This is the fourth 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 into 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 three weeks ago we saw the message to follow, we saw it in the prophet Elisha, 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 two weeks ago had us looking at a new creation. The Prophet Isaiah speaking for God tells of a new heaven and a new earth. We saw God as mother nurturing in a New Jerusalem that will comfort and nourish its people. Paul told 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 destroyed the power of those set on destructive practices, it brings about a Spirit of strength. We also read about Jesus sending out disciples to preach the Kingdom of God through their faith, words and the deeds they were able to complete through the power of Jesus name. In the readings we focused on a new creation, the Kingdom of God.
The readings last week pointed us toward Christ through whom all is created and for whom all is created. We saw the chosen people trying to follow the Mosaic Law but it does not make them perfect. However Christ who is in all creation, through him and for him, is perfect and is drawing us toward his perfection. We learn that perfection moves in us when we are able to love God and love our neighbor. We have a redeemer in Christ through whom all things are created, all things. We must be aware that to be in Christ we must love as a creator, we must be selfless like a creator and we must give life for others as a creator. This message leads us to understand the importance of Christ through whom all is created, desiring to usher in the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that makes love paramount and others most holy.
This week the readings draw us to understand that everyone is made perfect in Christ. It is when we allow Christ in us to present everyone perfect in him that we begin to more fully realize the Kingdom of God. We see this week the story of faith through Abraham, the beginning of a community who sees God as the one true God. We learn in Paul’s writing that the Body of Christ is suffering and lacks what is fully needed to complete the Kingdom of God. Jesus offers that we must not be distracted by what is not important, that we must allow Christ in us to transform us and allow ourselves to be presented as perfect in Christ. Our journey should be transforming and build up the Kingdom of God. As we saw last week everything is created through and for Christ who was present from the beginning. Growing to maturity in Christ, in us, allows our perfection to be made more complete and our life to be a presentation of the Kingdom of God.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time; Genesis 18:1-10a; Psalms 15:2-3, 3-4, 5; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42. The readings guide us to look how we are made perfect in Christ, how this perfection is important in the Kingdom of God.
In the first reading from Genesis we read about the visit of three strangers to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham shows them hospitality that is common for the people and time. With a great deal of respect for these three visitors Abraham waits on them, thinking they are a representative of God, perhaps even the Trinity itself. Abraham serves the three with a choice steer, serving cheese and curds, making sure they are satisfied. The verses we read are concluded with one of the three saying when they return the same time next year Sarah will have a son. God has told Abraham that his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky. But, Sarah was in her old age and has not been able to conceive. However Abraham known as the father of Faith never doubts. Within the year Sarah delivers their son Isaac. This begins the story of a chosen people, a people of faith and one true God who wants to make this community perfect. It begins with the law, but everyone cannot be made perfect until Christ. We are reading of the beginning of the story, the telling of one God who has a plan to present everyone perfect in Christ, who was present from the beginning of creation. This early step in the creation of the community shows the roots of God’s glory coming to people who have been absent from God for a long time.This begins the story of a chosen people, a people of faith and one true God who wants to make this community perfect. Click To Tweet
In the second reading from the first letter to the Colossians Paul speaks of suffering for the sake of the body of Christ. Paul offers himself to fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of the Body. Paul believes he has been tasked to bring completion of the word. Paul’s view is that the Kingdom of God has begun but is not fully envisioned and he wants to see it come. But the Body of Christ is not complete; perfection, maturity and fullness are not widespread and there is still much to complete. There is still suffering for Christ who is intimately united with his disciples, their suffering is his suffering. Until the completion of the Kingdom of God there are those who are lost, those who lose faith, those unaware of the riches of glory available to them. Therefore the work to proclaim Christ and the Kingdom of God is very much the duty of the Body of Christ. Christ is available for everyone, and until each person is in Christ there is suffering and incompleteness in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom has begun but it will not be fully realizes until everyone understands they are made perfect in Christ. Christ in who all is created through and for, makes each of us perfect when we allow him to be fully present in us. This is the perfection we may each achieve and bring to the creation of the Kingdom of God.The Kingdom has begun but it will not be fully realizes until everyone understands they are made perfect in Christ. Click To Tweet
In the gospel reading from Luke we read the story of two sisters welcoming Jesus. Martha who is busy preparing the home and hospitality for Jesus’ visit and Mary who sits at the feet of Jesus listening to his word entering more fully into a prayerful life where God can become more united with her. Martha complains to Jesus that her sister is not helping her with the serving. Jesus replies that Mary is doing the more important thing. The contrast is stark, and many of us today may be like Martha who is distracted with serving and not recognizing who is in her presence. Jesus points out that there is need for only one thing, which is to listen to him.
