Sermon for August 18, 2019
Scripture: Micah 7:18-20; Psalm 85:7-13; Hebrews 12:1-2; Luke 11:1-13
Sermon: "Thy Will Be Done"
Jesus was hailed by the people as Son of David, the Messiah. The people hailed Jesus as the one long promised to restore the kingdom after centuries of waiting since the time of David.
What were the people thinking then, to wait expectantly for the One who would fulfill the promise made by God to David? It was a promise that the kingdom would live on. To the people, it was a promise that one day there would be no more suffering, injustice, war, and pain. When we pray for the kingdom to come and for God's will to be done, we had best be prepared!
Work of the kingdom is challenging work. It is hard work. Jesus teaches us that truth. Jesus teaches us to pray to God -- "O God, thy kingdom come; thy will be done" and "May your kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven."
But there was much confusion as Jesus taught about that kingdom. The people were hoping for a king who would save them from the hated Romans, a king who would sit on a throne in a royal palace and would have a strong well-equipped army around him.
That is not the kind of kingdom Jesus described.
What kind of kingdom did he describe? Often he used odd stories, his parables, to explain what the Kingdom of God must be:
-- like a seed sown in soil where sometimes birds eat the seeds, sometimes weeds crowd out the seeds, sometimes the soil is too rocky, sometimes the soil is just right, and strong roots take hold and the seeds grow and multiply and become strong and hearty.
-- like a merchant who finds a valuable pearl and knows that it is worth more than anything in the world; so the merchant sells all he owns and buys that one pearl -- the pearl of great price, the pearl of kingdom life and kingdom building, the pearl that requires the sacrifice of everything else in order to possess it.
-- like the wheat and the weeds growing together and the farmer who does not act rashly and try to destroy the weeds but waits patiently for God to separate the two at harvest time.
-- like the servants entrusted with talents left with them when the master was away, some of the servants putting those talents to use to enhance their value for their master; and others, hiding the talents and remaining static and unproductive, doing nothing at all to please their master.
Yes, there was much confusion when Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom that he, Jesus, God's Son, had come to announce.
In the fourth chapter of Luke, Jesus spends a night at Peter's house after a busy day of teaching and healing. The next morning, he arose very early morning. Luke says this:
"At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, 'I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose." (Luke 4:42-44)
Jesus preached in many villages and cities. He especially sought to teach among the ones everyone called sinners, the fringe groups, the losers, the lepers, and the forgotten.
Jesus preached and taught love -- even love of one's enemies; Jesus taught freedom, release for the prisoners; Jesus taught healing for the sick; wholeness for the leper and the lame; and new life for the ones living in sin.
The kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim would be based upon God's perfect truth. God's perfect Way would be its center and heart. Jesus never said that it would be easy. He said that The Kingdom would be open to all who would turn and seek Jesus as Lord.
And that was not easy for the first followers of Jesus to understand -- those who thought the Kingdom would be only for their kind of people. Sometimes that's a stumbling block for us, as well.
Go! Jesus said. Tell! Welcome! Forgive! Love!
Listen: if you do not go, tell, welcome, forgive, love -- if you don't do those things in Jesus' name, who will? Who will exhibit God's kingdom on earth? Who will show the way of Jesus -- the way, the truth, the life?
The risen Christ has left us the church -- and the church is here to exhibit the kingdom of God to the world, to show what Jesus meant as he traveled the dusty roads of Galilee and spoke of
-- loving God and neighbor,
-- healing broken lives,
-- comforting the sick,
-- and expanding the kingdom by opening the doors and the hearts of the church to make room for all who would come --
-- yes, even to go out and find those who must come or those who have fallen away or fallen apart.
Kingdom work is hard work. Today that kingdom work is church work. It is not passive. It is active.
What must God be like? Jesus embodied and described the same loving God as presented by Micah -- a God who wants all people of the earth to know him:
"He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in showing clemency. He will again have compassion upon us; he will tread our iniquities under foot [and] will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:18-19)
For those who cannot go out into the world around them to spread the word by visiting the sick or comforting the bereaved, there is prayer -- active prayer that calls out names and that puts in front of God the real needs of this time and place -- the strength needed to do the kind of kingdom work that is all around us; and, yes, the forgiveness that cleanses our hearts to love God and each other day after day.
The church for two thousand years has sought God through prayer and study; has asked for forgiveness and has received it in the gracious way that God deals with his church and with all of us people.
It can be lonely for church people seeking and doing the work Jesus names for us to do. We continue the journey he began, directed by the Holy Spirit.
Kingdom work is demanding. Church work is demanding. And if you have a deep yearning within you, a kind of God-shaped hole in your heart, then look to your church and ask the question:
"Lord, where do you need me?"
Do you need me as Sunday school grows and more teachers are needed?
Do you need me to volunteer to make supper for the youth group a few nights a year?
Do you need me to start a new program of outreach that will tell the neighbors about what we do at this church that is located right around the corner from where they live?
Pray to God earnestly: What can I do, Lord? It is not always neat and tidy work. And yet it must be done -- and with a joyful heart.
Jesus knew that from the beginning. He knew we who would come after him these many centuries later would have just as hard a time as the ones he walked with by the sea.
The kingdom is near. The kingdom is here. Jesus came to bring us news and instructions about the kingdom. Spread the good news in all you do and in all you say. Exhibit that kingdom to others and bring them into the fold of God's kingdom.
Again, hear the words: kingdom work is hard. Prayer eases the way.
God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray. We know how to pray. And we know that God beckons us to come and learn; to be and do; and to go and to tell; to gather into the church all of those who are outside it.
So today -- pray for the world. Pray for your church. Pray for strangers and pray for friends and loved ones.
Then intentionally pray for the vision that God will lead us to see clearly a new day and a new way, a new opening into the future that will bless everyone in this church and bless others whom we welcome into this place in the work that awaits us.
Pray: Your kingdom come, Lord. Your will be done, Lord -- on earth as it is in heaven. What greater prayer is there than just that? Amen.