And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. Instead, strive for God's kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." - Luke 12:29, 31-32 (NRSV)
Day after day, worried people shuffle into my office. They are not so much striving as grasping at straws. Panicked. Willing to walk into a church and humble themselves before a pastor who sometimes has to convince them that, yes, she is the pastor. Too beaten down to imagine a different world. Just trying to survive. Just hoping for a handout.
Their electricity has been shut off. Their landlord is threatening eviction. They don't have money for car insurance but if they can't drive, everything else will fall apart. Could they get another gift card to buy groceries at the supermarket?
No one, ever, comes seeking "don't worry" platitudes or a privilege-centric "be not afraid," though occasionally someone asks for a prayer. Often, the well-being of children depends on how I respond to worried grown-ups.
I am not Jesus, or God, or even a particularly good person. I have no kingdom to offer them.
What I do have, what we all have, is the good pleasure that comes from giving. The humility that comes from realizing I could be the one in dire straits. The compassion that flourishes when I connect with the Christ in my neighbor.
Thank you, little flock, for sharing your worries with me.
Never let me be so worry-free that I dismiss the troubles of others. Give me the good pleasure of sharing your love and striving for your realm.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.