Tag Archives: kingdom of God

Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8C

Track 1: The God of Elijah

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Galatians 5:1,13-25
Luke 9:51-62

We continue with the story of Elijah. God had instructed Elijah to anoint Elisha to take his place. It was time for the great prophet to be translated to heaven. We read in 2 Kings:

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.   (2 Kings 2:9-14)

Elisha was very ambitious. He wanted a double portion of the anointing which Elijah had. Nonetheless, something was missing in Elisha’s understanding of God.

Elisha call out to as the God, addressing him as the God of Elijah. God should not be defined by one man’s relationship with him. He is not just the God of one man or woman. In the Old Testament he was referred to as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” This changed, however, when God called Moses to lead his people out of Egypt:

So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.   (Exodus 3:10-15)

God was telling Moses that he must understood in a much broader context. If we know God only through his relationship with another person then we are missing the very nature of God. God transcends any human definition of himself.

The psalmist reflected upon God:

In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
my hands were stretched out by night and did not tire;
I refused to be comforted.

I will remember the works of the Lord,
and call to mind your wonders of old time.

I will meditate on all your acts
and ponder your mighty deeds.

Your way, O God, is holy;
who is so great a god as our God?

You are the God who works wonders
and have declared your power among the peoples.

By your strength you have redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.   (Psalm 77:2, 11-15)

To know God is to know his works. He is not just the God of our spiritual mentor. He is creator God of love for all of us to experience and know, if that is our desire. We need to expand our thinking. We need to meditate on the mighty acts of God down trough the ages.

I think that we can safely assume that the Prophet Elisha gsinrf a deeper underrating of God during his prophetic ministry. Though he had a double portion of Elijah’s anointing, he would have been greatly handicapped in faithfully serving God without his teaching, healing, and direction.

How about us today? Are we seeking impressive spiritual power? For what purpose? Do we know who God is? We cannot know God the Father without knowing God the Son. The Pharisees were confused about who Jesus was. They were not prepared for his answer. Jesus said:

Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”   (John 8:56-58)

We are called by the great I AM. That is who we serve. Our primary task is to walk with him on a daily basis so that we might know God and his ways. The psalmist wrote:

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law
And keep it with all my heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies
And not to dishonest gain.
Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,
And revive me in Your ways.
Establish Your word to Your servant,
As that which produces reverence for You.   (Psalm 119:33-38)

 

 

Track: Fit for the Kingdom of God

1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21
Psalm 16
Galatians 5:1,13-25
Luke 9:51-62

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for one final time. Along the way several people said they wanted to join him, not knowing where he was going or what joining him really meant. Reading from today’s Gospel:

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”   (Luke 9:57-62)

Why would someone want to look back when entering the kingdom of God? There are requirements for living in the Kingdom of God.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.   (Galatians 5:16-21)

God wants to give us his kingdom, but we must also inherit it. This notion rules does not nullify grace, but it certainly rules out cheap grace. The kingdom of God is not something to be taken lightly. Jesus said:

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   (Luke 12:32-34)

There is no room in the kingdom of God for the love of this world. God wants to expand our hearts so that we may truly value what is good and lasting. Those who live in the kingdom do not live as those in the world. Continuing in today’s Epistle reading, Paul writes

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.   (Galatians 5:22-25)

To receive the kingdom of God is to repent, believe and confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. To inherit the kingdom of God is to be guided by the Holy Spirit. If we look back to the world we are taking our hands off the plow. Yes, there is work to be done in the kingdom on this earth. Each of us is given a plow. We should be willing to work in the field.

We do not earn the kingdom. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It is given to us through the cross of Jesus Christ. To live in the kingdom is to live by the Spirit, however. Our direction and purpose can no longer be governed by the things of this world.

Jesus said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’   (Matthew 7:21-23)

Are we fit for the kingdom? A better question may be: Is the Holy Spirit fitting us for the kingdom. We cannot do it alone. But let us fear not, God is with us. Are we with God?

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Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

An Everlasting Kingdom

We live in a very temporary world that is quickly fading away. The danger in this world is to worship the things that merely hint at the glory and majesty of God rather than God himself. The Psalmist wrote:

All your works praise you, O Lord,
and your faithful servants bless you.

They make known the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your power;

That the peoples may know of your power
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;
your dominion endures throughout all ages.   (Psalm 145:10–13)

Jesus said that we must be prepared for an eternal kingdom that does not fade away::

Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.   (John 5:25-29)

God is still calling his people. He wants to offer us an eternal kingdom guaranteed by his Son. Do we hear this voice?

saying to the prisoners, “Come out,”
    to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.”
They shall feed along the ways,
    on all the bare heights shall be their pasture;
10 they shall not hunger or thirst,
    neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down,
for he who has pity on them will lead them,
    and by springs of water will guide them.   (Isaiah 49:9–10)

Now is the time to answer God’s call. Let us come out of the darkness of this world and enter into his glorious kingdom and light.

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Christmas Day: Proper I

The Kingdom of Light

These readings are traditionally used during the Christmas Eve service in many liturgical churches. They may be used on Christmas Day as well.

In today’s Old Testament reading, the Prophet Isaiah foretells a great event:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:6)

At the time this prophecy was being fulfilled the world had become immersed in darkness, much like it is today. Israel was under Roman rule. Rome had laid upon the people a heavy tax. In today’s Gospel we read:

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.   Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  (Luke 2:1-4)

Who would come and save them from the burden of Rome? A prophet of God had not spoken to them in 400 years. Many had lost hope that God would ever deliver them from the tyranny of foreign rule. This was about to change:

Joseph went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.   (Luke 2:5-7)

A far greater tyranny existed than Rome. This tyranny was a spiritual one imposed by the ruler of darkness. As a result, many Israelites had lost the meaning of God’s great love for them. Perhaps this is still true for many of us today.

Into this darkness a great message of hope was spoken, to shepherds no less:

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”   (Luke 2:8-14)

The light of Christ had come

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
    and the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.  (Isaiah (9:2-4)

Satan had blinded the understanding of God’s people. Though Rome was oppressive, the way the Law of Moses was interpreted by the scribes and Pharisees was even more so. Heavy burdens had been placed on the people through numerous religious rules and regulations.

Only the light of Christ could dispel this great darkness. His teachings and his examples clearly demonstrated God’s love for his people. Not only that, but he took on all our burdens by his death on the cross.

Are we still living in darkness today? What about the song: “He is making a list and checking it twice. He is going to find out who is naughty or nice?” Do we measure up? Can God still love us? Have we done enough?

Jesus has done enough! He is still lifting our burdens if we will allow him. Again, from Isaiah:

His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.  (Isaiah 9:7)

We no longer need to live under the tyranny of darkness which tells us that God does not truly love us unless we measure up. God loves us because he measures up. He will establish justice and righteousness for this time onward and forevermore. Human beings cannot do this, though some falsely say that they can. Only God has the means, the authority, and the zeal to accomplish this.

Under this world’s governmental system there will always be some form of oppression. However, this world is passing away. The Kingdom of Light is growing and expanding. Do we not see it? Jesus is still calling people into his everlasting kingdom. Everyone is invited. Have we opened our invitation to join him? This is the true gift of Christmas.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let every hearts prepare him room. Amen.

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