Monday, October 3, 2011

Aug 14, 2011 - Pressing into the Kingdom

August 14, 2011
Pressing into the Kingdom
Fr. Philip Eberhart


Jesus was a man who lived His life “on purpose.”  In fact, if there ever was a person who was here, “on purpose” it was HIM!  He had an indelible sense of His calling, gifting and of the purpose for which He was sent by God.
Repeatedly we hear Jesus talking about the reasons that God sent Him into the world – “to seek and to save that which is lost”;  to find the “lost sheep – the lost coin – to welcome home the lost son.”  Jesus saw what He was doing as a direct extension of what God was doing in the world.

In our opening prayer this morning we acknowledged Jesus to be the supreme example for our lives as well as the savior of the world.  “you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life”  We prayed that God would give us the grace to “follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life.”

Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God – the Kingdom of Heaven – to earth.  His model prayer caught this reality – “Let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!”

God is still in the business of bringing His Kingdom to its fullness “on earth, as it is in heaven.”   We are the chosen and the sent now.

In our New Testament lesson from Romans, Paul takes great pains over three chapters in Romans, a book written to his Gentile converts in Rome obviously, making the case that the Jews are going to come into the salvation that God has promised to them.  And our reading today is the culmination of that argument.

“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” – they cannot be repented of!

We cannot turn away from the gifting and the calling that God has placed on our lives – and that is where we see Jesus today in our Gospel reading. 

Jesus had a single focus – the Lost sheep of Israel.  His encounter with the Gentile woman in Tyre illustrates this single-mindedness.  In fact what we see is a kind of hardness that we don’t expect in Jesus.  He wants to turn his back and walk away from her situation, but she would have none of it!  He argues with her and the argument is based on this single-minded focus of His.  Her argument is one that picks up his imagery, but points to the mercy she needs.  She is just as single-minded as He is!!  She is not put off – she is determined in her faith that she will receive what she is seeking from Him.  And she does.  Her faith and determination overcame even Jesus’ reluctance here.  Perhaps the only time we see such an attitude in Jesus, but we must understand the context and the exchange.

All that to say that we can learn from both figures in the story.  We can learn of determined faith from the Canaanite woman; faith that pierces through any wall or argument set up against it.  We can learn single-mindedness from Jesus as well in this exchange.  Though He appears harsh in this exchange it was because He was focused on the work He was sent to accomplish.

Both of them were models of single-mindedness.  Jesus about the Kingdom of God and who He was sent to;  the Canaanite woman, about the healing needed for her daughter.

So what have we to be single-minded about?

Jesus said it best, in the Sermon on the Mount, “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…”

The aims and the work of the Kingdom of God and the internal righteousness of the Character of God are to be our focus – that which we seek FIRST.   The Kingdom of God and the Character of God:  an external reality and an internal reality.

THY KINGDOM COME – THY WILL BE DONE

The nature of the Kingdom is captured in the phrases of Jesus prayer:  

            Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The Kingdom of God is the place where God’s will is done.  Where God’s reign is effective and real, and His will is accomplished 100% of the time, 24/7/365.

Jesus came to bring the Kingdom back to earth, to restore the Kingdom of Heaven, on earth.  This was his single focus!  This was what Jesus ate, drank and slept!  This is what Jesus prayed for day to day, and this is what his actions lead us to throughout His earthly ministry.

THY KINGDOM COME!  162 times in the NT, Jesus mentions the Kingdom.  It was this focus from which His teachings flow;  it was this focus that His healings point to;  it was this focus that his confrontation of evil flowed from. 

The line that Matthew uses to capture and to bookend the work of Jesus is this:
Matthew 4:23-25
23 Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 24 News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. 25 Large crowds followed him wherever he went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns,[h] Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River.

Matthew 9:35-38
35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

In between these verses we have the richest field of treasure in the whole world!  The shape of the Kingdom on earth is laid out by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5, 6 and 7.  Then in chapters 8 and 9 Jesus is traveling and healing the people.  Matthew closes this section by repeating the verse he began with and by telling us to look at the harvest and to pray for the workers.

Then immediately in Chapter 10 Jesus sends the disciples out with their orders.  Marching orders!  And they are US!  We are them – the ones who have been sent into the world with direct orders from Jesus, to bring in the Kingdom of God and to live His Righteous life in the world.
And these last three verses of Matt 9 are very instructive.  They form a bridge between the work of Jesus and the work that He sends us to do in the world around us.

Our motivation is compassion;

“When he saw the crowd, he had compassion on them
because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

            Our goal is the harvest;
            The harvest is great, but the workers are few!”

                        Our means is prayer.
                        Pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; asks Him to send
                        More workers into his fields.”

Friends, nothing we can do in and of ourselves can “bring the Kingdom – on earth as it is in Heaven!”  Our greatest weapon and tool is prayer to the God who is able to do more than we can ask or imagine! 

But once again, let me remind you that, once we’ve prayed, the next word in both Matthew and Luke’s gospels is “GO.” 

Prayer prepares both us and those who we are sent to.  Prayer is the rain that softens the soil that it may be easily broken to accept eternal seed.  And that is what we carry with us – the seed of the eternal Kingdom of God.  Planted in the hearts of those we meet, by kindness, by goodness, by long-suffering patience – by the fruit of the Character of God in our lives – we are enabled by Him to be the bearers of fruit for His Kingdom! 

And so we continue to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven” and “Here am I, Lord.  Send me.”

Amen.

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