This is the first week of a new 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 hopes 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. The Kingdom of God, formed here in the world leads directly to the Kingdom of heaven.
In the readings this week we see the message to follow, we see it in the prophet Elisha, we see it through Jesus conversation with others and Paul tells 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. All followers are called to follow Jesus in his mission to create a new Kingdom, one unlike any other in the world.Following is the first step in becoming a member of the Kingdom of God. We start with the call to follow Jesus in his mission to create a new Kingdom, one unlike any other in the world. Click To Tweet
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time; 1 Kings 19:16B, 19-21; Psalms 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10,11; Galatians 5:1. 13-18; Luke 9:51-62. The readings guide us to follow, to know what it means to follow and the sacrifices required. But we also discover there is great benefit in following. On our own we can have pleasure, but by following we can be fulfilled.
This first reading from the book of Kings is the anointing of Elisha as a prophet to succeed Elijah. Elijah is one of the great prophets of Israel and Elisha no less important. In being called Elisha’s response is exemplary, he leaves everything behind and puts himself at the disposal of the prophet. It is how the Apostles’ respond to Jesus’ call and how it should be for anyone to respond to the call of the Lord; particularly when it involves a mission which requires leaving everything. Obedience to a call requires a radical self-surrender, you must detach yourself from all people and things. If we hang on to things or people while called than the devil will have something to catch or tempt us by. We see people like Elisha and the Apostles’ leave everything behind to help build the Kingdom of God. It is through this dedication that the new Kingdom can come. We must be able to participate in its creation, even if we are not called to leave everything behind. Being called to follow there can be no greater purpose than to build the Kingdom of God.In being called Elisha’s response is exemplary, he leaves everything behind and puts himself at the disposal of the prophet. Click To Tweet
In the second reading from the first letter to the Galatians, Paul speaks about freedom, writing, “Christ set us free.” This is a positive view of freedom. In our freedom we are truly called to live a life as a Christian. This comes with two powerful choices that Paul wants us to choose. First, we must choose to love, this love fulfills all the law. To love is simple to say but an idea that is difficult to live. Second, we must live by the Holy Spirit that dwells in us. Along the way we will be tempted by the desires of the flesh. Flesh is Paul’s word for our own natural self-interest and self-centeredness, our propensity to sin. But Paul exhorts, if we depend on the Spirit we can resist the temptations of the flesh and abide by the law of love. We cannot do it on our own, too much and too many around us use their freedom for the opportunities of the flesh and so we can be easily persuaded to fall back on natural tendencies. But we have the power within us to change those influences, we can receive grace from the Spirit. Therefore we can use our freedom to advance the Kingdom of God and help others follow the law of love and receive grace from the Holy Spirit. In the Kingdom of God the natural persuasiveness is to use freedom for building up the Kingdom, not for personal pleasure.In the Kingdom of God the persuasiveness is to use freedom for building up the Kingdom, not for personal pleasure. Click To Tweet
In the gospel reading from Luke we have a central message of “follow.” Luke tells of several stories where Jesus asks to be followed or others say they will follow. We see that before following those called want to take a moment to set aside their old life so that perhaps they will have some place to return when they are done following. Jesus informs that no one can hold onto the old and follow the new. In fact when Jesus speaks about his own life he indicates he has nowhere to rest his head. Jesus is a person of complete freedom, with nothing pulling him back to a life of comfort or personal self-pleasure. We also see that when Jesus is not welcome by people he simply moves on, not trying to judge or annihilate those who would leave him unwelcome. For Jesus is always looking toward a new future, always doing what he has come to do, create the Kingdom of God. Everyone may not be fit for the Kingdom of God, but they will always have the chance to choose. Jesus’ hope is that not choosing the Kingdom of God now is a decision that can be changed later and thus never gives up on those not ready. We often hear a message to repent, this is a change of direction meant for turning toward the Kingdom of God. With appropriate influences we can turn away from life as is and toward the life Jesus tells us is possible in the Kingdom of God.Jesus is always looking toward a new future, always doing what he has come to do, create the Kingdom of God. Click To Tweet
We have seen in the readings a message of discipleship, being called and following God. God doesn’t want us to follow so that he has a great number of followers, following allows us to have a better life. one that may help create God’s Kingdom so that others may have a better life too. Without God we are constantly looking to be fulfilled, to be satisfied as people with a natural tendency to seek out our own fulfillment. While we may find pleasure, fulfillment will always slip through our fingers without God. We can only be fulfilled when we are part of something bigger, part of a plan to bring about a new Kingdom, one where Jesus rules as King and all the subjects are serve to help create the Kingdom while living joyfully. Jesus tells us he came to bring the Kingdom of God. We will also hear the call to follow and help.
Kingdom of God
Kingdom language is not something we are familiar with in the current era. At the time of Jesus and leading up to Jesus coming there were many Kingdoms. A Kingdom is a form of an organized community which holds a single person in supreme authority, the monarch. We would think of a King as the monarch (or Queen). In some cases they were elected but in most cases the position is inherited. For our purposes we see the King as sovereign and responsible for all the people that are part of the community. The King will some way see to the needs of the people while the people are responsible to the King to take care of the business of the kingdom.The King will some way see to the needs of the people while the people are responsible to the King to take care of the business of the kingdom. Click To Tweet
God began Kings because the people of the twelve tribes of Israel saw Kingdoms around them and wanted a King of their own. So reluctantly God gave them a King, Saul, the first King called by the prophet Samuel.
