“So, This Kingdom Thing; What’s It Like?”
“So, This Kingdom Thing: What’s It Like?
Genesis 29:15-28/ 1 Kings 3:5-12
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b
Matthew 13:31-33, 45-52
For the last few weeks, we have been following the adventures of Abraham and Sarah, their only son Isaac, And then the son of Isaac and Rebecca whose name was Jacob. However, I’d like to give Jacob a rest for today Except to congratulate him for marrying the girl of his dreams. The fact that he had to work for Laban, the father, a grand total of 14 years to make it all happen is, I guess, just the way things were done back then. Oh yes, let’s not forget that he also had to marry Rachel’s sister, Leah, to obtain the old man’s blessing to marry Rachel. Like I said last week, they could have made a Hallmark movie out of this story, but I’m afraid the subject matter is a little too risqué. Also, if you are wondering where you’ve heard the name Laban before, well it’s true: Laban was Rebecca’s brother; Rebecca, of course, was the wife of Isaac and therefore Jacob’s mother. So, to sum it all up, and I think you know where I’m going with this; Jacob didn’t just marry his cousin, he married two of his cousins! By today’s standards, that would not only be awkward, but downright illegal. But like I said, I guess that’s just the way things were done back then.
But before we get our sensibilities all hepped up about polygamy and inter familial marriages, let’s step back and look again at the big picture. Jacob, like his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham, was born into a promise.
This was the promise spoken to Jacob (vs 14) when God pronounced: “. Every family of earth will be blessed because of you and your descendants. .” It’s no wonder that the Jewish people, even today, always speak of “father Abraham” with a certain amount of reverence.
Also, in verse 15, we read, “I am with you now, I will protect you everywhere you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done everything that I have promised you.”
“I will bring you back to this land;” this sentiment is echoed throughout the Old Testament. For example, from our reading today in the 105th Psalm, we read: “7 The Lord is our God; his commands are for all the world.
8 He will keep his covenant forever, his promises for a thousand generations. 9 He will keep the agreement he made with Abraham
and his promise to Isaac. The Lord made a covenant with Jacob, one that will last forever.11 “I will give you the land of Canaan,” he said. “It will be your own possession.”
“It will be your possession; one that will last forever.” Imagine what it must be like to be raised in the Jewish faith where these ancient scriptures have defined your faith; they’ve defined your race as a child of Abraham. It’s no wonder that the Jewish people, even today, continue to fight so fiercely to possess the land that was granted to them by God himself. But let’s get back to the big picture.
From the very beginning, starting with Abraham and Sarah, the emphasis seems to have been on increasing the children of Abraham. “Every family of earth will be blessed because of you and your descendants. They will be as plentiful as grains of sand in the sea, as the stars in the sky; as the dust.”
But I find it hard to believe that God’s plan to bring peace and harmony and righteousness to his creation was based entirely upon a population domination, so to speak. No, the creation and the nurturing of Israel should be considered more along the lines of God’s willful intent to establish a Kingdom: a Kingdom of people unified in purpose and unified in their faith. But it was Stephen who called the nation of Israel ‘a stiff necked people’ and look what happened to him. In short, we who live in the presence of Christ and in the spirit pretty much have to concede that the Kingdom of God is not all about bloodlines and genealogy. For us who make up the body of Christ – that is, the church – we must believe that the Kingdom of God is manifest and real and alive and kicking in the love of God, expressed through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. That pretty much sums it up. Jesus spent a lot of time teaching us to understand the Kingdom of God. The examples that Matthew recorded in today’s gospel text Are just a small sampling. I would add yet one more explanation, this time from the 17th chapter of Luke, which reads: . Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” – Luke17:20-21. And this, I believe, is a key point if we are to understand the Kingdom of God.
One of my favorite Montana preachers is a man named Steve Garness holmes. He lives in Massachusetts now, but his weekly column titled “Unfolding Light” Has been a source of inspiration for years. I’d like to share with you now a segment from Mr. Holmes that, believe it or not, it’s all about religion.
Now, I know the word religion has been given a bad rap over time, so we might best get our definitions straight. This, from Mr. Holmes:
“Almost everybody has a religion. It may or may not be recognized as a “religion,” but it works as one. It’s your practice of how you live in the world, rooted in how you believe the world works.” He then goes on to say: “And here’s my sermon that I preach all the time: when you boil every religion down, there are only two religions in the world. One is the Religion of Being Right, and the other is the Religion of Being in Love. You have to choose. No matter your tradition, or your aversion to tradition, you are always choosing one or the other. For me, my religion isn’t a set of beliefs or a pattern of pious behavior I’m supposed to adhere to; it’s a way of being in love, not because I must or ought to, but because I love it. Because I am loved and I want to live in that love and radiate that love. Oh, I get it wrong all the time, by trying to be Right. But love keeps pulling me back, forgiving me, and setting me out to love again.”
You know, as I read these words I can’t help but think of the millions of people in the world who perhaps share this same struggle between being loved and being right.
There was a pastor at the small Methodist Church In Libby, Montana that the locals referred to as ‘the love preacher,’ because you could rest assured That the theme of every sermon would be, you guessed it, the love of Christ our love of God and all his creation. I got the impression that some members of his congregation would have preferred a little more guilt and fire and brimstone, but John wouldn’t go there. He stuck with love. That’s Kingdom talk
And as Jesus tells us, “Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
So, what is your religion? Think about it:.) What’s the way of living you bind yourself to? When we pray the words, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;” When we pray these words we are, in essence, asking That God’s Kingdom might live and grow and thrive in the midst of us all – on earth as it is in heaven. Is this asking a bit too much? Not even, not even.
I will close with the words of John Wesley who tells us :
What religion do I preach? The religion of love, the law of kindness brought to light by the gospel. What is this good for? To make all who receive it enjoy God and themselves, and to make them, like God, lovers of all.” Let me say that again:
. What is this good for? To make all who receive it enjoy God and themselves, and to make them, like God, lovers of all.” Now, that’s Kingdom language. And With that being said, if someone were to come up to you and ask, “So, this Kingdom thing; what’s it like?” You could honestly answer them, “awesome. It’s simply awesome.”
Amen and Shalom