Good News of Great Joy

buy clomid in the united states The Sunday Sermon – July 19, 2015

buy Pregabalin online Luke 17:20-21

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Well, as you have seen and perhaps “felt” from the sermon title in our bulletin this morning, it’s Christmas in July.  It may feel even more like it when we sing our hymn after my words.  I’m sure you know that the first hymns in our hymnbook, and hymn number three is one of the first, are Advent hymns.  Our Hymnal begins it’s music to coincide with the beginning of the church year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent.  Anyway …

So, I’m not just “recognizing Christmas” in July to take our minds off the flooding and devastation of early last week and the clean up that followed.  I’m also doing it because I often say during Advent, and more directly during Christmas Eve service, that Christmas is not a “day,” one “day” of the year – December 25th , or any other day.  Rather it is an attitude, a conviction, an approach to life that “sees” something different at work in the world.  Christmas is a way of living that recognizes God present and at work in this world.  I say all that, and more, during Advent and Christmastime, but then we never, or rarely, think about it until the next Advent or Christmastime.  This year, we are thinking about it again, somewhere in-between last Christmas and this coming one.

We’re reading from Luke this morning.  Sounds like an Advent reading.  But we’re not going to hear the birth story recorded in his second chapter.  Rather, we’re going to hear the birth story recorded in his seventeenth chapter.  Listen for the Word of God and this birth in these two short verses …

(Read browse around here Luke 17:20-21The Word of the Lord …

In the advent, the arrival, of Jesus a new way of seeing something ancient was born in our world, and subsequently in our lives, beginning with the very first followers in the first century and continuing with us twenty centuries later, this new way of seeing, articulating, and experiencing God became known as Christianity.  The “ancient reality” that was, and is, revealed in new ways through the life, death, and resurrection experience is this:  The Kingdom of God among us.

In this human being we – from the very first followers in the first century and all the way to us twenty centuries later – are able to see, to taste, touch, and feel, to experience the Kingdom of God among (us).  He healed, he shared, he set free, he gave sight, he fed, he proclaimed, not of a wrathful, vengeful God, but a God of Love and hope who was acting in the world in ways we were ignoring;  not a God “coming soon, somewhere else,” but a God here among us.

Every Advent and Christmastime I challenge you to consider the “more than literal” meanings of our two biblical birth narratives and our traditional interpretations of them.  I know I bore some of you with that annual challenge, but now it’s a semi-annual one!  What is our “Good News of Great Joy?”  It is that the Kingdom of God is among us.  That’s what the Gospel writers are telling us in their birth narratives Luke, chapter 17, verse 21.  So if this Kingdom is here, why is our world so messed up?  Shootings again this week, death and dying, corruption and greed, anger and hatred.

Let’s begin with us, the church.  The expression “Kingdom of Heaven” entered the Christian vocabulary.”  In the New Testament, “Kingdom of Heaven” is used over thirty times, but only in Matthew.  “The Kingdom of God” is used twice as often and by many different authors, including Luke, as we just heard, but also Mark, John, and Paul.  What makes this unfortunate is that Matthew was the gospel most commonly read by the church through the centuries and all too often “Kingdom of Heaven” was misinterpreted as the Kingdom of the future, of the next world, of the afterlife.  That wasn’t Matthew’s interpretation.  For him “Heaven” was a euphemism for “God,’ “Kingdom of Heaven” meant exactly the same thing as “Kingdom of God.”  But it didn’t for the early church, and it still really doesn’t for us, at least not most often.  And so as a result, the Kingdom of God, God’s kingdom on earth, God’s vision for creation in this world, in this life, has not fared so well in Christian history.

Since Christendom began with Emperor Constantine, the “dream of God” that Jesus embodied and that Christ continues to embody has most frequently  “adapted” to the whatever “social orders” ruled the day (Borg, The God We Never Knew, 144).  From the time the empire first “took up the church” in the fourth century it, to greater or lesser degrees throughout history, took “over” the church and its message.  The church’s message from the life teachings, death and resurrection of its Christ, its message of peaceful, non-violent, compassionate, co-existence; it’s central directive to “bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (remember those?), was accommodated to the Empire and followers were encouraged not to work for equality and peace on earth, and certainly not to release the captive and oppressed, but to accept their plight now and anticipate their reward later, in heaven.  From the time the empire first “took up the church” in the fourth century, they (we) were encouraged to go along with the Empire’s program and wait for the “second” coming of Christ when God would “get it right.”  We’ve been waiting for two thousand years and counting.

