It is a little ironic that I am posting this today, because I am currently working on this weekend’s sermon that kind of addresses the same issue of the kingdom here on earth! Here is my sermon from September 2 – enjoy …
Rehoboth Congregational Church
September 2, 2018
We Will Bring God’s Kingdom To Earth
Since we started our Year of Mark, one of the things I have incorporated into my sermon prep is looking at our text for the week in different translations of the bible, in addition to the one we read on Sunday mornings, which is the New Revised Standard Version. I have been doing this, mostly because one of the biggest reasons I encouraged us to try the Year of Mark in the first place was to re-familiarize ourselves with the stories of Jesus as we read the Gospel from start to finish. Reading different translations allows me to not necessarily get caught up on specific words or phrases, but to read the stories as a whole and then think about how they apply to our lives today.
One of the translations I look at is the bible I use in bible study every week, the Common English Bible, which was released in 2011. I use a study bible that came out in 2013 and there was a commentary on our passage from this morning that I thought was worth sharing.
In Mark the good news Jesus proclaims is that God’s kingdom is on the horizon. Historians agree this message was the trademark of Jesus’ earthly ministry. But how are we to understand the term “God’s kingdom”? For Mark it’s the very real hope, rooted in Jewish thought, that God’s power will soon overwhelm Rome’s. … In Mark, Jesus is the Jewish Christ who established God’s kingdom by fighting the forces of evil wherever they appear – in demons, illness, human need, and abusive power. … By following a suffering Christ, Mark’s audience takes its place within God’s new world order, which uses power for good. Evil – even death itself – will finally lose its grip upon the earth.
I thought this was relevant, because as humans living on this earth today, we often fight these same forces of evil. Demons (they might not look like the kind we see on TV and in the movies, but often times we have our own internal ones), illness, human need and abusive power – these are all forces that threaten our livelihood, our family structures, our happiness, our stability and our ability to be fulfilled in our lives and connect to God on a real and personal level.
But as Christians, we believe that God’s love is stronger than this evil. We believe in the message of the Gospel, that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection meant something – and still means something in our lives today. We might not know where or when or how God’s kingdom is coming, but know that we are called through scripture to do everything we can to bring that kingdom here to earth through our lives and service to God. We want to use the power we have – however big or small it might be – for good in this world.
Jesus’ earthly ministry continues in our reading from Mark this morning. Even though we are still only in the beginning of Mark, there is this reoccurring theme where Jesus leaves a place – either to travel to a new place or to retreat by himself to pray – and everyone follows him. People wanted to see and hear for themselves all that Jesus was doing and saying. They wanted to not only believe in the Good News, but bear witness to it themselves.
In this morning’s reading, Jesus goes up on a mountain and calls his 12 disciples.
(As a side note, in the four different Gospels, the names of the disciples sometimes appear differently, but there were always 12 disciples, which evokes the 12 tribes of Israel. This parallel draws to light the powerful notion that change was on the horizon, that something new was happening. Jesus’ calling of 12 disciples symbolizes a shift from the old way of thinking to this discipleship model of ministry).
Remember that these disciples were not drawn from the educated or the upper class, they were ordinary people, which is important to note, because it shatters the notion that we have to somehow work our way up in society in order to receive God’s grace. It was not the people with power that walked alongside Christ, but the people who were humble and willing to do the hard work that is required to bring God’s kingdom here to earth.
Our passage this morning ends with a rare, brief and a little bit strange story about Jesus’ family. Jesus’ mother and brothers came to his home and were standing outside, but when the crowd gathered around Jesus inside told him his family was outside, Jesus replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers? Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
This story has always bugged me a little bit, because it kind of sets this expectation where you have to completely abandon your old life – including your family – in order to follow Christ. But I am not sure that was entirely the point Jesus was getting at. I think he was simply trying to say that – in the Body of Christ, in God’s family – we are all equal. There is no one that is more than or less than. Jesus gave no one preferential treatment – not the rich and the powerful and not even his own family. Everyone, everyone, EVERYONE had access to God’s love through Jesus Christ.
And the same is true today.
There is an urgency to the Gospel that existed back then and also still exists today. There are forces of evil at work in our world that, as a Body of Christ, we need to be stronger than. We need to be stronger than death, sickness and pain. We need to be stronger than social inequality, poverty, hunger and homelessness. We need to be stronger than hatred, gossip and slander. We need to be stronger than anxiety and depression. We need to be stronger than social expectations that cause us stress and put pressure on our families.
The work of Jesus was powerful back and then and it is just as powerful today.
We might not be casting out demons the way it is written in the Gospel, but we have so much work to do in our lives today. And we are reminded in today’s reading, as members of the Body of Christ, we are all equal in this ministry, called, like it says in verses 14 and 15, to “proclaim the message, and to have authority.”
The commentary I read on this passage says that the Good News Jesus proclaims in the Gospel of Mark is that God’s kingdom is on the horizon. But the important thing to remember here is that we are active participants in bringing this kingdom to earth.
And so now the hard work begins. Now we make a choice to follow Christ. Now we make a choice to respond to the call to resist evil in the world, to be united so that we are not a house divided and unable to stand. Now we take seriously the call of discipleship so that we can shine God’s light into even the darkest corners of the world.
The program year is about to begin. Now is a wonderful time to get tied back into the church, to connect with God and with one another and to respond to the call to proclaim the Gospel to this community. There is an urgency to the work that we are doing – and there is a powerful grace that can and will be uncovered as we commit to do this hard work.
God’s kingdom is on the horizon.
And we can draw it closer.
Thanks be to God!