God's Kingdom Come
The Rev. Laurel Hart
Scripture: Luke 21:5–19
I would like to begin this homily with a quote from Thom Rock who is currently a student at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Texas and a published author. “There is a pervading sense of both the present and the future in each of these readings. Indeed, the readings share a seemingly apocalyptic language with their repeated and related phrases of “and in that day” (Isaiah 12:4, NRSV), and “the days will come” (Luke 21:6), of the un-remembering of “former things” and the creation of “new heavens” (Isaiah 65:17). The second letter to the Thessalonians - and even more so Luke’s Gospel - throws us into a time warp. While they surely point to an anticipated not-yet, there is still something left to do in the already: communal work for the Thessalonians, bold testimony for the Lukan disciples. In this way, the readings are not strictly apocalyptic as much as they are an exhortation about how believers ought to behave in the here and now: to behold, to believe, to be here, and to be ready.”
I think these scriptures for today speak with the message of how we as Christians can and should be working toward building the Kingdom of God in this present age. On one occasion Jesus said, “For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” When we live as Christian following his teachings and examples and allowing this to be the pattern for our daily lives, that is the Kingdom of God. It is not rules and regulations, but as Paul wrote in Romans 14 it is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”.
I’m sure most of us have heard the phrase “you can take the boy out of the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.” The same adage holds true for former newspaper editors and writers like my beloved spouse. A newsperson can retire out of the newspaper’s business but you can’t remove their interest in the news of the day from them. There is a lot of interest - and that is an understatement- at our household around the various broadcast news reports. Watching the news, listening to the news, and the frequent dialogue - which might be characterized as verbal editorials on the news of the day- is never ending in our abode. The current state of national affairs is depressing to me and maybe to you also. One example is the nonstop bullying of so many individuals via twitter. Another is the ongoing threat of federal legal actions around issues of immigration which result in constant fear for thousands of people and causes their lives to be put on hold. Loose, thoughtless talk which provokes fear and hatred for people of different background, religious practices, colors or genders – these things make me sad and angry. Lately, my disillusion with our current political situation has led me to thinking and reflecting on the “kingdom of God”. How can we reclaim it now in our world? Frankly, I’m much more interested in how I can work toward this possibility now than I’m about wishing for or focusing on a heavenly afterlife when I die. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven” When we pray and seek the Kingdom of God, we are also praying for the rule and reign of the kingdom of God in our lives. This is when Jesus is in charge.
Many times I heard my mother, Ellen Hill, say she’d found her heaven on Earth – she identified her blessings as a life with a wonderful husband and three beautiful children – declaring that was her idea of God’s kingdom. As a child and later as a young adult I just didn’t understand what she meant when she talk about this idea. But praise the Lord; I understand what she meant now. Just as she had a vision of what God’s kingdom on earth was for her each and every one of us has our own vision. My vision for God’s kingdom is for the end of fear of other persons we don’t know personally or are unwilling to meet as equals. My vision is that we use the eyes of our hearts to see each other as a child of God. My vision is that our society is open and willing to share our abundance of material goods so that not one man, woman or child is found lacking the basics of food, shelter and health care. My vision is that all children are loved, live in safety and are nurtured as they grow into their God given gifts and talents. I think and pray daily about how I can contribute and build up the kingdom using my own gifts and talents. I trust that each person has their own thought and idea about this subject and the ways each Christian can contribute to building the kingdom.
As a faith community we must continue in dialogue and challenge ourselves and each other to this end. Our national church has some truly wonderful spiritual education programs available which are free or offered at very little cost. These are available to all Episcopal churches wanting to explore and grow in faith. One of these program is called “The Way of Love” which take participates in the course through 7 steps as they learn to develop and build in themselves the practices needed for a Jesus centered life. The program begins with step #1. Turn: Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus. Then it follows with #2. Learn: Reflect on Scripture each day, especially on Jesus’ life and teachings. #3. Pray: Dwell intentionally with God each day. #4. Worship: Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and dwell with God. #5. Bless: Share faith and unselfishly give and serve. #6. Go: Cross boundaries, listen deeply and live like Jesus. #7. Rest: Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration. My dream is for our parish to begin this journey to continue to build the kingdom of God here and now in our parish and in our community during this coming year.
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.