Kingdom of God - Relationships - Luke 13:18-21 - preached at Sunset Canyon Baptist Church of September 6, 2015
Kingdom of God Sermon
Prayer: Father God, we lift up the family of Lonny Poe today, as Lonny and Deanne travel and Garith, Lanae, and Salim are here in Dripping Springs. Be with Lonny and Deanne and give them safe travel, and protect those here in Drippin’. Bless them and others who come into contact with them through your Holy Spirit. I thank you for the opportunity to preach to these people. Let my voice fade away and the Holy Spirit come here – as it already is – and speak Your Word. It is in Jesus’ name I pray these things. Amen
Intro – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
How many of you have heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in 1906 in Poland into a large upper class family. He was in fact one of eight children. Bonhoeffer was an outstanding academic theologian, but he was much more.
He completed both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree, at University of Tübingen. He went on to complete two Doctors degrees (including a Doctor of Theology degree) from Berlin University in 1927, all before the age of 25 (he was still too young to be ordained)!
He was a pastor and an academic professor, and taught at several universities, including universities in America, England, and in Germany.
Although he had been to the U.S. in 1930, Bonhoeffer came from Germany to America in 1938 because the German males were ordered to enlist for service for the years 1906 (Bonhoeffer’s year of birth) and 1907, in preparation for what would become WWII. Because Bonhoeffer was a pacifist, he could claim to be a conscientious objector (which happens here in the US)(but which would have him arrested and executed). He was contemplating that, but he was also a pastor and leader in the Confessing Church (a non-state supported Protestant church), and his conduct might make other think the Confessing Church had that stance, too, which Bonhoeffer did not want.
So he went to America. But while in the U.S. (which was what Bonhoeffer’s supporters wanted), Bonhoeffer had a change of heart.
Listen to Bonhoeffer’s words: “I have had the time to think and pray about my situation and that of my nation and to have God’s will for me clarified. I have come to the conclusion that I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life if Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.” Part of a letter Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to Reinhold Niebuhr, July 1939.
He came back to America on the last ship to cross the Atlantic, before the start of WWII. While in Germany, he became a double agent with the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office), and for the resistance he tried to broker deals with the Allies if Hitler was not in power. He was initially arrested by the Gestapo on 1943 for his attempts to rescue Jews. But the Abwehr resistance movement also devised a plot to assassinate Hitler. One of their plots was ultimately unsuccessful in 1944, and Bonhoeffer was amongst the men who were allegedly conspirators in the plot. Bonhoeffer spent two years in Tegel prison, and was killed in one of Hitler’s last orders before Hitler committed suicide. He was hanged with six other resisters in the extermination camp at Flossenbϋrg, Germany on April 9, 1945, just two weeks before Allied forces liberated the camp, and three weeks before Hitler's suicide, and one month before Nazi Germany surrendered.
Kingdom of God – Overview (the “big picture”)
So I called my sermon “Kingdom of God – Relationships,” though?
Kingdom of God is a pretty big topic to tackle in one sermon, at least for me. We could talk about the whole Bible, the Old Testament (the Hebrew view of it), the New Testament or Jesus’ view of it, or the coming of the Kingdom in the future.
The Term “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” signifies God’s sovereign, dynamic and eschalotogical rule.
Dynamic means “change” or “progress”.
Eschatology means “last study” or “end things”.
The Kingdom of God also lay at the heart of Jesus’s teachings.
Jesus’ view of the Kingdom had continuity with the but went beyond it in a number of ways: (1) Kingdom of God primarily dynamic rather than geographical entity (i.e., Kingdom of Israel); (2) connected with the Son of man; (3) entrance was not based on the old covenant or confined to Jewish participation; and (4) in Jesus the Kingdom is definite and immanent – it demands an immediate response.
It is in Jesus’ view of the Kingdom of God is definite and immanent, or present, here and now, that we deal with today.
On a side note, over the last 120 years (or so), the Kingdom has gone from a debate over its present, future, or ethical status to the last 60 years when it has been assumed by scholars to be both present and future. So that’s great that the theological scholars are agreeing with Jesus!
