The Church In The Kingdom

Only got two suckers to jump in and post corny preacher and corny Bible jokes yesterday and early this morning. I thought we needed a little humor after a couple of days of pretty heavy stuff on the blog. Sure enough, that’s what we got. Very little humor. If you have corny Bible or preacher jokes, it’s not too late to share. Just hit comments on yesterday’s blog and pile on.

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IF the Pats win it Sunday, they end all debate about the best team in pro football history. Period. It’s over. As we’ve said all season long, PatsLogoespecially as it pertains to the Cowboys, it’s difficult to get wins in the NFL. Forget beating everybody, it’s hard beating anybody in that league. They’re all so equal in talent and skill and coaching and scouting and payroll. To do what New England has done is remarkable. And if they pull it off against the Giants on Sunday, it blows away what the ’72 Dolphins did.

Shula’s72FinsHow many playoff teams did that Miami squad beat during its run to 17-0? Zero. They didn’t play a single playoff team that year. In fact, they only played two teams with winning records: the 8-6 Chiefs and the 8-6 Giants. And you can’t downgrade what New England has done this year because the AFC East is so weak. The ’72 Dolphins’ division opponents that year were the 7-7 Jets, the 4-9-1 Bills, and the 3-11 Patriots. One of thier other wins was against the 1-13 Oilers.

Contrast that with what the Pats have done this season. New England faced seven teams with winning records, seven playoff teams, during the regular season and won by an average score of 37-17. New England scored at least 27 points in every game but two and only gave up more than 28 once.

In their two playoff games, the ’72 Dolphins barely squeaked by the Browns 20-14 and beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh 21-17. (Why did the undefeated Dolphins have to play the AFC Championship Game on the road? I might be looking at a bad list.) And they won Super Bowl VII 14-7 over the ‘Skins. The current edition of the Pats has won their two playoff games 31-20 and 21-12.

Go Giants. And if New York can pull off the biggest Super Bowl upset since Joe Willie’s Jets shocked the Colts in Super Bowl III, then the Greatest Ever tag belongs to the Dolphins without dispute. But if New England does what they’re expected to do, it’s over.

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Jesus preaches the Kingdom. “Repent!” he says, “The Kingdom of God is near!” And then what does he do? He frees the prisoner, heals the blind, rescues the oppressed.

Those are the signs of the Kingdom.

John the Baptist sends to find out if Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus says look, you know what the signs are. “..the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

That’s the Kingdom.

Jesus, show us the Kingdom. What does the Kingdom look like, Jesus? Where is it?

Not once did Jesus ever say, “See those people over there meeting every Sunday for Bible class and worship? That’s the Kingdom.” Jesus never once pointed out, “That group that takes communion weekly and sings acappella, that’s the Kingdom.” The Son of God didn’t say, “When you see three songs and a prayer and announcements either at the beginning or the end (or both), you’ve seen the Kingdom.”

Distressed people being encouraged. Cold people being warmed. Hurting people being comforted. The outcasts being brought in and made family. That’s the Kingdom.

When we talk about the Kingdom strictly in terms of Church and the institution and the rules and the order — when that’s our whole idea of Kingdom — we quickly lose sight of the very things that make the Kingdom of God what it is. Centuries of church development and decision-making and rule-making can cloud our vision. When we see the Kingdom exclusively as Church, we tend to focus only on the features and characteristics of the Church.

Our challenge as the Legacy Church of Christ is to occasionally flex our autonomy — you know, that autonomy we brag about — to insure that our identifying characteristics genuinely correspond to those of the Kingdom Jesus was preaching. Maintaining our institutional status quo is not necessarily the same as being faithful to Jesus and his mission. Being a member in good standing or being a middle of the road church isn’t necessarily the same as living under the reign of God.

The true marks of the Kingdom have very little if anything to do with what happens between prayers and announcements in our building. The Kingdom of God is firmly grounded in Jesus’ foundational principles, the “weightier matters” of justice and mercy and faithfulness in our community. Our requirements as subjects of the King are not as much about keeping the rules as they are about acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly before God.

Our King came into this world in order to serve and to save. And that is the business of his subjects, as well. May our Lord bless us as we serve and rescue and save in his name.

