Sunday, March 27, 2011

Re-Discovering Jesus and the Kingdom of God

When Jesus walked the earth, he continued to preach and teach about the kingdom of God.  Even in one of his most famous sermons, the one we call “the sermon on the mount.”  “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33-34).  For many Christians today the assumption is that this is all about a way to be rescued from this earth and brought together in God’s nearer presence in heaven.  While heaven is certainly a part of God’s Kingdom, I have come to believe that what Jesus is referring to as “the Kingdom of God begins and continues in this life in this world that we call home.

I believe that the kingdom of God has everything to do with God’s presence in the pain and suffering of this world, as well as in its joys and its celebrations.  I believe that we see this kingdom most in the teachings and actions of Jesus in this world, summed up best in the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Our father in heaven, hollowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Save us from the time of trial and protect us from evil.”(Matthew 6:9-13)

I believe that Jesus came not just to get us to heaven, or even to start a new religion, but rather, to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world.

“What if the message of Jesus has practical implications for such issues as how we live our daily life, how we earn and spend money, how we treat people of other races and religions, and how the nations of the world conduct their foreign policy? For most of my life I have been on a journey of doubt and faith searching for the essential meaning of Jesus’ message, which I believe is true and worth knowing—that even if it overturns some of our conventional assumptions, priorities, values, and practices, a  better understanding will be worth the temporary discomfort.” (Secret Message of Jesus, Brian McLaren). 

Along this journey I have become convenienced that Jesus’ message is personal but not private.  That it has everything to do with public matters in general and politics in particular.  Just the fact that Jesus was called Lord, just as Caesar was called Lord makes this a political and not a religious statement.  Jesus’ first sermon in his hometown synagogue (which turned out to be a complete failure) in which he lays out his message pretty clearly tells us how Jesus sees the Kingdom of God.  “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. . . . Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”(Luke 4:18-19, 21) 

This is the kingdom I believe we as Christians are called to look for today.  This is the journey I believe Jesus has called us to be a part of today.  This is an invitation from Jesus “to seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness and everything else we need, will be given to us.”  It is Jesus’ reminder to focus on how we treat others, how we treat God, how we go beyond superficial words to substantive action.  As Jesus reminds his disciples at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, “everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on a rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25).

I leave you with a question: What would happen in our world if increasing numbers of us were to practice living this way.  What would happen in our individual lives and what would happen in the life of our nation if we did not just hear Jesus’ words, if we did not simply say Lord, Lord!, but rather heard His words and acted on them?

Blessings and Peace,

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