The Kingdom in the Synoptic Gospels (synoptic meaning the “same” or “common” view) present Jesus from the start as charged with one message, the message that the kingdom of God is at hand.
By the way, if you look up Kingdom of God in the concordance, it will come up 77 times (Kingdom of Heaven 32 times). Most passages that have the “Kingdom of God” in them are in Luke (32 times), and that’s where today’s Scriptures are from (it was only called “the Kingdom” in the Hebrew Bible (OT)).
So, what does Jesus have to say about the Kingdom? Lots! But we’ll take two parables from Luke and discuss them today. Let’s look at the Word of God together.
Luke 13:18-21 – The Mustard Seed and the Yeast
The Parables of the Mustard Seed (also in Mark 4:30-32) and the Yeast (or Leaven) (also in Matt. 13:33)
18 Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[a] of flour until it worked all through [leavened - Stein, p. 377)] the dough.”
The Word of the Lord....Thanks be to the Father
Jesus is speaking in parables (which means “a moral story”). It seems that the Kingdom begins small and has a great ending In fact, one commentary says that is the point Jesus is making in these parables.
Let’s look at the parables closer, though. Isn’t it wonderful that the two parables here both have a man and a woman involved?
Isn’t it strange that in each instance the person “took” the Kingdom and did something with it? In the mustard seed parable, he took it and planted it in his garden; in the yeast parable, she took it and mixed it.
An astute speaker will see that Jesus is going to the audience – picking stories that were, at the time, relevant to their daily living and making His comparison to the Kingdom. Kind of like I’m doing with my stories. But even more, he is relating to His audience!
The Kingdom of God “comes to us” – it is not built by human decision or work. Therefore it is God’s coming to us in His kingship which enables us to do His will....
Now the New Testament was originally written in Greek. At least fourteen different verb forms in Greek are employed with reference to the Kingdom, but not once does it say “building” the kingdom. It is God’s alone to give or to establish; humankind’s to await, to receive, to enter, and to proclaim.
How, then, does the Kingdom of God work? Or to say it another way, what is the process by which the Kingdom of God works in the world?
Helen B. Montgomery
A lot of you know - in Baptist life - the name of Lottie Moon (1840 – 1912). She was a missionary to China. Moon was only 4’ 3”, but her name is synonymous with missions for most Baptist people. In fact, we take up an offering each Advent season called the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for foreign missions because of Lottie Moon’s giant Christian heart. But I want to talk to you about Helen B. Montgomery.
Helen Barret Montgomery (1861 – 1934) was from New York, and was a “professional volunteer” (in the days where the workforce was mostly men). The daughter of a pastor of Lake Avenue Baptist Church, Rochester, NY, she became the – what we call now interim pastor - after her father died in 1889, and preached occasionally when the new pastor was away. In 1892, the church officially recognized her gifts and she was licensed to preach. She also taught a 150-member Sunday School class for forty years!
She helped found or nurture many major interdenominational efforts (such as the World Day of Prayer, summer missions schools, united missionary studies, and union schools of higher education for women overseas). The Northern Baptist Convention elected Ms. Montgomery president for the 1921-1922 tenure, making her the first woman to serve as leader of a major Protestant denomination!
She also became the first women to have translated the New Testament from Greek to English (The New Testament in Modern English).
One of her passions was that after World War I, helping millions of Europeans find “new” churches in their religiously liberated but war-torn countries, reminding and challenging Northern Baptists to consider whether they themselves were free from intolerance and bigotry.
It is said of Helen B. Montgomery that “her faith in God, her belief in the work of the kingdom, [and] her commitment to Jesus Christ were the center of her life.”
What I think it means is relationship – relationship with the Father and relationship with people!
Relationship - The kingdom of God now comes via the Holy Spirit through humankind and relationship
I think that one of the ways – if not the only way – the Kingdom of God comes to us on earth is through the Holy Spirit. When Jesus left us here on this earth (for a time), he did not go away without leaving us the Holy Spirit to accompany us. (John 14:15-31)
In fact, the Holy Spirit dwells within us (Romans 8:11) the moment we are born again (John 3 when Jesus talks to Nicodemus) (born from above and born again in Greek)
When one takes the Kingdom of God (with all of its prerequisites) and looks at the mustard seed or the yeast, it seems to me that we are part of process by housing the Holy Spirit and becoming the vehicle for the Holy Spirit to change people’s viewpoints and, ultimately, their lives – in relationship.