Peace,

Allan

20 Comments

  1. Bird lover

    I would go a little easier on the greatest team ever. The fact is, they could lose Sunday. Does that change much what kind of team they are? A commentator I heard this morning made a lot of sense by distinguishing the great accomplishment from the greatest team concept. Certainly 19-0 is a memorial accomplishment, but not sure on the greatest team. If they win convincingly I might change my mind, but I remember some teams in past Super Bowls who when the day or week began there was NO DOUBT they would win. They were THAT much more dominant. Maybe the Cowboys in the first Super against Dolphins, or some Steeler or 49er teams. Maybe one or more of the 90 eras Cowboys teams. I am tempted even to make an argument that the Cowboys team that lost in the ice bowl was in the running for “greatest team.” Play that ice bowl again and see who wins 9 times out of ten.

  2. Bird lover

    Regarding the Kingdom and what is important. I have been doing some questioning lately about whether Jesus even considered morality or sin an issue of any importance. I am too lazy to research it thoroughly, but I am not sure he felt sin was an important topic. I am not sure he thought the amount of sin in a persons life was any guage of the person. Your thoughts?

  3. Mel

    And may we find the courage to pass it from the previous generation to the next knowing full well it will not remain unaffected.

    We can’t… nor do we need to protect it by burying it in the safety of tradition.

  4. Mel

    (just staring at the computer with mouth agape)

  5. Allan

    I would refer you, lovingly and with all respect, to Matthew 5-7, 11:20-24, 12:34-37, all of Matthew 23, and then Matthew 27:46. I don’t mean to be trite. But I think you could find similar stuff in the other three gospels, as well.

  6. Bird lover

    Thanks for the references. I realized I might not have thought through carefully what I meant by sin. I was thinking of typical issues of morality such as: honesty, adultry, lasciousness, cheating, stealing, murder, drunkeness, envy, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth and the ilk.

    I reviewed the passages. Given the full body of work of Jesus’s teachings and saying, it seems still like little importance is made of the above. I guess I am comparing this to the intuition that morality is an important part of being religious. I will comment on the passages below. I tried to pull from them anything relavant. Maybe I am missing something. My overall impression is that this seems to be a modest emphasis when compared to love, mercy, compassion, humility. But again, thanks for the references:

    Matt 5-7: He does say we should not be angry with our brother, lust after women, divorce or swear.

    Matt 11: 20-24: Criticizes cities for lack of repentance, but does not specify what they needed to repent of.

    Matt 12: 34-37: Don’t be careless with words, in the context of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

    Matt 23: Condemns spiritual pride. Seems in general to be saying we should work on the heart vs. outward shows and ritual.

    Matt 27: 46: This did not seem to be on subject. Possibly a typo?

  7. Mel

    Bird Lover- You used an interesting choice of words…”when compared to”.

    When you compare Sin to Virtues you should be able to see a stark contrast between the two.

    Where is the love, mercy compassion and humility in any of the acts of dishonesty, adultry, lasciousness, cheating, stealing, murder, drunkeness, envy, lust, gluttony, greed, or sloth ?

    Love simply cannot be present in anything that negatively affects your relationship with another and ultimately your relationship with God.

    The significance of the passage of Matt 27:46 is the consequence of sin. Seperation from God. It was at that moment Jesus fully realized God’s abandonement.(Read Psalm 22)

    Understand that Jesus came to save man from sin. That was his mission. He chose to die in our place…to face abandonement from God in our place so that we don’t have to face the same consequence.

    I think here is where you may be confused. Jesus came to save man from sin not judge sin in man.

    Make no mistake about it…the next time it will be the other way around.

  8. Bird lover

    I agree with your point that at least some of the sins I mentioned flow from a lack of love, mercy, humility, respect and meekness. However, I am not sure I see it in quite the same way as if teaching virtue (as virtue) is another way of fighting sin. In other words, did Jesus teach virtue so that we might not sin, or so that we might realize the benefits of mercy, love, et al?

    Perhaps I am cutting too fine of a line. It just seems significant (at least surprising, to me) to learn that Jesus never spoke against murder or stealing, for instance. Perhaps he realized that that failure in relationship was a matter of not loving, not respecting, not being humble and that the PARTICULAR manifestation of this failure (such as murder, or stealing, or anger, or simply feeling superior to another) is not so important as to warrant emphasis (or also not so important as to distinguish one worse than the other).

