This is the sermon I preached Sunday. Like I said before do what you will with it, if you hate it then please ridicule me silently in your hear, butttt if you find anything useful out of it you are welcome to use it, shoot you can copy it work for word for all I care if it helps ya out. Sorry about the funky format, Pages imported it this way.
The Kingdom Within
Have you ever missed something that was right in front of your face? Have you ever been searching for something around the house only to find that it was sitting in the most obvious spot possible? Anyone who has known me for any significant period of time will be able to tell you that I am always misplacing things. I have this tendency to set items down and walk off and forget where I put them. I have on more than one occasion lost my keys to my car, home, and office only to find that I have walked past them several different times when I am trying to locate them. This can be a very aggravating problem sometimes. I’m in a hurry to get somewhere, I need to find an important paper or an important item that I need to give to someone and when I go to get it, I have no idea where I put it only to find it hours later right where it is supposed to be! Have you ever experienced this? You know I find that when I am misplacing things and missing important items that are right in front of my face it is because I am anticipating something that is about to happen, something in the future. This happened a lot to me when I was a child and would be getting ready to end my day at school. I was always forgetting my lunch box, or homework, or coat because I was looking forward to getting out of school and heading home.
I believe it is human nature to anticipate though. As a child we would start to anticipate Christmas day weeks perhaps even months before it came. As adults we anticipate the day that we will graduate from school, then from college, the day we will be married, the day we receive that promotion, the day we have Children, then grandchildren, then the day we can retire. It is human nature to plan, to anticipate to look forward to something better, something brighter, something more rewarding. Just like it is human nature to plan and to look toward the future it is also human nature to miss the beauty of the present as we anticipate the better days to come. We see this in the father that misses the best years of his children’s lives as he works in anticipation of building for them a better future, the high school or college student that focuses so intently toward the day of graduation that they miss the friendships, relationships, and activities that come along with the experience of being in school, and it is seen in the business man that works so intently to build his corporation to that next level only to find as he lay on his death bed that he enjoyed none of the journey that got him there.
This idea of missing the present as we anticipate the future is not a new problem to us as humans and it would be nice to think and say that we as Christians are immune to this problem of allowing life to pass us by, but I would suggest that sometimes Christians as a whole are more susceptible to this type of living then anyone else.
This is a very interesting passage of scripture, and to better appreciate what is happening here we have to understand what the religious leaders of that time believed about the Kingdom of God. They believed that the Messiah that they were waiting for would come in granger. They believed that he would be a mighty Jewish king that would sweep in and rid the nation of the Roman rulers that had put themselves in power. So for years and years these religious leaders believed that there would be signs that would point toward the coming of this mighty ruler based on scriptures found in the Old Testament. The only problem was there has been four hundred years of silence between those prophesies and the story we are reading here in scripture. It is safe to say I believe that the religious leaders are getting antsy. I mean these guys and the entire Jewish nation have been waiting for a long time so whenever someone would come along who seems to know something about God, someone who is performing great miracles it would make sense that they would ask him about when the Kingdom they are waiting for is going to show up. The religious leaders of that time had a very limited view of what it meant to be apart of the Kingdom of God. To them it meant they would sit and wait for the signs that would show them the messiah, and then that messiah would rescue them from the oppression of the world that they found their selves in. The belief the religious leaders of that day had about the Kingdom of God was a very passive one. It was simple, the messiah would come and he would rescue them and until then all they had to do was wait and look toward the future. The only problem with this type of thinking was they were doing very little else when it came to their “religion” there was not helping of the poor, the sick, the needy, there was simply waiting for the messiah to come and fix it.
So you can imagine the surprise of the leaders when they ask this prophet for a time they can look forward to, and he answers them, “Hey guys its here, in your midst, in fact it is within you!” The Pharisees were so busy looking into the future for the Kingdom to come that they missed what was going on around them, the human incarnation of the Kingdom was standing right in front of them, the very thing they are searching for and they missed it.