Eventually we learn that we must not only listen to the word of Jesus, but also understand that Christ is intimately connected to us pulling us toward perfection, a maturity in living the word and sharing the word with others. Jesus wants us to know that the world will distract us, we will get busy doing things that we think are important for Kingdom of God, but actually they are not. We sometimes do things that are not the better part. There are many who get so caught up in the doing that they forget about being present with Jesus. To become a fully devoted follower of Christ we must be transformed, turned to understanding that the better part is trusting in God, loving one another and putting others first. These are the attitudes that help realize the Kingdom of God. But doing is not always the right posture, for example to build and fill a church without transforming those who come is not bringing the Kingdom of God, or relieving the suffering of the Body of Christ. Doing in this way sometimes is more satisfying for the one doing, is soothes an ego that needs to feel important, feeling powerful in the doing for Christ. Jesus tells us this is not the better part. We need to be careful. First we must be transformed, being made perfect in Christ, fully mature followers who only point to Christ as the one through and for all is created.Eventually we learn that we must not only listen to the word of Jesus, but also understand that Christ is intimately connected to us pulling us toward perfection, a maturity in living the word and sharing the word with others. Click To Tweet But doing is not always the right posture, for example to build and fill a church without transforming those who come is not bringing the Kingdom of God, or relieving the suffering of the Body of Christ. Click To Tweet
These readings have a powerful message for the building of the Kingdom of God. We are introduced to faith through Abraham. Faith comes with no certitude, only belief in the one who asks us to trust. Paul continues the message of building the Kingdom of God through the suffering Body of Christ. When the Body no longer suffers we are very close to achieving the Kingdom of God. Through Jesus telling that the better part is to listen to the word, to follow the message and to avoid what will distract us or makes us feel important. Christ is important and we must learn to live more fully in Christ always pointing to him and his message. What we must do is allow Christ in us to present everyone perfect, not by who we are but through him in us.
Our work to bring the Kingdom of God more fully into humanity is to live more perfectly in Christ. We must share who we are in Christ to those we meet, and we must put others first. The message of Christ is for everyone. We must seek the lost, encourage those who have lost faith, live so those unaware of the riches of glory available to them will see what we have and ask how they can have the same. The Kingdom of God requires the suffering of the Body of Christ to be healed by presenting everyone perfect in Christ.
What is the Kingdom of God like?
The Kingdom of God is not a physical Kingdom, we know it is created through and for Christ. As followers we want to enter and be part of the Kingdom of God. Jesus us tells many times what the Kingdom of God is like. He is trying to help us understand something that is a mystery by using every day examples.Jesus us tells many times what the Kingdom of God is like. He is trying to help us understand something that is a mystery by using every day examples. Click To Tweet
Jesus makes the point that everyone in the Kingdom of God is great. God already treats every person and everything in creation as important, we are as his creation and adopted sons and daughters. Jesus spoke to the crowds who we going into the desert to see John the Baptizer. John drew great many people outside the city, to the Jordan River, a good distance, perhaps over twenty miles, even religious leaders from the temple were known to go out and see John and question him. John was called a prophet who was sent to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. John seemingly was a very important person in God’s plan for salvation. Speaking about John Jesus says, “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28) Jesus ushering in the Kingdom of God, says everyone in the Kingdom of God is great. The kingdom of God recognizes the greatness of all God’s creation. No one is left behind.
