Faithlife
Faithlife

What is that near you?

Year B, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Notes & Transcripts

Kingdoms Abound

From our history classes, we learned that kingdoms rise and fall throughout the ages. Some last a few years, others a few hundred and the rare ones last a thousand. The very first record that we have of the formation of kingdom comes from the Ancient Egypt. The Early Dynastic Period came into existence nearly 3000 BC. The largest kingdom is obviously the British Empire the reached its zenith in 1920 and covered territory from the British Isles to New Zealand including India and many of the countries of Southeast Asia.
The online Oxford Dictionary defines a kingdom as a country, state, or territory ruled by a king or queen. That is the traditional view. Two elements are included in that view. The first is the geographic area. When we think of a kingdom we think of its acreage; how many cities does it control? how vast are its boundaries? We assume that the larger the empire the more powerful it is. There was once a time when the monarch’s word was absolute law. They could levy taxes on a whim. They had very large buttons on their desks to send their army into battle. They could condemn a man or woman to death based on the rumor of treason.
The adorable but benign portraits of Queen Elizabeth and her grandchildren are very different from the role that royalty presented in history. Monarchs were supposed to be strong, powerful, warriors but also wise and learned scholars. Young men prepared for war by learning the arts of combat. They also mastered their studies in the classics to enable them to rule with wisdom.
All these seem quite foreign to those of us who grew up in a system in which the Presidential powers are specifically defined by a Constitution and term limits.
This puts us at a disadvantage in our understanding of Mark’s summation of Jesus’ message.
mk 1
Mark 1:15 NIV84
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark tells us that the kingdom of God was the basic message of Jesus’ proclamation.
Matthew 4:17 NIV84
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Luke 4:43 NIV84
But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
Matthew and Luke also describe the teaching ministry of Jesus in the same way.
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But what is the kingdom of God? Most of us probably think of it as heaven but Jesus says that the kingdom of God is near. What does he mean? How could heaven be near at hand when we cannot see it, touch it or feel it?
How can the kingdom of God be near when the world appears to be on a fast track to hell? How can the kingdom of God be near when children go to bed hungry? How is the Kingdom of God near to those in Puerto Rico who are still without electricity? How is the kingdom of God near to a little girl who must watch her father be deported?
These are difficult questions but our struggle to answer them exposes our lack of understanding of the Kingdom of God.
I wonder if we really understand what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God?

The Jewish Vision

The Jewish people had a particular vision of God’s kingdom. It was the embodiment of their hopes of restoration. They dreamed of an age of unprecedented blessing, prosperity, and joy. This hope was grounded upon several passages from the ancient Scriptures.
Isaiah 1:18 NIV84
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
It was spiritual because sin would be removed.
Isaiah 2:2 NIV84
In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
Having restored his relationship with Israel, the Lord would then bring all the nations of the earth to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Isaiah 9:7 NIV84
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
it was political. God would establish his rule over Israel by appointing the Messiah to rule.
Isaiah 55:1 NIV84
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
it will be economic because God would supply all their needs just as he did during the Exodus from Egypt.
The kingdom of God expresses the hope for a world in which the powers of sin, death and darkness are replaced by peace, justice and the worship of the one true God.
Kernaghan, Ronald J. Mark. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.
But we still have not answered the question, “What is the kingdom of God today.

