn’t altogether reflect the gospel simplicity of Francis. To find that you have to go down into the crypt to Francis’ shrine – basically a simple slab of rock, but a numinous place of great holiness, profoundly moving.
In today’s gospel Luke records how Jesus taught his disciples to live out their faith – deceptively simple. Most of us fail to live like that – Francis was one of the few who did and through him the church has been renewed.
That verse with which I began, acts as a kind of banner for us, a standard to encourage us on our pilgrimage. All too often we are beset with fear, afraid of all sorts of things, of opposition, of failure, of our own seeming insignificance. ‘Do not be afraid’, says Jesus, words that acknowledge our situation but also encourage us.
We think the church should be big, we think our church should be big. Wouldn’t it be good if our numbers were greater, our age profile lower. Well, yes it would and yet Jesus calls us his ‘little flock’. This suggests the essential vulnerability of disciples, like a flock of sheep in need of care. This pastoral care Jesus gives to his Church, to us. Yes it would be good if we were stronger and yet there is great source of strength in the acceptance of our true nature as the little flock of Jesus Christ.
Why because it is our Father’s will to give us the kingdom. God cares for us like a loving father, a dad and he wants to give us his kingdom. This kingdom is not about territory; rather it is about our relationship with the king. We are to live in a restored, made-good relationship with God and with our fellow human beings.
That verse, ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’ acts as a banner as we travel, the road of discipleship. To follow requires faith, the kind of faith described by the writer to the Hebrews, ‘the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’. It is the faith we see in our Christian ancestors, especially Abraham who set out in old age to find the Promised Land and to father Israel.
We can describe faith but we are also to live it out. Jesus teaches the disciples how. There is a rejection of materialism – sell your possessions, give alms, hard, but liberating because as unencumbered as possible we are freed from anxieties about wear and decay and theft. Our heart is where our treasure is – ours should be with God.
Then there is that state of spiritual readiness suggested by the picture of servants awaiting their master’s return from a wedding banquet, dressed, lamps lit, ready to open the door. Such readiness will be rewarded; the master will serve the servants, feeding them from his table. Thus we must be ready for the coming of the Son of Man.
Today we are given a description and a plan of action. From the acceptance of ourselves as the little flock of Christ comes a great source of strength, taking away our fear and promising us the kingdom. This increases our faith so that we can act by travelling light and by being ready.
Few of us live like that – it is both too easy and too hard. If like Francis and his followers we can embrace the teachings of Jesus then we will find the seeds of the renewal of the Church.
‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’
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