Jesus says the Kingdom of God “is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and ‘the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.’” (Luke 13:19) This could mean that the Kingdom of God is a place where everyone will live, all will come and be fully supported in the Kingdom of God. There is also the reference to a garden and although Luke calls it a bush it is considered a tree also, so we have a reference back to the Garden of Eden and the Tree of life. So could the Kingdom of God be like Eden? But we know the mustard seed is a very tiny seed that grows into one of the greatest tress that can be a place for many birds to nest and live. Jesus wants us to realize the Kingdom of God begins very small but has great influence and attracts many.Jesus wants us to realize the Kingdom of God begins very small but has great influence and attracts many. Click To Tweet
Jesus compares the Kingdom of God saying, “It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed [in] with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” (Luke 13:21) Three measures of flour is a large amount of flour, it can feed over a hundred people. Jesus says small amount of yeast hidden in the flour can have a great effect on the flour. The Kingdom of God can grow to embrace the entire world. From a small hidden seed or yeast, the Kingdom of God will become a great Kingdom that will invite everyone to come and be great. It is small and unnoticeable at its beginning but becomes big and spreads throughout the world.The Kingdom of God can grow to embrace the entire world. From a small hidden seed or yeast, the Kingdom of God will become a great Kingdom that will invite everyone to come and be great. Click To Tweet
Jesus tells us how to host a great feast. He is prompted to tell the story by someone saying, “Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 14:15) The story of the great feast begins with a man giving a great dinner and inviting many. When he sends his servants to tell those invited to come one by one they make excuses for why they can not come. When the servants return with all the excuses the man tells them to go into the streets and alleys of the town and bring the poor, the disabled and those who had physical disabilities. Even after this there is still room at the feast and the man wants the feast to be full, so he sends his servant to go out to the highways and hedgerows and make anyone they find to come as well. Jesus concludes with, “For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.” (Luke 14:24) The Kingdom of God is like this great feast where all will be called to join, those who are least in the community, those who are not in the community but from all around the world and those who are specially invited first. However, those invited who refuse to come will lost a seat at the table because of their rejection of the invitation. This great feast is for everyone, and it will be full. The Kingdom of God will have many we do not know, and once they come they will all be great. It is a feast with nothing but healing, laughing and joy, It will be a time of happiness and growing closer together and to God. It sounds like a party!The Kingdom of God is like this great feast where all will be called to join, those who are least in the community, those who are not in the community but from all around the world and those who are specially invited first. Click To Tweet
In the last story we will look at, Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like a pearl of great price, when a merchant selling pearls finds it he sells everything and buys the pearl. (Matthew 13:45:46) Here we have an expert, someone who knows pearls, who sees a pearl that he must believe is the finest pearl in all the world. To him this pearl is so magnificent he sells all he has to get the money to buy the pearl. The merchant now has a pearl that he finds exquisite but in fact he is now poor. He has nothing but the pearl. Jesus using a pearl as the subject of the story is interesting; it is something that cannot be improved upon, like a diamond or gold nugget both of which can be shaped and formed into a more perfect gem. The pearl is created from a grain of sand formed inside an oyster who coats it layer after layer taking a great many years to perfect. Even finding one can only be only be described as luck. The Kingdom of God will take time but it is worth all you have to possess it.Jesus using a pearl as the subject of the story is interesting; it is something that cannot be improved upon, like a diamond or gold nugget both of which can be shaped and formed into a more perfect gem. Click To Tweet
Jesus tells us the Kingdom of God is like many things. It is a place where everyone is great, even greater than John the Baptist. It begins as a small seed, in fact the coming of baby Jesus is true start and yet is it has great influence and attracts others to become part of it. It is unnoticeable as it beginning but is spreads throughout the world. It is a feast, a place where all are invited, where there is healing, laughing and joy. Finally we saw it is the finest gem, it will take time to be fully realized but it is worth everything you have to be part of it.
The Kingdom of God is so much more
We know the Kingdom of God is like many things but mostly it is a place where we are considered the greatest, will influence and attract many, will spread and needs to spread, a place where all are invited and it takes time but is worth everything we have to be part of it. As believers we must influence the growth of the Kingdom of God. As we mature we can grow to be made perfect in Christ. Allowing Christ to fully live through us we will influence others to be a part of the Kingdom of God and grow it until it can be fully realized.We know the Kingdom of God is like many things but mostly it is a place where we are considered the greatest, will influence and attract many, will spread, a place where all are invited and it takes time but is worth everything we have… Click To Tweet
Participating in the mission of Jesus we become an example of 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 all is made perfect in Christ; everything, every spec of sand turned into a pearl, every seed a perfect tree, every person fully perfect through Christ and for the Kingdom. We must be Jesus’ partner and a Kingdom creator.In the Kingdom of God all is made perfect in Christ; everything, every spec of sand turned into a pearl, every seed a perfect tree, every person fully perfect through Christ and for the Kingdom. Click To Tweet
We will conclude our discussion next week on the Kingdom of God. We will discuss “the call for the Kingdom to come.” Hopefully we have discovered we must recognize Christ in us and in creation to see the Kingdom of God.