This is the second week of a series we are calling the Kingdom of God. Jesus ushers in a Kingdom through his word and mighty deeds. He also extends the creation of the Kingdom through the mission of those he sends out. Drawing near the Kingdom is a word of salvation for those who receive and a word of judgement for those who refuse to repent and believe. In this series we will look at what the Kingdom of God means and how Jesus hoped to see the Kingdom grow.
During his ministry Jesus and the apostles begin proclaiming the good news of God’s Kingdom. Proclaiming the Kingdom becomes an urgent priority. But it is a Kingdom people must seek and pray to come in fullness. The Kingdom of God transcends earthly Kingdoms even though it has no organization. But the Kingdom of God, formed here in the world leads directly to the Kingdom of heaven.
In the readings last week we saw the message to follow, we saw the prophet Elisha following, we saw it through Jesus conversation with others and Paul told us as followers that we receive freedom. We are called to follow as participants in Jesus mission, to usher in the Kingdom of God. We are free to participate or ignore the call of Jesus. But if we want to enter the Kingdom of God we must answer the call to follow. In fact following is the first step in becoming a member of the Kingdom of God. So we start with the call to follow Jesus in his mission to create a new Kingdom, one unlike any other in the world.
The readings this week bring a message of a new creation. The Prophet Isaiah speaking for God tells of a new heaven and a new earth. We see a metaphor of God as mother nurturing in a New Jerusalem that will comfort and nourish its people. Paul tells us the cross initiates a new creation. Before Jesus the world had power to influence and persuade us to ignore one another and be self-serving, but the cross has unveiled the power of these destructive practices, it brings about a Spirit of strength we can call upon. We also read about Jesus sending out disciples to preach the Kingdom of God. Through their faith, words and their deeds, they are able to give a vision of the Kingdom through the power of Jesus name. We recognize this message of new creation in these passages, the new creation we recognize is the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is here through Jesus and not quite here as we wait and assist in the Kingdom’s growth. The Kingdom develops as more people seek it out. It is a new creation available to us through the work of those who have come before us, but it is also something we must work to build up and hand on to the next generation. As disciples we are called to proclaim this new creation and further embrace the Kingdom of God.As disciples we must proclaim this new creation and further develop the Kingdom of God. Click To Tweet
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time; Isaiah 66:10-14C; Psalms 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20. The readings guide us to look for a new creation, something promised by God, and ushered in through the work of Jesus and all his disciples.
In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah we read about a new nation, a New Jerusalem that seems to be around a metaphor of motherhood. On the one hand there seems to be a mourning for Jerusalem because it has been destroyed, then mourning turns to joy as the Lord speaks about her as something new, able to bring forth a great people. We see God as a mother bringing forth nourishment and comfort, like a mother for her baby. When the people see this New Jerusalem they rejoice and flourish. The verses historically are speaking about the time that the exiles returned from their Babylonian captivity and must go about that task of rebuilding their city. God’s prophecy provides an image of a New Jerusalem which comes from his love and nurturing. It fits into our narrative of a new creation which leads to the Kingdom of God. But is it just a city the prophet is speaking about or is the metaphor richer? Is the new nation a new Eve that will bring about a people who stand with God, who live in the Kingdom of God? We can extend this idea to Mary the Mother of Jesus who’s tasked to create the Kingdom of God. Certainly the prophet spoke to the people about their need to rebuild the nation, and God as Mother will help bring the nation about. It is a new creation that will serve God’s plans until Jesus arrives to usher in the Kingdom of God. In Isaiah God announces he will create a new heaven and a new earth, a new creation. This new creation begins with the Kingdom of God and will lead to the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the second reading from the first letter to the Galatians, Paul looks at the cross as the means to begin a new creation. He says the world has been crucified which indicates the overthrowing of the powers of evil. In the new creation the Kingdom of God will give everyone the strength and Spirit to not be drawn into the temptations of the world but rather to be persuaded by the good of the Kingdom of God. Through the cross Jesus is ushering in this new creation. It is not a creation that requires laws and special rules to demonstrate commitment to the nation, rather the new creation will have peace and mercy, everyone will be part of it. All the world has received the crucifixion of Christ and therefore all the world has the ability to be part of the new creation. In our series we recognize this new creation as the Kingdom of God. It is available to all. In it there is persuasion to love and do good for one another. This is the purpose of the cross, to bring about the new law of love, leading all to the Kingdom of God. With love for one another which pervades the Kingdom of God, the laws and commandments are no longer needed. Once love is in our hearts and extended to others, there is no way to break a single law, love will not allow it. Jesus came to create the Kingdom of God. Paul is telling us he is a member and we are all crucified as well so that we may become members.
