October 10, 2021
• Rev. Dr. Jevon Caldwell-Gross
History is not void of infamous dynasties and empires. You can’t talk about a dynasty without mentioning The Ming Dynasty lasted that almost 300 years and included over a 160 million people. Then there was Ottoman Empire that had a span of over 600 years and included 24 million people. How can we forget about The French monarchy that last over 900 years and only had 45 Kings.
In fact, since we are on the subject you can’t leave out How could we dare forget the 88-89 Bad Boys from Detroit. I have to give credit The Boston Celtics and Showtime Lakers. We’d have to mentioned not one but two three-peat’s from those Bulls from Chicago and I can’t leave off those warriors from golden state. And just because I’m in Indy, (I dont root for him) but those Patriots in New England had 19 straight winning seasons.... But one thing they all in common is that they had a beginning and an end date. They came and they went.
But there is one kingdom that we learn about today that will never pass away. Our text takes us to this different kind of Kingdom found in one of the very last chapters in the Bible. In these few verses, the writer is detailing a vision he receives from God about the end of times. Most of Revelation sounds like its from a science fiction book, but underneath all of the confusion about this book is a central theme: in the end Christ, God is victorious and establishes a new kind of Kingdom.
It makes senses because he’s writing to a Christianity community that is being persecuted. At the time of these letters they were being oppressed, killed, and often executed by the Roman Government. But I’ve learned that faith often requires a second opinion. It requires another voice of authority to give us a different perspective from what we are currently experiencing.
The data might suggest one thing, but God might have a second opinion. History might believe one thing, but God might have a second opinion about that too. God certainly had something to say about what they were going through. So these letters were to remind them that their current suffering would one day end. So God gives them a vision of the end times and this new kingdom to give them a glimpse of things to come.
In this new Heavenly Kingdom, there was no more crying, no more tears, no more pain, no more cancer, no more Alzheimer’s, no more loss, no more violence, No more senseless deaths, no more divisions, no more exclusion. It was a word to the readers that the Romans would not have the last word. There was a heavenly kingdom waiting in their future if they could just hold one.
Many communities over time have used the writers vision to inspire people to people to seek a second opinion in light of their circumstance. Songs like Because he lives i can face tomorrow, Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Steak away to Jesus, Amazing Grace, Precious Lord....It was the peoples way of reclaiming power over a difficult reality.
Power of a glimpse
This heavenly kingdom was not just an escape but had implications to how one lived their lives in light of this new Kingdom that was to come. There in lies the tension and frustration. God shows them a better future and yet they still have to deal with the realities of the present. You know how something should be, what it can be but know that it’s not. So for these persecuted Christians they got a glimpse of Gods heavenly kingdom and yet have to deal with the persecutions in reality. All God had to do was give them a glimpse and they couldn’t go back to the way things used to be. There’s powers in a glimpse (slide). Can I prove it?
How many of you frequent Costco? Well this is how Costco get you.....When u go into costco, normally you have an idea of what you want...Until you smell something. (Until u get a glimpse of something. And even if you are the most disciplined person, you have to search where the smell is coming from. Once u find you have to take the sample. All they are trying to do is give you a glimpse. And with one small bite you go into a different aisle, put a 15 pound bag of something you never planned on get getting because you got exposed to a glimpse.
That’s why all through Jesus’ ministry he was always telling people the kingdom of heaven is like. Just trying to give the glimpse. God gives just enough glimpse, so that we are encourage to go back for more.
The Kingdom of heaven is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; he goes to bed at night and gets up by day and the seed sprouts and grows. - The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed. The Kingdom of heaven is a like a treasure hidden in the fields. It’s like a merchant seeking fine pearls. It’s like a King that have has wedding feast for his son. Like leaven. Like a dragnet, cast into the sea, gathering fish of every kind. It’s like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers in the vineyard.
It grows. It expands. Starts small.
we get a glimpse it changes us. God gives us just enough. God gives enough glimpse, so that we are encourage to go back for more.
The night before he was assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King went to Memphis to
address the garbage workers strike. He said, “It’s all right to talk about long robes over yonder, in all of its symbolism, but ultimately people want some suits and dresses and. shoes to wear down here. It’s all right to talk about streets flowing with milk and honey.
but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis.”
The glimpse of tomorrow’s possibilities inspires us to work for it today. Maybe that’s why they say, repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Once they got a glimpse they saw the Gods kingdoms wasn’t just out there, but it was here. Today. Now.
Here’s what this means...Biblical Justice becomes a response to the glimpse. It’s a way of making a glimpse of the kingdom a reality here and now. We often think of justice as a social enterprise or something you do if you are passionate about it. But at its core justice is a relational word. It means to make right.
It means to be in right relationship with God and in right relationship with each other. We are included Biblical Justice as an intragal part of someone’s faith development and journey of discipleship.
Now everyone will find ways to answer this call very differently, but it’s a major component to who we are as believers. But once we get a glimpse of the kingdom, we go back to our communities, we go back to our families, we back out into the world wanting more of what we’ve had a glimpse of.
A major part of this glimpse was the way it was organized. Did you notice a major characteristic of this kingdom? Notice God did not give John a glimpse of solitary paradise. We don’t get a room to ourselves with all or favorites food and rest for all eternity.