Still today, the relationship between Christianity and the secular-political order continues.  The “dream of God” revealed, among other places, in Jesus is consumed by the individualism that is so huge a part of our lives, at least in the United States.  You see, the “dream of God” is quite different from our worldly dreams.  Our dreams are “individualistic:” living well, looking good, standing out, being right.  Our consumerism defines us.  Our therapeutic needs controls us.  Our militarism governs us.  And our round the clock “news” programs confirm us because they feed us affirmation not information.  They affirm our “rightness” rather than inform our ignorance.  They confirm our lifestyle rather than challenge it.  They comfort us rather than confront us.

The dream of God is a vision of shalom that includes not just the absence of negatives like oppression, anxiety, and fear; but the presence of positives like health, prosperity, and collaboration.  The dream of God, embodied in Jesus Christ is a politics of compassion and justice, of a domination-free order.  It is social and communal, not private and individual.  And it is unrestricted.  The dream of our God is the Kingdom of God on earth.  Heaven is in great shape, you see, we don’t need to worry about heaven.  Earth is where the problems are!  And into all the problems we’ve inherited, created, and perpetuate we should be proclaiming our Good News of Great Joy:

The Kingdom of God internet is among us …

Why is our world, why are our lives, still so messed up.  Because we have been taught this “kingdom” is for the next life.  But that’s wrong.  That’s not what Jesus taught and it’s not what most of the world’s religions teach.  In Buddhism, the more one eliminates earthly desire, the closer one is to peace.  In Islam, to bear the “Oneness of God” is to struggle from within to get rid of all the constraints that pull us down and tie us to this world’s alternatives.  The Hebrew scriptures, of course, tell us “in the beginning” that we are created in God’s image.

There is a Hindu legend that tells us that there was once a time when all humans were gods, but they abused their divinity.  Brahma, the god of creation, concluded that people had lost the right to their divinity and decided to take it away from them.  Wanting to hide it somewhere where they wouldn’t be able to find it, he called a council of all the gods to advise him.  Some suggested that they bury it deep in the earth, others that they sink it in the ocean, others still suggested it be placed on top of the highest mountain. , but Brahma said that humankind was ingenious and would dig down far into the earth, trawl the deepest oceans and climb every mountain in an effort to find it again.  The gods were on the point of giving up when Brahma said, “I know where we will hide humanity’s divinity.  We will hide it inside them.  They will search the whole world but never look inside and find what is already within.”

The kingdom of God is among us … We cannot keep sitting around waiting for God to act.  For if the Kingdom of God is among us, it means that God has already acted!  And that means that God is now waiting for us to get with the program!  Will the Kingdom of God, the dream of God, happen without God?  No.  But can it happen without us?  No …

This kingdom of God is not about heaven, it is for earth.  It is for you and me to  participate in as we bring good news of great joy to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, give sight to the blind, food to the hungry and let the oppressed go free.  As we engage the world and get involved.  The Second Coming of our Christ will happen for us when we finally accept that the First Coming was the only Coming and start to cooperate with the divine presence among us.

So here’s our challenge during this Christmas in July:  Unwrap our present!  Share our Good News of Great Joy!  Imagine God is waiting for you, for us, for creation to finally recognize the ancient reality that Jesus reveals for us so fully.  Imagine the world as God would like it to be.  Gardens of Eden, lions lying down with lambs, infants and mothers, families beyond birth, enemies turned into friends, rivers and mountains and sea and sky and trees of life.  Do you have it in your mind, these images of God’s Kingdom?  Now go beyond them.  Discover where in these images, where in this world, you are.  In the midst of it all, living for the divine found among us and in every other “one.”

The Kingdom of God is among us.  Did you listen carefully to the words of the song Annie shared earlier?  “What if the trials of this life are mercies in disguise?” … Then we are called to make this world a better place.  Let is begin with us.  “Comfort, comfort you God’s people,” and share your Good News of Great Joy. 

Amen.

Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor

Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / July 19, 2015