In the gospel reading from Luke we read Jesus commissioning seventy-two disciples to go ahead of him to town after town to determine the town’s openness to receiving; the disciples, Jesus and the Kingdom of God. He tells them when a town welcomes them stay and eat with them and heal those who need healing, telling them the Kingdom of God is at hand. Any town that does not welcome the disciples, tell them also the Kingdom of God is at hand and they will find it very unpleasant. The disciples returned excited and rejoicing about what they were able to do in Jesus name. But Jesus tells them don’t rejoice at what you could do but rejoice because their names are written in heaven. This supports our notion that those who are present in the Kingdom of God will also find their way to the Kingdom of Heaven.
We see that it is Jesus mission to bring about the Kingdom of God and he sends others to help him in this mission. It is not clear where these seventy-two have come from, and if they include the twelve, but we can surmise other than being sent by Jesus, and trusting in God to provide (they were told to carry no money, sack, or sandals) they need no special qualifications. However their faith is a very strong attribute in their success. Jesus initiates the creation of the Kingdom of God by sending faithful, trusting people to receive hospitality and show them the kind of miracles they can expect in the Kingdom of God.Jesus initiates the creation of the Kingdom of God by sending faithful, trusting people to receive hospitality and show them the kind of miracles they can expect in the Kingdom of God. Click To Tweet
We have seen in the readings a message of new creation, God initiates it after the destruction of Jerusalem for the nation of the Hebrews. Paul tells us it comes about because of the cross that destroys what is against the new creation and creates a milieu for the new Kingdom. Jesus initiates the Kingdom of God for the entire world by depending on disciples to speak of the Kingdom and showing what is possible for Kingdom people. We are people searching for something new, we think it can come with new tech, or a new toys, but in fact we are never fulfilled with things. What we need is the Kingdom of God where the heart of the message is love and the people live a life that is for others.What we need is the Kingdom of God where the heart of the message is love and the people live a life that is for others. Click To Tweet
Jesus has come to bring the Kingdom of God, which is a kingdom with a preference for the poor, it is a kingdom providing freedom, it opens the eyes of those in the kingdom to see what is important, and one where all is acceptable to God. Jesus lives a simple nonviolent life. He exemplifies that all power is in God who wants us to have a new understanding of what it means to love. The Kingdom of God does not buy into the world system of control and power. It is a Kingdom where our neighbor is to be loved and our neighbor can be anyone we meet. It is a Kingdom where enemies are loved and we forgive infinity times. The Kingdom of God is counter cultural and it is here and now and not yet here.Jesus has come to bring the Kingdom of God, which is a kingdom with a preference for the poor, it is a kingdom providing freedom, it opens the eyes of those in the kingdom to see what is important, and one where all is acceptable to… Click To Tweet
It is a Kingdom that requires all its subjects proclaim the Kingdom message and work toward enticing others to seek the Kingdom and God.
The call to proclaim the Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God is not a physical Kingdom, like a country with land, monarchs and armies to defend it. No, the Kingdom of God is created by people taking serious the message off Jesus and living in a way that is different from the world. It is a Kingdom with a higher purpose. It is Jesus present in the world through the life of believers. We can turn it into a place with land, with Jesus our leader, sitting next to God on the throne. The army that comes to its defense is we believers who are working to proclaim the Kingdom of God and tip the scales so that we are more members in society who are Kingdom people and less who are not. Once the people of the Kingdom of God exist more numerous than those who aren’t faithful we will begin to see changes that will give us the impression that we are in heaven or at least be a Kingdom moving in that direction.Once the people of the Kingdom of God exist more numerous than those who aren’t faithful we will begin to see changes that will give us the impression that we are in heaven or at least be a Kingdom moving in that direction. Click To Tweet
The Kingdom of God is begun by God, it goes all the way back to the King David. Jesus as an heir to King David has the mission to usher in the Kingdom through his life and death. In order to accomplish this mission Jesus depends on followers to have faith in the Kingdom of God and proclaim it to all the corners of the world.
Jesus himself began his public ministry proclaiming the Kingdom of God. It is his presence in the world that brings the Kingdom of God. We read, “Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14-15) To join the Kingdom of God it is not as simple as just showing up, we must repent, meaning we must change from a life of self-centeredness to other-centered. In the Kingdom of God we care for the other, we put the other first and we help the other however we can. Just as Jesus has done.To join the Kingdom of God it is not as simple as just showing up, we must repent, meaning we must change from a life of self-centeredness to other-centered. Click To Tweet
In the gospel reading above, we have an example of Jesus sending out disciples to bring about the Kingdom of God. A key verse is, “Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’” (Luke 10:8-9) The disciples who meet a welcome town bring peace, they cure the sick and share a meal. Then they proclaim the Kingdom of God is at hand. The disciples go with nothing yet do not need to be concerned because in the Kingdom of God hospitality is vital. Strangers are received as neighbors and strangers share their gifts to improve those in the Kingdom of God.
