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The Kingdom of God has Come Near July 7, 2013

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Luke 10:1-20

Proper 9

July 7th, 2013

Focus: God has brought about His kingdom among us.

Function: That the hearers rejoice that their names are written in heaven.

Structure: .

 

For weeks now, you’ve been waiting.  Ever since Call Day on May 1st, when you found out that St. John’s would get another pastor, there’s been a sense of excitement around the congregation.  There’s a hope that he would bring something new, new ideas, new insights, new talents, and that through him the ministry of this congregation would spread even further, reaching out all the more into the community of Stewartville.  And for the past two months, Pastor Fritsch has been preparing you for the ordination and installation of this new pastor.

That time has come.  The services of ordination and installation proved to be an exciting day, one that was a blessing to Hannah and me and we pray to all of you as well.  And we thank you for everything you have done for us already, for the choir that sang and for the meal, for the moving help and for the cards and gifts, and just for such a warm welcome into your community.  The time has come; we’re here!

Throughout history, God’s people have been waiting with excitement for something, too.  From as early on as Genesis 3, right at the time of the fall itself, we see references to a coming a Messiah, a Savior who would restore the kingdom of God.  Looking through the Old Testament, you can see the ebb and flow of excitement.  Israel certainly had her ups and downs when it came to being faithful.  There were times when the people trusted and followed Yahweh their God; but there were also times when they forgot who He was altogether.

A look through the prophets will reveal dozens if not hundreds of prophecies regarding Christ the Messiah.  Our Old Testament reading today from the prophet Isaiah is just one example.  “For you will nurse and be satisfied…you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance…I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream…the hand of Yahweh will be made known to His servants, but His fury will be shown to His foes.”

Promises…promises of wealth and abundance, comfort and rejoicing.  God Himself promising to comfort His people and make them flourish like grass.  With all the rain the past few months, we’ve seen grass flourish.  To a poor people enslaved and in exile, these promises were a lifeboat of excitement and hope.  The Messiah couldn’t come soon enough.

When we look at it from that viewpoint, it’s a little easier to understand why the people misunderstood what their Savior would do when He came.  In a world of kings and conquering armies, they expected the same.  They were excited and sought liberation from persecution.  For this reason, there are some Jews today who are still waiting and other Jews who have lost hope.

But the long anticipated Messiah did come.  Jesus Christ, Son of God, took on flesh and became man.  The Savior came to set His people free, free from sin and death, free from the powers of Satan and his demons who constantly torture and tempt us in our flesh.  He came working miracles among the towns, miracles of healing, exorcising demons, and even raising the dead.

To us, everything is clear in hindsight, right?  We know that Jesus is our Savior.  We read the Old Testament prophecies and we know what they mean.  We know that He came not bearing the sword, but instead in humility and mercy.  He came to heal the sick, not overthrow governments.  He came to forgive sins, not conquer armies.

Jesus came bearing a message.  The kingdom of God has come near.

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

 

The kingdom of God has come near.  This is the message that John the Baptist used to prepare the way for Jesus.  It’s the message Jesus sent the disciples out to share with everyone around them.  It’s the message that Christ Himself came to deliver and came to die for.

But what does this message mean?  Some say it means Jesus came to earth and took on flesh.  But, there’s more to it than that.  Other smart and faithful Christians say it’s that Jesus came, took on flesh, died and rose again to forgive us our sins.  And, while that’s certainly true, it too comes up short.  The kingdom of God is near means that Christ came, and not only died for our sins, but He came to restore all of God’s creation back to God’s rule and authority.

We see the reign of God restored in so much of what Jesus and even His disciples do.  Jesus rebukes the storm, and it obeys Him.  Jesus casts out a legion of demons, and they flee before Him.  The demons even obey the disciples at Jesus’ command.  The kingdom of God is just that: His reign over His creation, which most definitely includes what Jesus did for us 2000 years ago at Calvary.

But, we might want to argue, 2000 years have passed since Jesus died proclaiming this message.  And here we are still fighting against the flesh, still struggling against Satan, still toiling with temptation.  What gives?!  It’s a matter of now and not yet.

That’s a phrase you’ll probably hear me say a lot, if Pastor Fritsch doesn’t already.  It simply applies so deeply to our theology.  You’re living through a now and not yet with me right now.  All of the excitement and build up to my arrival has led us to this point.  It’s happened, we’re here now!  But is this really it?  I would show you a picture of what the inside of our new home here in Stewartville looks like, but I don’t think Hannah would appreciate me showing everyone our clutter and mess.  I’ve met most of you, but it will take me some time to learn your names and eventually develop relationships with you that go beyond just these walls on Sunday morning.  I have ideas for things that we can do as a church, ways to build upon the ministry that God is already doing in this place through you, His people.  You see, it’s a work in progress, a now and not yet.

Now and not yet’s run throughout the Bible.  When the prophets prophesied, they often had a present meaning and a future meaning.  A prophecy could be fulfilled in its time but also in the future.  In a similar way, the kingdom of God among us is a now and not yet.  The kingdom of God is here among us, and yet we await its glorious, ultimate fulfillment when Christ returns on the Last Day.

Luther’s famous idiom, simultaneously saint and sinner, is a now and not yet and also a look into what the kingdom of God really is.  Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, our sins are forgiven.  Through His resurrection, we too are being raised to a new life.  We are justified, we are sanctified.  We are set free.  It’s a present reality.  And yet, it has a true fulfillment that still lies ahead of us on the Last Day when our bodies are raised to be with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forevermore.  No more sorrow, no more sin, no more death.

This can be a problem for us.  Maybe in the time of waiting for your new pastor, you experienced this.  The longer you have to wait for something, the more likely it is that the excitement can start to fade away.  In time, it can wither away completely.  Waiting can also bring a sense of disappoint.  Maybe I won’t live up to your expectations.  Hopefully part of Pastor Fritsch’s preparation included forgiving me when I make mistakes.  I’m a saint and sinner, after all.

Maybe you forget altogether like the Jews.  In these generations that have passed since Christ lived among us, how many have strayed from the faith because they grew tired of waiting?  And when the excitement wears out, how many of us lose the will to fight?  How often do we do the little things that go along with being a part of the kingdom of God?  Do we carry each other’s burdens?  Do we forgive people when they sin against us or do we hold a grudge for days, weeks, or even years?

What is it then that we are to do as we await the not yet part of the kingdom, of our sanctification, of what God has done for us?  That’s the final message we get from Jesus in our gospel today.  When the disciples come excited at the fact that demons obey them, Jesus doesn’t congratulate them or even encourage them.  Instead, He gently corrects them, as their Messiah, bringing them back to the one thing that matters for them.  Jesus tells them to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

There are many ways to rejoice in our salvation.  We rejoice by joining together here in God’s house as we pray, praise and give thanks to Him for the gifts that He blesses us with.  We rejoice by living out our lives as part of the kingdom of God.  The Apostle Paul shows us what this looks like: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”  We rejoice by living in the excitement of the now and not yet as we await the day when Christ returns.  We rejoice in our homes and with our families by praying, praising, and thanking God for making us a part of His kingdom.

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