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Synopsis of A New Kingdom Coming
We’re about to slice a piece of the Bread of Life, the Word of God. And…. today’s slice comes from a passage sub-titled as: ~A Samaritan Village Rejects Jesus.
Luke 9:51 As the time drew near for his return to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. 53 But they were turned away. The people of the village refused to have anything to do with Jesus because he had resolved to go to Jerusalem. 54 When James and John heard about it, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we order down fire from heaven to burn them up?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 So they went on to another village.
A lot of people don’t believe it — but there’s a new kingdom coming. Often, like the fabled phoenix bird, it arises out of the ashes of the old. Just as a young sapling is germinated by forest fire, so the new kingdom is sprouted in the desolation of despair. Like tundra flowers and crab grass the new kingdom has irresistible life impulses and grows anywhere. There is a new kingdom coming.
You may wonder where it is — this new kingdom. You may look for advance press releases, television bulletins, screaming headlines. Or you may listen for the voice of battle, the clamor of war, the sound of trumpets. And you will look and listen in vain, for this kingdom comes like leaven in loaves overflowing bread pans, or new wine fermentation bursting old wineskins, or tiny mustard seeds gently growing to giant stalks. The kingdom has been coming, is here among us, and is coming still.
During World War II there arose an unexplainable shortage of chewing gum in the Pacific theater. The mystery soon was solved. American airplanes dropped billions of sticks of chewing gum over enemy-occupied Philippines. And on the inside of every gum wrapper these words were printed: “I shall return. MacArthur.”
Although there is a shortage of natural chicle for chewing gum (they were using a plastic substitute), there is no shortage of gum wrappers. We ought to acquire them and drop them all over our “enemy-occupied” world with these words on them: “I shall return. Jesus.”
Note first of all, the new kingdom coming is out of the future, not the past. Many Americans are amused at the quaintness of the Amish people. Almost wholly agricultural, they ride about their farms and towns in horse-drawn vehicles, avoid the modern conveniences of electricity, and scorn any instruction other than that of their own schools. For them, the perfect model of the kingdom of God seems to be fixed somewhere around mid-19th century.
Even as we ride about in modern automobiles with modern dress, many of us are more similar to the Amish than we like to believe. The ideal life, the ideal church, the ideal family was somewhere in the past for some of us. Consequently we keep looking over our shoulders at some period of the past like Adam and Eve looking over their shoulders at the Garden of Eden on their way out. If only we could return to the good old days!
Indeed, there may have been better days in the past. And we may be greatly distressed with the present. But the kingdom of God is coming out of the future. And if we insist on horse and buggy faith we may miss the rocket realities of the new age. Throughout Biblical history God has been leading people out of past bondage and bondage to the past. He led Abraham out of Ur, Israel out of Egypt, Judah out of Babylonia, mankind out of hades and death. The past belongs to fewer and fewer people. The future belongs to everybody. We must realize that the windshield of our automobiles are 50 times larger than our rear view mirror.
Alvin Toffler, author of “Future Shock,” maintains that we need more than ever a creative group to imagine a whole array of possible and preferable futures. Rather than ridiculing new ideas we must remember, as he puts it: “The principle of creativity is a willingness to play the fool, to toy around with the absurd, only later submitting the stream of ideas to harsh critical judgment …. We need havens for social imagination.”
And I ask, what better sanctuary than this; around the earth where we can dream dreams and see visions for the better future into which God would lead us? After all, for centuries Christianity has not only stimulated the imagination — it has followed its vision to the pain of death.
John Wycliffe had a vision of a Bible in the common English language. But dogmatic diehards anchored to the past killed him for it. John Huss dreamed a dream of a responsible Christian life guided by the scriptures. Traditionalists burned him at the stake. Martin Luther was awakened to a new reality of God’s grace — an awakening not shared by contemporaries who were profiting from the status quo. Consequently, he was hunted for years for revealing an exciting and preferable future. A kingdom was coming and the powers of evil could not prevail against it.
The question in any age is whether there is yet a people to dream God’s dreams, a remnant to think his thoughts after him, seers to catch the vision. How many are we in this sanctuary of social imagination?
How many in this place of God — this place of courage, erected in faith, sustained in prayer, enlivened by the Holy Spirit of God? How many? How many agents of God’s Kingdom on earth, — a kingdom needing to come, wanting to come, waiting to come?
Note secondly, the coming kingdom requires our mutual support — both spiritual and physical. Very few people are expert in anything all by themselves. They need a supporting community. Do you know a good musician who was not trained, nurtured and sustained by the music community? Show me an athlete who achieves excellence all alone, apart from the athletic community. Very few wise men become so without the accumulated wisdom of the centuries as expressed in colleges and universities and libraries. Medical people are more like ensembles and symphonies than soloists. What business tycoon does it all on his own without dedicated experts in finance, engineering, personnel, and marketing? Excellence requires participation in, and support of, a community of like-minded people.
Likewise in the church – which is to be a forerunner of the new kingdom. Very few achieve Christian maturity all by themselves. The new kingdom coming is, at its heart, spiritual; but it needs a lot of physical fuel. Flying airplanes is a great spiritual and psychological dream, but it quickly becomes a nightmare without gas. Education is a great adventure of the mind, but turn off the research money and teaching energy and cerebral arthritis will set in. The refined experiences of high culture rest heavily upon the sweat of custodians as well as craftsmen. Just as the soaring abstract realities of mind and thought depend upon the more apparent realities of blood, bones, and body, so too the high adventures of spirit depend upon the church as body, life-blood and skeletal bone.
The kingdom of God is materialistic. It’s waiting for your material — your body, your brain, your energetic life-blood, your strong support. It has little to do with jelly-fish day dreams, idle thought or vain imagination. The kingdom coming has to do with….. reality in all its dimensions, physical and spiritual.
One time a leading citizen of the community was selling season symphony tickets to his business friends, soliciting their support. One friend said, “Thanks a lot, John. I love music, and I think it’s a grand idea for our community to have a fine orchestra. But no thanks on the tickets. However, we’ll be with you in spirit.” However, John was quick on the draw and replied, “Well, wonderful. And just how many tickets would your spirit like?”
Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). And, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
How many tickets would you like for your spirit? The coming kingdom is waiting for you like the water reservoir is waiting for you to turn the faucet. Your closed faucet affects not the reservoir’s reality, but yours. Like a mighty reservoir of justice and peace and love, God’s kingdom is waiting for us to turn on the rusted faucet, waiting for us to cleanse the hardened arteries of constricted spirituality, to remove the plaque of selfishness, the corrosion of conceit. There’s a new kingdom coming. It’s waiting for you — for me.
Jesus said, “Follow me,” not into the grave, but into life.
Like all great leaders and teachers, Jesus often has a problem with his followers. Many contemporary disciples use Jesus in a similar way. They like the Jesus of a book better than the living Jesus because they can control and manipulate a religious leader in print, use his words to buttress their biases. But let Jesus come alive, and you have unpredictable demands. He then is in control. He is the teacher and we are the students. He the master, we the servants. But we don’t like that. We want to be in charge.
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