January 24, 2021

The Kingdom of God is Near
Bradenton-Sarasota Congregation Online Worship
January 24, 2021

HymnMorning Has Broken by Cat Stevens

Welcome – Evangelist Al Mount

Our theme for this week is “The Kingdom Is Near”.

The bringing to pass the Kingdom of God, or what some of us refer to as Zion the peaceable Kingdom here on earth, is, to me, one of the center pieces of Community of Christ.

Many years ago I took a sociology class at one of our local colleges. Our first assignment was to write about ourselves, married or single, ages, vocations, religion, etc. Whatever I wrote on my paper concerning my religion/church caused my teacher to call me aside to ask me if I was a pastor. I told him I was. He asked me to give a 10 minute talk about “my” church and basic beliefs at our next class. I said I would.

Over the next couple of days I read, prayed and pondered what I could put in a nut shell the most import reason for us to exist as a denomination. During one of my reflection times, it came to me the reason, or one of the main reasons, is to help God make the Lord’s Prayer a reality. And so I shared our concept of the Kingdom. Following my little talk there was time for questions and answers. The class was very receptive to the thoughts presented. It seemed most of the class thought we pray the prayer and wait on God to bring his Kingdom into the world whenever and however God wants. It seemed that it never occurred to the class, as a whole, about being God’s hands and feet in bringing the prayer to fruition. The 10 minutes time I was allotted was expanded to just about the whole class time. I received an “A”!

Prayer for Peace – Lord’s Prayer by Andrea Bocelli

Our theme, “The Kingdom of God is Near” is taken from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 1, Verses 14, 15 which reads as follows:

After John had been committed to prison, Jesus came into Galilee announcing the good news about God, and saying, “The time that was appointed has come: and the Kingdom for God is HERE! Repent and believe the good news.

Notice it isn’t written the kingdom is near as in our theme, but that the kingdom is here.

I have to confess, when I began preparation for this morning’s message centering on “the Kingdom is Near” I had to scoff and say to myself, “You have to be kidding!” It was the day after our Capitol was overrun by protestors, people were killed, some beaten, some arrested. Then my mind was drawn to the scenes in recent months showing whole city blocks being burned and ransacked. People were being beaten; some killed. Community businesses were destroyed with some shop owners killed, same for private home owners. Then, our Covid pandemic came to mind.

And so we may ask ourselves, where is your Kingdom, God? If it’s near I must need glasses because I can’t see it! I was looking at the world with worldly glasses and not Spiritual Glasses or lenses.

As I re-read the scripture saying “The Kingdom Is Here” it dawned on me that when these words were first spoken some 2,000 years ago the world was no picnic then either. Think about it. There were plagues worse than Covid with no real treatments or vaccines. The Jews to whom these words were spoken were under Roman Rule and resented it deeply; they protested and there were bloody rebellions (Read up on the Maccabees and the horrors!). Now Rome was all about keeping the peace by whatever means necessary. If you stormed their capital, or were involved in protests that turned to violence with looting, shooting, burning, beating and killing you would be crushed. I once read there was an insurrection in a town not far from Jesus’ home when he was a young boy. Those involved in the insurrection were crucified. The street coming out of that town was lined with crosses with rioters hanging and suffering until they died; their bodies left to rot as warning to any others who might want to start trouble and disturb the peace. It was called Pax Romana. Jesus must have witnessed this scene as a young boy. I wonder how this affected Jesus’ young mind and when he would come to realize this would be his lot?

Now Jesus, in his ministry, tried to tell the Jewish Church and community Leaders how to live under Rome. He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is God’s.” Be good citizens and walk a Godly walk. God said the same through his prophets when the Jews were taken captive to Babylon. Be good neighbors they were told, build homes and businesses and walk a Godly life and let the Kingdom within you shine into the lives of your captives in this foreign land.

Jesus even warned His fellow Jews that if they kept up their revolts that one day their Temple would be destroyed. About 70 yrs. later, Rome had enough of the “trouble makers” and sent in its army. Those that didn’t flee the city hid out in the temple; the army simply surrounded the temple and left those inside to starve to death (there were reports of cannibalism). The Temple, then, was destroyed. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” Jesus warned, and give to God what is God’s but they would not.

