I knock on the door before I walk into hospital rooms. Often when I knock, the people in the room look up with anticipation. Family members stand up. Sometimes they say, “Doctor.”
They have been waiting for news, sometimes for hours. As soon as they see someone older, not in a uniform, they assume that they are getting their news.
When someone says, “Doctor”, I say, “Not the kind you are looking for, I’m the chaplain.” When the looks of anticipation are so great that they seem close to panic, I quickly say, “I don’t know anything. I don’t have news. I’m one of the chaplains.”
Sometimes people look disappointed. Sometimes they look relieved and say, “I’m glad you are here.” Sometimes they go ahead and panic. If the chaplain has come, things must be awful.
Anticipation and its feeble cousin worry are familiar to families in those rooms and to us, and to the writers of the texts we read this morning. Their debilitating relatives neglect and despair are often sitting in the corner.
Jesus told the stories we read in Luke 12 to help us think through those responses.
“Do not be afraid” are words that we often read in the Bible. When angels appear, when Jesus appears, they say, “Do not be afraid.” It suggests that a typical response to the presence of God might be fear. But even more practically, when we are in the middle of uncertainty and darkness, awaiting a diagnosis or a doctor, aware of what could be happening and assuming that its bad, God’s presence arrives quietly and starts with the words that might help us listen to everything else.
“Do not be afraid.”
What Jesus says right before this is worth reading: “Seek God’s kingdom and all these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”
What delightful and amazing and amusing words.
The people following Jesus are to pursue the kingdom. In the face of earthly kingdoms. In the face of opposition and death. In the face of insurmountable odds, we are to set ourselves to look for the ways that the values of the kingdom of God can be and are expanding around us.
And when we look at each other and our mirrors and say, “Us? In our fragileness and inadequacy, the kingdom here?”
“Little flock,” he says.
It’s a term of endearment. An affectionate acknowledgement that we don’t look like much.
The good shepherd looks at the sheep gathered in front of him, depending on his protection and his leadership and his guidance to water and food and safety, depending on his good will. He says, “Little flock” and some of them are reminded of the times he talks about a shepherd going looking for a lost sheep, a shepherd leading the flock to safety, the sheep knowing that voice, trusting that voice.
And Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, little flock, your father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”
You don’t have to fight for it, or earn it. You don’t have to be tall enough for the ride to get into the kingdom. It has been given to you.