Present Realty

The most obvious characteristic of the Kingdom of God is its present reality. Jesus says that it is “near at hand.” It is not limited to an afterlife. The kingdom of God is not something just in the future. We are allowed a taste of it in the here and now.
The kingdom of God dawns whenever someone turns to God and accepts his Son as Savior and Lord. The new convert relinquishes the control of his life and submits to the reign of God. The kingdom also breaks into our lives whenever we are healed of sickness or disease. We do not have to wait for the kingdom of God to come like its a delayed bus or train. We can experience the Kingdom of God in the present.
Brenden I am giving this testimony because I am totally astounded at what God has done in my life! I was so fed up with life, but it just didn't occur to me that God could be real - or if he was, why he would want anything to do with someone like me.
Brenden I am giving this testimony because I am totally astounded at what God has done in my life! I was so fed up with life, but it just didn't occur to me that God could be real - or if he was, why he would want anything to do with someone like me.
About this time last year, I was stuck on a seemingly endless treadmill of working, getting stoned, and sleeping. This had been going on for years.
I was aware that drugs had taken over my life. I had grown dissatisfied. I no longer enjoyed life as I once had. The crunch came when I lost yet another job because of my skunk-induced laziness. This time I was really angry at myself! I couldn't understand why my life was like this and other people's lives were not.
In a rare moment of self-admitted weakness, I broke, and asked God, "Oh, show me if you're real!" Unbelievably, I found an Alpha course leaflet posted through the letter box by a complete stranger. I phoned the number and haven't looked back since. Through the Alpha course, I found out that God really is real, Jesus really is real, and the Holy Spirit is alive and well and living everywhere! Oh, and did I mention that prayer actually works, if done properly!
Maryjo and Brenden experienced those rare moment when the kingdom of God broke into their lives in a sudden and dramatic way to give them a taste of the coming Kingdom.
Romans 14:17 NIV84
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
The apostle Paul says that the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy. In a world marked by conflict, turmoil, and chaos, Paul suggested to the Romans that when God’s Kingdom dawns there is peace and joy. He also suggested that when believers enjoy these blessings that they commit to a lifestyle marked by righteousness.

Hidden Realty

Hidden Realty

Mark also reveals that the kingdom of God is a hidden reality. Mark does not record as man parables as Matthew. The latter is more a teaching manual. Mark which was the first gospel written is in a hurry to get to the end of the story. The largest section of this gospel is the Passion Narrative. For Mark, the suffering and death of Jesus was central to his message.
But the nephew of Peter does include four parables to depict how the power of the Kingdom works in quite inconspicuous ways. The parable of the sower, the seed growing in the field, the mustard seed and later in his gospel the parable of leaven all demonstrate that God’s Kingdom is changing lives and institutions even when we do not have a direct hand in the process or can see the results.
This is foreign thinking to our ‘make-it-happen’ society. Things would not go well for a manager whose performance objectives were not achieved. Parents want to see a report card to assure them of their child’s progress in mastering her lessons. Wall Street wants to see an increase in profits each quarter. A sell-off stampede would follow the announcement by a company of flat earnings.
God occasionally works the dramatic but he is not one who usually pounds his chest and announces to anyone who will listen to his great accomplishments. He does not distribute T-shirts that say, “God is Great.” He just moves through a person’s heart like leaven in the dough. He just multiples the efforts of his people to produce a harvest that is beyond their original projections. He just works in people with the certainty and unexplainable ways that seed grows in the field.

Powerful Realty

Jesus also understood that the kingdom of God was a powerful reality that transforms lives.
Maryjo believed in Jesus as a young child, but a dysfunctional home life turned her into an angry, rebellious adolescent. She continued down a bitter path until at age 45, Maryjo became very ill. She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's follicular lymphoma cancer. Knowing what she needed to do, Maryjo re-committed her life to Jesus Christ and soon found herself experiencing an awesome miracle of healing.
Brenden I am giving this testimony because I am totally astounded at what God has done in my life! I was so fed up with life, but it just didn't occur to me that God could be real - or if he was, why he would want anything to do with someone like me.
About this time last year, I was stuck on a seemingly endless treadmill of working, getting stoned, and sleeping. This had been going on for years.
I was aware that drugs had taken over my life. I had grown dissatisfied. I no longer enjoyed life as I once had. The crunch came when I lost yet another job because of my skunk-induced laziness. This time I was really angry at myself! I couldn't understand why my life was like this and other people's lives were not.
In a rare moment of self-admitted weakness, I broke, and asked God, "Oh, show me if you're real!" Unbelievably, I found an Alpha course leaflet posted through the letter box by a complete stranger. I phoned the number and haven't looked back since. Through the Alpha course, I found out that God really is real, Jesus really is real, and the Holy Spirit is alive and well and living everywhere! Oh, and did I mention that prayer actually works, if done properly!
Maryjo and Brenden experienced power of the Kingdom of God a powerful transformation way. They now know that God reigns in their hearts and guides them each and every day.

What is and isn’t

The Kingdom of God is not an antiquated theological concept. It is an active force in the lives of his people. It is not stagnant. It keeps moving with the certainty of leaven in the dough. We may not notice it. We may not be able to identify it but we can say with absolute confidence that God’s kingdom is near and is coming. It is already but not yet. So we need to pray each and every day ‘Thy kingdom come...’
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