A lesson on this proclamation story is that the disciples were to take nothing on the journey, no money, no sandals, no food, no extra cloak, they are completely detached from the things of the world and have complete reliance on God. God will use people of the Kingdom of God to provide for those who do his work, and proclaim the message of the Kingdom. To be in the Kingdom of God means to have faith that God will provide. This faith is responded to with all the needed means.To be in the Kingdom of God means to have faith that God will provide. This faith is responded to with all the needed means. Click To Tweet
Luke provides many examples of how to proclaim and come to the Kingdom of God. We see a would-be follower approach Jesus as he journeys saying, “I will follow you wherever you go.” (Luke 9:57) But Jesus tells him there is no place for the Son of Man to rest his head. We see even Jesus lives this message of detachment and reliance on God.
Luke also shares stories of those who want to follow but first want to take care of things at home, to bury the dead and say goodbye to family. Jesus tells them they cannot head toward the future while looking back at what they had or how the lived. The Kingdom of God requires commitment, it requires faith. To live looking forward to a message of love and reliance on God means doing exactly that, not hanging on to a life that was more comfortable or secure. (see Luke 9:59-62)To live looking forward to a message of love and reliance on God means doing exactly that, not hanging on to a life that was more comfortable or secure. Click To Tweet
The creation of the Kingdom of God is important to those we love and our family because it is a Kingdom to come and a frame of mind to be lived. When the Kingdom of God becomes fully present here, than those who may not see it right away will become aware and find the Kingdom of God more appealing than the life they have chosen. So in a way working toward the Kingdom of God is helping our loves ones, but not only our loved ones but everyone.When the Kingdom of God becomes fully present here, than those who may not see it right away will become aware and find the Kingdom of God more appealing than the life they have chosen. Click To Tweet
For many the Kingdom of God is told in parables. Jesus tells many stories that might begin, “The Kingdom of God is like …” One time the disciples ask Jesus the meaning of a parable and Jesus responds, “Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.” (Luke 8:10)
Jesus is aware there are those who with a generous heart will believe and there are those who will not understand the message of the Kingdom of God. He tries to use parables, stories that include things of everyday life to make it more understandable, but really it is the heart of the hearer that will determine whether seeing the Kingdom of God is possible for them. For many they will not be open to it. The disciples Jesus knows have hearts that are pure and he speaks to them directly about the Kingdom of God knowing they will do all they can to bring it about.The disciples Jesus knows have hearts that are pure and he speaks to them directly about the Kingdom of God knowing they will do all they can to bring it about. Click To Tweet
Near the end of the Gospel of Luke we see a clear comparison of the Kingdom of God to the kingdoms of the world. The disciples argued among themselves about who is the greatest with Jesus interjecting. He tells them the kings of the world lord their authority over the people and address them as “benefactors”. But in the Kingdom of God this shall not be so. “Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at the table? I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22: 26-27)Jesus tells the disciples the kings of the world lord their authority over the people and address them as “benefactors”. But in the Kingdom of God this shall not be so. Click To Tweet
The Kingdom of God reverses the power roles of the world. The least are the most honored and those typically honored are called to serve. In the Kingdom of God it is the entire Kingdom that is important, the most sacred is the person to the left or the right of you. To bring about the sanctity of their life we lift them up and hold them in honor. This is Jesus’ example, he puts everyone first and becoming their slave. (see Philippians 2:6-11) “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:5)In the Kingdom of God it is the entire Kingdom that is important, the most sacred is the person to the left or the right of you. To bring about the sanctity of their life we lift them up and hold them in honor. Click To Tweet
Jesus concludes speaking to the disciples about the Kingdom of God and the role of the leader leaving them with a promise. He has recognized their faithfulness in standing by him in his mission to bring about the Kingdom of God. They have served well and he will honor their service. He tells them, “It is you who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30)
This is a message for us as well. Serving Jesus mission brings the conferral of the Kingdom of God upon us. We must be detached from the kingdoms of the world and do all we can to bring about the Kingdom of God. Jesus will confer the Kingdom upon us if we do so. We will not only enter the Kingdom of God but we will have a place in the Kingdom of heaven.Serving Jesus mission brings the conferral of the Kingdom of God upon us. Click To Tweet
The Kingdom of God is so much more
We are called to be part of this new creation and announce the Kingdom of God, becoming a servant to bring about this new creation so all will recognize it and join. As disciples it is up to us to tell the story of Jesus and a life that can be better. Participating in the mission of Jesus we become an example of the Kingdom life. People should see us and recognize there is more to life than independently accepting accolades and rewards from the kingdoms of the world. In the Kingdom of God there is healing, freedom and plenty to eat! Be Jesus’ partner and a Kingdom creator.In the Kingdom of God there is healing, freedom and plenty to eat! Be Jesus’ partner and a Kingdom creator. Click To Tweet
We will continue our discussion over the next three weeks of this series, will look further into the Kingdom of God. We will see; “how to enter the Kingdom”, “what the Kingdom is like”, and “the call for the Kingdom to come.” We must recognize this new creation to see the Kingdom of God.