The dominant imagery of Gods preferred future is a “kingdom.” Gods kingdom doesnt it exist without community. It denotes togetherness. People dwelling together with God. Together with each other. Equal. Harmonious. Without conflict. Without division. Gods preferred future was a kingdom in right community with each other and with God.
Some of even changed the language to view this as kin-dom. Gods kingdom does not exist in isolation. It a product of a connected community.
So we can’t bring about God kin-dom if we can’t learn how to live with each other. We can live with each other if everyone is not valued and affirmed. Because that’s the image that God gives us of Gods kingdom. It’s God version of the future reality
Remember Justice just means to mean right. To make right with God. To make things right with each other. When God chooses to intervene in the lives of humanity it is through the works of Justice. But somehow what started as an imperative has become an elective. But as you’ll see in your steps group, it’s an arc that runs throughout the entire biblical narrative. God is overly concerned with making things right with people and with God.
Some disagree, so I’ll meet you halfway....If you take out Biblical Justice then you have to take out much of the exodus story because at the heart of it was God trying to deliver the people from Egyptian slavery. If we take out Biblical Justice then you have throw away the 10 commandments because most of them deal with how people treat each other.
While you're at it, you might as well take out God’s explicit expectations of the treatment of foreigners, neighbors and the poor. If that’s the case, then you have to take out much the major and minor prophets because there is a consistent theme of justice. In fact the Gods people go into exile because of their lack of commitment to do justice to the vulnerable in their community.
But that’s pretty much the entire Old Testament. But don’t worry because at least you have the New Testament. But wait, Jesus entire ministry based around bringing people back in right relationship with God and each other. It’s why he hung out with sinners. It’s why he touched the untouchable.
In his own own words he said. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners. and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free”
In his own words he said, “There’s a kingdom (that’s that language again) prepared for you since the beginning of creation because when I was hungry you fed me, when I was thirst you gave me something to drink, when I was a stranger you invited me in, I needed clothes and you hooked me up, when I was sick you cared me, when I was in prison you came to check on me.. Because whenever you did it to the least of these you did it to me! (Kingdom reality becoming present in the here and now)
But don’t worry you still have a Paul’s letters. But wait a minute. Remember Justice is really about making this right with each and God. Paul was constantly trying to reach this new community of Jews and Gentiles and different social classes how to be a part of the same faith community. (Right relationship)
In fact, in his letter to the church in Corinth, He had to remind the wealthy members to stop drinking.... as a sign of justice. You see when they wound meet in homes most of the servants and workers would work all day until the evening. But those with means would get their early and pre party.
So they would be drunk by the time the working class showed. So he encourages them to wait for the less fortunate to show up so they could enjoy the communion and commute together. (Glimpse of the kingdom). Gods work of biblical Justice expands throughout the entire biblical narrative.
Which bears the hard question. If it really is a thread that runs throughout the entire gospel... If scripture is clear about our call to brings Gods kingdom here and now, If the founders of our particular faith expression was plain about our call to live in community, if we agree to say it even in our expectations to baptizing, “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves?”
If we agree that the kingdom looks nothing like the world today, but truly is a place that has room for making things right, then where do we go wrong? How did Biblical Justice become an elective and not a requirement? (Slide) How did we extrapolate the work of Justice from our call to discipleship? Here’s where I think some of the gap lies...... let me explain it this way.
BUILDING TO SPECIFICATIONS
My wife and I recently built a home out in Noblesville about a year and a half ago. It was really a fun process driving by and watching go from nothing to something we could actually live in.
Kids really enjoyed it as well. One part that sticks out to me was when we went to the design center. Now this was the part of the process where you got to choose the details of your home; carpet, faucets, light fixtures, placement of outlets, where to put the windows, design of the flooring, design of the bathtub, look of the countertops, the shower, colors, shutters, showers doors (frost of no frost) Now I could tell Nicole loved this part of the process. But this was not my preferred future.
She had detail endurance. She had her Starbucks coffee, she was taking selfie’s, and she was in her element. She wanted to see all the options. But After about 45 minutes I was checked out. After u had to choose between white, egg shell, and off white, I was spent! I didn’t have another decisions left in me! But at the end. They would gather all of your decisions and would basically show you exactly how your home was going to look. They repeated several times, make sure you check everything because they will build based on these specifics. They will the house according to what you want!
Follow my train of thought. When the builders go in, they don’t build based on the kind of home they like. They can’t build based on their pretenses. They can’t build based on the kind of home they grew up in. They have to take the specifics and build based off the list they were given.
The temptation is for us to build the kind of kingdom we want instead of the the kind that God desires. Sooner or later, we have to ask ourselves, “Whose Kingdom are we really building?” Somewhere along the way we thought we could build kingdoms according to our experience. But too often we get caught in building our own kingdoms. We get preoccupied in building according to our specifications. We build based on our bias. We build based on our baggage. We build based on our background. We have hijacked God specifications, wrote our own, designed the schematics of our own kingdoms and wonder why it can’t stand. But what if we stuck to the designs we were given?
What if we tried building the kingdom that was a community with no more pain. No more crying. No more tears. Isn’t that what we’ve been taught to pray.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy (your, not mine, not my parents, not my circle ) your kingdom come, thy will be done (your vision) on earth just as it in heaven.