Not Someday but Now
There are ideas and concepts we all struggle with. I really want an answer, that is one of my problems. I am not good just leaving things alone and letting it all work out. The same comes to my understanding of God... I want there to be answers, I want there to be a plan, I want to know why things happen.
Of course, whether I am talking to God or my girlfriend... Life does not usually go according to plan.
How about you, do you make plans or have expectations? What happens when they don't work out the way you expected?
The real problem is that plans actually make things worse. Not always, but often. And the reason is simply that nothing really works out according to plan. It is a rare day indeed when.
Things happen eh way you thought they would.
So we go through life disappointed, in large and small ways.
God is coming to establish the kingdom on earth. That is what the people of Ancient Israel thought, and they were disappointed when Jesus did not raise an army to take over the Roman Empire.
Jesus is coming back to establish his Kingdom said Paul; going so far as to even say that we should sell all out possessions and just wait... As the years passed by the disappointment set in.
In 1900 the churches all said this would be the Christian Century and the whole world would be converted by 2000 bringing about the Kingdom of God, a world filled with peace and happiness...
See, expectations get us into trouble.
So what is it that Jesus was talking about? What did he mean when he talked about this so appalled Kingdom? How come it isn't here?
With the Kids
Follow the leader.
The Righteous Branch
It all starts with a problem. Right? You join Alcoholics Anonymous when you are looking for a solution to your drinking problem. You go to the doctor when you feel sick. You look to God for help when you do not know what else to do.
Israel has always been a piece of real estate that people fight over. Unfortunately it is sort of a gateway between the East and West and has a port on hyena Mediterranean, no matter who you were owning Israel gave you access to shipping... So 4000 years ago it was the Assyrians, en the Babylonians, then the Romans, then the Ottoman Turks, then the Christians, Then the Palestinians... Everyone has fought against the Jewish people.
It must have seemed impossible after generations of warfare to hope for peace. But that is what they did... When no one else would see to help they turned to God. And they prayed and they prayed and the prophets came to the people and said. Do not worry... god has heard your prayers... God will raise up a leader who will bring us peace and goodness and harmony...
Still, they waited. And so it was no wonder that when Jesus came he confused them... What kind of a King is this who talks about peace and seems to love everyone... What type of Kingdom does not bring happiness to the subjects? What kind of army do theses rag tag bunch of fishermen and tax collectors make?
Still... He said the right sort of things... It was confusing.
So here is the really stark reminder... the crucifixion. In the eyes of world, in the eyes of the Roman’s, in the eyes of his followers and friends he seems to have failed in his mission by this point because Heaven has not come down to earth...
But... what if they are just seeing it wrong?
Here is the thing that everyone, from Jeremiah through Paul missed; the thing that Jesus tried to correct. The Kingdom of God is not a dream for the future. In fact, like I said at the beginning of the service, it is when we think we need to wait, to hope that things get better, that we miss what is right in front of our eyes.
“The Kingdom of God is among you,” Jesus said.
In other words, look around. God is everywhere, God’s Kingdom is everywhere, what you are looking for is right here right now. Ever heard the expression that you are missing the forest for the trees? This is sort of what I am trying to say. We are looking so hard for some imagined future that we fail to see all the good things that are happening right now.
“The Kingdom of God is within you,” Jesus also said.
Which is to say that God is within you, God is working through you, and you are creating your own future. Don’t sit around and wait for someone else to solve your problems, and certainly do not think that if you are negative then you will ever find the positive.
We have all met people like that, the ones who cannot be happy no matter what, the ones who only see the negative. If they won a million dollars they would say, now everyone will be asking me for cash…
You have probably met the other ones too, the people who are so confident that you feel like you can do anything when you are with them, or are so enthusiastic that they make you feel better…
So what if the Kingdom is something like this? A state of mind? What if when we feel God is with us and the world is good, just like God said, we create a little bit of perfection right here, right now?
Contemporary Reading: Yours the Praise
by Jim Burklo
Fire who burns inside the mountain
Earth who feeds the trees
Sea who sprays up like a fountain
Wind who sighs the leaves
You, the source of inspiration
You the beauty bring
Yours, the power in creation
Yours, the praise we sing
Seeing the Beauty
I said a lot about all of this way of thinking when we were in the season of Creation this fall. But I wanted to read you the poem and have you at least give it some thought. This has been a real eye opener for me this week… here is what I always thought, Jesus came with a plan, and it did not go well…
But in some conversations with people I trust and respect I came to see a different idea… Jesus did not have a plan; Jesus had a way of life. He was living faithfully no matter what happened. And in doing that, he helped to bring about a way of being, he helped to model a way of being that really does have a lot of power.
In the modern world we might call it the power of positive thinking. In the old days they would have said that we need to have faith.
However you look at it, what we need to be doing is seeing God’s beauty, God’s love, God’s kingdom in everything and in everyone….
So next week we start preparing for Christmas. It is one of our biggest festivals, it is the time when we celebrate the birth of the person who came to show us the way.
And he did. He talked about how the Kingdom was like a treasure you find in a field, or a lost coin found in a house. How it was like yeast which rises the dough… for Jesus the Kingdom was the power of God rising up inside of us to empower us.
Well, that way is still a valid thing to choose to follow, and today we have been thinking about where it might lead. I invite you to take some time this week and consider how God is at work in you, and to consider how you see the Kingdom all around d you.