    I question whether Jesus would describe his mission as “saving man from sin”. Is it the same thing to “save us from murder and anger” as to teach us to love, to be humble, to respect others and show mercy? Before I learned to love, to respect, to be humble, I did not murder, steal or (very often) become angry, but focusing on avoiding the latter, does nothing to achieve the former.

    I am not saying that following Jesus in loving, meekness, and mercy does not free us from murder and anger, but I am saying (or throwing it out for discussion, at least) Jesus might have felt that sin was not the issue. This, at least, seems to contrast with some manifestations of religion where opposing sin seems to be an important part of religion. Perhaps opposing sin has nothing to do with religion in Jesus’s mind. Perhaps Jesus assumed we would occasionally lapse as we practice love and humility, but he was unconcerned about these inevitable lapses. These lapses, for the most part, provide their own punishment in any case, a punishment that is particularly harsely felt by someone who is striving to follow the path of love, meeknes, mercy.

  9. Mel

    First off I wish I knew your name but if anonymity is important then I’ll respect that. May I at least call you BL?

    You asked,”In other words, did Jesus teach virtue so that we might not sin, or so that we might realize the benefits of mercy, love, et al?”

    Let’s say that the benefits was the focus of Jesus’ mission. What are those benefits? What’s the scope of those benefits?

    I think you need to zoom out a tad bit before you can see that the benefit of love isn’t just what you receive but what you give.

    Jesus wanted you to know what it meant to be loved by God but he also wanted you to know what it meant that your neighbor was also loved by God.

    There’s a passage that makes the statement that if you can love this much then how much more do you think God can love? (Matt 7:11)

    So…have you ever had someone you love treated in an unloving manner? How did it make you feel? How do you think God feels?

    So Jesus teaches that love is really all it’s about but with priorities… God first, others second, self last. (Matt 22:34-40)

    Sin BL is the refusal to love in such a manner that community is broken with God and with others.

    Ten Commandments

    1-4 are about loving God with all your heart,mind and soul.

    5-10 are about loving and respecting each other.

    So the answer to your question is that Jesus taught virtue so that we might not sin SO THAT we realize the benefits of love.

    Now…zoom way way out. Community is the benefit but it’s bigger than the community here and now…

    …it’s eternal community with God.

  10. Bird lover

    Thanks, Mel. I appreciate your thoughts. At the risk of continuning to put too fine of a point on it allow me to address a couple of statements.

    I do like the way you said that Jesus wanted us to know the benefits of love and that the benefits were the focus of his mission. Well said, and also that the benefits relate to giving rather than receiving. Thanks for pointing out that distinction.

    However rather than pointing out the benefit of God loving our neighbor it might be more accurate to focus on the benefits of us loving. The benefit which seems to affect me most is the benefit I feel in loving, not the benefit of God loving me or God loving my neighbor.

    You go down the path of asking how our failure to love our neighbor affects God. I would ask how our failure to love our neighbor affects us. I would suggest that Jesus taught us to show mercy and be humble, not because we love God, nor because we love our neighbor, nor because God loves our neighbor but rather because being humble is good for us. When I fail to love my neighbor I do not hurt him or God; I hurt myself.

    You refer to our refusing to love and thus breaking community with God and others. I would suggest instead the word failure. We all strive to have proper relations with our neighbors; we all desire this relationship. As we strive there are inevitable failures of love and meekness. I do not think Jesus was focusing on condemning the failures (sin) as much as on encouraging the effort and re-assuring us the path to community is love, mercy, peace, compassion.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

  11. Mel

    If I may fine tune one…

    You stated you felt I had expressed God’s love for my neighbor as a benefit to be realized and maybe we could dissect but actually that wasn’t the direction I was going.

    I made the statement, “Jesus wanted you to know what it meant to be loved by God (benefit) but he also wanted you to know what it meant that your neighbor was also loved by God (responsibility).

    The point isn’t that we receive a benefit by God’s love for our neighbor. It was that we are held responsible for our offenses against those that God loves.

  12. Bird lover

    Sorry for the confusion. I had suggested that Jesus taught love, peace and meekness not so much that we would not sin, but rather that we would realize the benefits of relating to our neighbout out of love, meekness, peace.

    You appear to be focusing on the benefits to our neighbor if we fulfil our responsibility to love our neighbor, a responsibility that was given to us by God.