With this as a background let’s go back to our scripture, “The Kingdom is Here”. When Jesus spoke these words his buddy and cousin John the Baptist was in prison, soon to be beheaded. Some Kingdom, Right?

So here we are, 2,000 years later with the world still in turmoil. Where is this Kingdom that is so near (let alone here)!?

First, there are 3 Kingdoms:

  1. There is the Kingdom of the past as we read the gospel of Luke 13:28 where Jesus tells us Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were already in the kingdom. This would have been centuries before Jesus walked the earth.
  2. There is the Kingdom of the present which occurs, as Jesus tells us, when the Kingdom is within us.
  3. There is the Kingdom of the future which we pray for, but has not yet occurred (an understatement).

Looking at the Lord’s Prayer, the Jews had a way of saying the same things twice. The second time was to explain the first. So, in the Lord’s prayer it is “Thy Kingdom come,” followed by “Thy will be done.” In other words whenever God’s will is done, the Kingdom is present; it is here. If we as individuals are all about living out God’s will, we have the Kingdom within us. It is, therefore, here. Jesus is right again!

As I thought on this, Mother Teresa came to mind. She lived a life of poverty on purpose as she surrendered her life to carry out God’s will for her. Yet Mother Teresa was criticized by some as they told her she should be more outspoken. They wanted her to become much more forceful by starting and leading or at least joining in protests against injustices and racism and so on. Her response to her critics was: that she felt that if she took sides, or played the firebrand, that she could not be what Jesus had told her to be—love to and for all. She said that if she started correcting and pointing out “sinners” she could no longer be an instrument of love and reconciliation for them. Humiliated and defensive people do not change. She knew that her primary message had to be her life itself, not words or arguments or accusations. She had found that “third something” that is always beyond the calculating and dualistic mind.

Or as Indira Gandhi put it, “It’s hard to shake hands with a clenched fist.”

May each of us find that “third something” in our lives. As people WATCH us living out our daily lives, may they see the Kingdom of God that is present and lives within.

In closing, Jesus tells us in the gospel of John 14:27, “My Peace I leave with you; not as the world gives, do I give you. Do not let your heart be distressed or fear stricken.” You see, when we have the Peace of Christ within, we have the Kingdom within and all else becomes more manageable and less scary, because we SEE with new eyes and HEAR with new ears and that “Third Something” takes root deep in our souls.

So let us do as Jesus tells us in John 14:31: “Let us Rise, Let us be going!” May each of us be able to say: All IS well in my soul; the Kingdom IS here.

HymnAll is Well in My Soul by Witley Phipps

Disciples Generous Response

Stewardship is the response of my people to the ministry of my son and is required alike of all those who seek to build the kingdom…. Repression of unnecessary wants is in harmony with the law of stewardship and becomes my people. Doctrine and Covenants 147: 5a & b.

When Linda wants to make a purchase I remind her to repress her unnecessary wants. It’s amazing I’m still among the living!

Seriously, Stewardship is an all encompassing ideal, not just money which is what most of us (me) think of at this point in our worship. I think we are all well educated as to the financial needs of the church which are very real. But I would like to venture out here: We as a human race have multiplied to the point that we are not only part of nature but are now a force of nature. I was watching the National Geographic Network and was surprised to learn that one of the many causes for co2 going into our atmosphere comes from the food industry (raising crops, food processing and delivery). 40 Million tons of tons of food we throw away each year just here in the US. That is $161 billion dollars worth of waste or 30 to 40% of the food supply.

When I was in the military I saw whole dumpsters of food going to waste. If we reduced the wasted food, fewer crops would be needed equaling less CO2. The sick part is the food that goes to waste could have been delivered to those starving. There is enough and to spare! Our oceans are used as dumps as is our land. What can we do with all our waste? What is the solution? Perhaps part of the solution lies in the words, repression of unnecessary wants. Only we as individuals can answer that question for ourselves as to what is and what is not necessary. Eliminating the unnecessary enables us to be more generous in other ways. $161 billion dollars would go a long way in the Kingdom Building enterprise. There are businesses working to solve the waste disposal problem. But let us as good stewards do our part. We don’t want to live in a dirty home, earth is our home.

Closing hymn and prayer Let There Be Peace on Earth by Voice of Hope Children’s Choir

This service was prepared by Al and Linda Mount.