The Kingdom of Today
So how does this apply to us today in the twenty first century. Yeah sure the Pharisees missed the coming of the Messiah we all know that. But what does that have to do with us today? Well I would suggest that many times as 21st century Christians we to get caught up in this mentality that all we have to do is wait around until Jesus comes back to rescue us. Just like the Pharisees of old we scrutinize, and analyze the second coming of our Messiah, “our rescue from this world,” if you will. Like the Pharisees we are tempted to think of the Kingdom of God as this distant reality that has yet to come, but could it be that we are apart of that Kingdom right here right now. And because that is the case, we are called to an action that entails more than simply sitting on our hands and waiting for Christ to return, burn up the world as we know it, and take us all home to glory? Are we so preoccupied with our coming glory that we miss the glory all around us?
Do not get me wrong, there is a better world awaiting us one day, there is a perfected life that we will experience when Christ returns to judge, but we can see in part the perfection of the Kingdom to come, we can catch a glimpse today, and more importantly we can be apart of it. This Kingdom came with the humble birth of a God man in a manager, it continues to grow because of his sacrifice on a cross and it will be perfected when he comes again, but until that perfection arrives we are called to not be rescued, not be safe, but TO RESCUE AND TO SAVE. We are called to be apart of the kingdom here and now in this moment.
The Signs of the Kingdom
So what does this Kingdom look like then? Jesus teaches often in scripture about what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like. There are many word pictures that help us see when we are in the presence of the Kingdom here on Earth. Matt 13:24 shows us that the Kingdom is present whenever someone spreads the good news even among our enemies. Matt 13:31-33 tells us that the Kingdom is contagious, whenever we see a group of people that are excited and spreading the good news we are witnessing the Kingdom. Matt 13:44-45 tells us that the Kingdom is present whenever we see someone or a group of people willing to sacrifice all they have for the good news. Matt 18:21 tells us that whenever we see mercy poured out on those who are undeserving we are witnessing the Kingdom of God in our midst, and the power to express the Kingdom lives within us all who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. Of all the descriptions I find in scripture the one I do not find is a group of followers waiting around to be “rescued,” there is not one NT Church founder who waited around to be rescued. They lived dangerous excitement filled lives that spread the Kingdom as far into the world as they could.
An example and a Challenge
(AKA The Conclusion)
Now I will be the first to admit the world is lacking in the attributes that I just mentioned. The spread of the good news may be hard to see sometimes, seeing a group of people that are excited and contagious when it comes to the word if God is rare. We do no often hear of people who sacrifice all they have for the gospel here in this country, and yes the idea of mercy is lacking as well. But I would suggest to you that myself and nine other individuals from this congregation witnessed a glimpse of the Kingdom just last week when we spent three days at Grundy Mountain Mission School; an organization that takes in the needy, cares for children who’s families can not take care of them, feeds them, clothes them, teaches them, and instills in them the good news of Jesus Christ. If that is not the Kingdom of Heaven in our midst then I do not know what is.
So the question that must be asked this morning is this, and it is a hard question, Are our eyes open to the glory of the Kingdom of God that is in our midst here and now? Or are we so anticipating the day that we will be rescued that we are missing the glory that we could be apart of right now?
Can I just be blunt for a moment? There are a lot of bored Christians. Some of us sitting here are bored Christians. Why are we bored? I would suggest it is because when we became Christians we were under the impression that our only responsibility was to look toward the future and wait and watch for Jesus to return. Well guess what? Waiting and watching is boring. In fact it is not our only responsibility, we must save and rescue those who are not apart of the kingdom. We must stop sitting around waiting for the injustice in the world to be made just, the hungry to be fed, the naked to be clothed and the broken hearted to be restored. There is a saying that goes, “Do not ask God to feed the hungry if you have plenty to eat.” When we embrace the idea that we can be apart and spread the Kingdom of God here and now we begin to truly live and we begin to truly appreciate what it means to be a Christian in the Kingdom of God.