    While there might be benefits to our neighbor if we love her, I do not believe these benefits to the neighbor was the focus of Jesus’s teaching on love and meekness. He is teaching us how to relate to our neighbor. The benefit to us is obvious when we relate in this way. Whenever I am loving my neighbor, remembering to respect him in every way and being humble in relation to her I find utmost satisfaction and joy in this relationship. Whenever I stray into pride, anger, judgment, hate I feel no joy or satisfaction.

    We are made happy by showing mercy in that we receive mercy in return (not from God) but from our neighbors. We are made happy when we display meekness because meekness and humility is the proper relationship between us and our neighbor. The meek inherit the earth because they know community.

    Once we realize our proper relationship to others and begin to taste the joy of that relationship, we will naturally strive for more love, humility, meekness and peace. The consequences of our lapses or failures whether it be anger, pride, murder, stealing are immediately felt by us and need no further prohibition by Jesus. If we have the right attitude toward our neighbor we would never be angry with him, nor wish to hurt him.

    Could this not be the reason that Jesus taught love and never condemned murder? Could this not be the reason that joy belongs to the meek and humble and peacemakers? God might love our neighbor, but Jesus was concerned about our love for our neighbors, not God’s love for them. As I seek to love my neighbor I never think about it as satisfying a responsibility to God, but rather as a result of my realization that doing so brings me maximum happiness.

  13. Mel

    pardon my triteness…

    The phrase “splitting hairs” makes me wonder why anyone would engage in the actual activity?

    Other than a demonstration of the edge of a cutting tool I can think of no other purpose.

    If you will read Matthew chapters 5-7 you will get a better understanding of what Jesus did and did not teach.

    Jesus not only condeemed murder…he condeemed anger.

    Jesus never taught “happiness” as a reward.

    He not only expected you to love your neighbor but to love your neighbor who hates you. Where’s the happiness in that?

    Bird Lover, there’s a huge gap between the “benefits” that you are dwelling on and those I’m trying to relate to you…

  14. Bird lover

    You mention a neighbor who hates us. My initial reaction was that I did not know of any. But then I tried to visualize different circumstances where hate might be part of a relationship and to assess them separately.

    1) A person might dislike us if we fail in our love toward him. For instance, if we fail to show her respect, or if we allow pride to enter, or if we become judgmental. In those cases the joy comes from correcting our attitude and finding happiness in correcting our attitudes and turning the relationship into a friendship.

    2) We might mistakenly feel hate from another due principally to misunderstandings. For instance, one or both of us might be allowing differences in beliefs to mar the relationship. In this case, there is great joy in practicing meekness and love in learning to hold the other with respect and allowing her to know us as loving and respectful. As per Allan’s original post, there is great joy in building community on love rather than uniformity. In cases where there is difficulty, I generally find the problem is in myself rather than the other person, so the joy is in correcting myself and finding love.

    3) I guess people could also imagine hate as being part of extreme situations such as Hitler killing the Jews or Nero hating the Christians or 911. There is much joy here in viewing these circumstances with less judgment. Hitler was not a bad person. He had some incorrect beliefs regarding race, but I have no reason to believe he was not a well-intention human as are the rest of us who is deserving of respect and understanding. I believe that if I knew Hitler personally I would find (as I have in the case of every other person I have known) that the more I understand him, the more I would like him.

    Just call me Pollyanna.

  15. Allan

    (just staring at the computer with mouth agape)

  16. mom

    I was going to put it on this morning’s blog (Monday), but you haven’t put it up yet…..so here goes anyway.

    What is a group of millionaires called who are watching the Super Bowl?

    Dallas Cowboys

    love, mom

  17. Bird lover

    Is that “agage” as in “love”?

  18. Bird lover

    Oops. Typo. I meant agape.

  19. Mel

    Pollyanna… appropriate name. I’m reminded of the fictitious character created by Eleanor Porter who was known for her optimistic and positive attitude…

    …ironically the character was hit by a car and loss the use of her legs. At first she maintained a form of delusional positive attitude. Then the reality that she may never walk again causes her to slump into a pit of despair. In the end she recovers and “gladness” wins out over despair.

    It’s a good story. Analogies can be drawn from it.

    Delusional outlook isn’t one of them.

    Acknowledging reality and overcoming it is.

  20. Bird lover

    I would prefer happy/deluded than unhappy/realistic. Maybe that is why they call if fiction.

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