Saul’s replacement King, David is most noteworthy for Israel. He was also called by God to replace Saul and he would begin a legacy that will become the Kingdom of God. Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, but he is tending the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he arrives here.” Jesse had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth with beautiful eyes, and good looking. The LORD said: There—anoint him, for this is the one.” (Samuel 16:11-12)David was also called by God to replace Saul and he would begin a legacy that will become the Kingdom of God. Click To Tweet
David while a King who made mistakes was also a King who repented for his wrong doing. In a moment when David was accused of the great sin of adultery and murder he prays to God a prayer that would become the beautiful Psalm 51 which begs God for forgiveness and promises contrition. God knows we are all sinners, but is merciful particularly when we confess and are contrite.God knows we are all sinners, but is merciful particularly when we confess and are contrite. Click To Tweet
David would turn the Kingdom over to his son Solomon who was known as a wise King. Solomon built the Temple of God and created many long lasting projects and structures that even though they have been destroyed still are significant memories and legacies for many. The call of Solomon is written “And of all my sons—for the LORD has given me many sons—he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the LORD’s kingship over Israel.” (1 Chronicles 28:5)
But even King Solomon comes to an end and while he created the wealthiest and most powerful central government the Hebrews would ever see, he did so at an impossibly high cost. Land was given away to pay for his extravagances and people were sent into forced labor into Tyre in the north. When Solomon died, the ten northern tribes refused to submit to his son, Rehoboam, and revolted. The Kingdom was split in two and slowly fell apart, some even losing their relationship with God.When Solomon died, the ten northern tribes refused to submit to his son, Rehoboam, and revolted. The Kingdom was split in two and slowly fell apart, some even losing their relationship with God. Click To Tweet
However, God had promised a Kingdom that will never end. “In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44)
It is to deliver this never ending Kingdom we see as King David’s most significant legacy, from his genealogical line comes the King of Kings, the Christ. “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,” (Luke 1:32) Of course this was about Jesus, spoken by the Angel Gabriel at the announcement of his conception.
We see from the start Jesus’ mission is to create the Kingdom of God. As he begins his public ministry many were coming to him and even trying to prevent him to leave. He told them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” (Luke 4:43)
From Jesus himself we hear a description of his mission and what he will do to fulfill it. Early in his pubic ministry he was in the synagogue in Nazareth for the Sabbath and read the scrolls from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19) When Jesus said today this scripture passage is fulfilled, the people we so amazed at what he said they rose up and tried to kill him immediately for saying it.Jesus describes his mission and what he will do to fulfill it. 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.The Kingdom of God is counter cultural and it is here and now and not yet here. Click To Tweet
The Kingdom of God is something that Jesus calls others to help bring about. It is also a Kingdom that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven. Those members of the Kingdom of God are assured the eventuality of the Kingdom of Heaven. We see in Jesus final moments as he turns to the thief on the cross next to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) We also learn we can live here and now in the Kingdom of God, but must wait until are earthly bodies stop living to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.Those members of the Kingdom of God are assured the eventuality of the Kingdom of Heaven. Click To Tweet
The first step in entering the Kingdom of God is to follow Jesus. We must follow Jesus with radical self-surrender, accepting Jesus’ sacrifice, we must become a witness to Jesus and tell others about him. We must remain surrendered to his will for all of our lives. We should be ready to help spread the Gospel throughout the world, inviting others to be part of the Kingdom of God.We must follow Jesus with radical self-surrender, accepting Jesus sacrifice, we must become a witness to Jesus and tell others about him. Click To Tweet
The Kingdom of God is so much more
We have only touched on a little of what is offered just in Luke about the Kingdom of God. Near the end of his ministry Jesus travels to Jerusalem. It is his final week alive. As he approaches, many greet him praising God for all they had seen through Jesus. “They proclaimed: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” (Luke 19:38) Only in the Gospel of Luke is Jesus explicitly given the title king when he enters Jerusalem in triumph. Luke seems to have inserted the title King into the words of Psalm 118:26 that heralds the arrival of the pilgrims coming to the holy city and to the temple. Jesus is thereby acclaimed as king which Luke described from the beginning of his announcement by the Angel Gabriel “he is given the throne of David his father.” (Luke 1:32) It also echoes the announcement of the angels at his birth to the shepherds in the fields and the honor he receives by the visit of the Magi. Clearly, Jesus has a specific mission from birth and he works to fulfill that mission, create the Kingdom of God.Jesus has a specific mission from birth and he works to fulfill that mission, create the Kingdom of God. Click To Tweet
We will discover we are called to participate in the mission of Jesus. Over the next four weeks of this series will look further into the Kingdom of God. We will see; “the call to proclaim the Kingdom”, “how to enter the Kingdom”, “what the Kingdom is like”, and “the call for the Kingdom to come.” We must follow to see the Kingdom of God.We must follow to see the Kingdom of God. Click To Tweet