Jesus said the Greatest Commandment is to love God and love each other. The Greatest Commandment: Mark 12:29-31
What Jesus is talking about is relationship with the Father and with people?
How did relationship look in the New Testament?
Jesus went to the sinners (tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes, to name a few);
Paul went to the Gentiles; and
Peter learned that he had to include all the people (instead of the Jews only – through Cornelious and a debate with Paul) and became the first Pope (at least, according to the Roman Catholics).
They did this all through relationship. Breaking down the barriers – Sinners and righteous Israelites; Jews and Gentiles, Believers and Unbelievers!
In fact, the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20) tells us to go and make disciples in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit until “the ends of the earth” – that is relationship
What does relationship look like to us?
If we are going to live out the Kingdom of God, as taught by Jesus, down on earth, I think we have got to it by relationship.
We (collectively) are the body of Christ. We have work to do on behalf of Jesus: to relate to people and bring the Kingdom of God or Heaven - to them (believers and non-believers)? We have a package that only believers can bring (the fruits of the Holy Spirit)– (Galatians 5:22-23).
We have a duty to be in relationship with those inside and outside of our faith – to be blessed members of the church, to be kind neighbors, to live in community, to be good bosses, good employees, good co-workers, the list goes on and on....
We have a duty to be gentle family members – to live in peace with those around us, and forgive when they aren’t nice to us...
Students – you have a mission in the school: to walk with students (in relationship), and make them see Jesus (as best you can) in you?
You get the point – with every one of us walking in the Way of Christ, there is a relationship that we have or can be having that brings the Kingdom of God near.
What does it look like as a church body?
The Wilderness Church
In 1991, five couples at a church went on a grand adventure. In prayer, both individually and corporately, they thought God is doing something among us and we have a chance to be a part of it. They left the comfort of the church in town and started a new church out in the wilderness, to get people who were “hungry for the Lord.” (Mike Davidson said this).
If you already didn’t know it, I am talking about the five charter couples of Sunset Canyon Baptist Church, (1) Martha and Cecil Whinery, (2) Rex and Malyna Miller, (3) Mike and Barbara Davidson, (4) Rich and Shirley Johnson, and (5) Jim and Pam Bickham. Sunset Canyon was a quiet neighborhood in 1991, and a lot of this area was mostly countryside (or wilderness), and Sunset Canyon Baptist Church came to rest in this building, which was a real estate office. (The building was expanded in 2005.)
But the five couples saw more with God’s help (through the Holy Spirit in prayer). They saw a place where there were no churches, where the Word of God was not being spoken. They saw a new kind of church: one where children were a priority, where women could and would take strong leadership roles. They saw a church where “strong willed people” could live together and grow because of diversity (Barbara Davidson said this). They saw a beginning. They saw progress coming, and they saw the Kingdom of God growing!
It was like a mustard seed that they planted – like yeast that they were leavening in the dough, to grow as they were leavening it in.
As has been mentioned over the last year, we are in a mission field that is the Hill Country. People are coming – and not just from Austin – in droves.
There are neighborhoods that are popping up like wildflowers in the spring, and more on the way.
Lonny Poe has said that the church involvement of the Dripping Springs area in 15%. If that is a base, and there is more coming our way, we do have a mission field!
Lonny called it “the Bus Stop” last fall. Another way of saying what SCBC is involved in is ushering in the Kingdom of God. Whatever you want to call it, I say it means relationship.
Through the Holy Spirit, we as vehicles of it, have to build relationships – first, with God, which is already happening – and then with people – non-believers and believers. With love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control (the fruit of the Spirit).
We have a job to do here at Sunset Canyon Baptist Church. To spread the word of God through relationships to people of this community and beyond.
Prayer: Father God, you are Holy. It is unbelievable that You have as part of Your revelation to people, us. Broken, sinful people, but with You (Your Holy Spirit) in each of us believers, You are bringing the Kingdom of God to the earth. Put on us the full armor of God, that we might do it as You command it – by the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.