Friday, August 27, 2010

Exploring the Kingdom of God

“At daybreak [Jesus] departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.” - Luke 4:42-43

At the Riggs Union and the Sturgeon United Methodist Churches, we are in the midst of a sermon series entitled: “Exploring the Kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God is complex and unfolding. Exploring God’s kingdom requires patience and diligent study over time if we are to discover what it is and how we can be a part of it.

It is clear from scripture that one of the main reasons Jesus came to earth was to inaugurate or establish God’s kingdom on earth. In the scripture from Luke 4, Jesus says that he “must proclaim the good news of the kingdom.” In Matthew 4 verse 17, Jesus begins his public ministry with the words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” It is the very presence of Jesus on earth that altered the course of history and has brought near the final arrival of God’s rule or kingdom on earth.

Throughout the gospels Jesus uses parables and metaphors to speak about the kingdom of God. A parable is a story that uses familiar language and concepts to explain something far more complex. Jesus’ parables of the kingdom do not have one particular message but layers and layers of meaning that unfold for us as we are ready to receive their deeper truth. The parables of Jesus by design are meant to challenge us and make us question and wonder and pray and converse about their meaning. Their meaning often challenges our understanding of the world precisely because our world is not the way God wants it to be.

God’s kingdom is a powerful kingdom. It is about light and life and heaven on earth. Everything that Jesus does calls us into relationship with God and works to strengthen that relationship. Jesus teaches us that we cannot discern the kingdom of God through our own effort, but we do have a role to play. As we desire to live in God’s light and desire God’s truth above all things, seeking God in prayer, worship, and study, God prepares us to receive God’s precious gift of the kingdom.

God gives us eyes to see and minds and hearts that understand who God is and what God is trying to accomplish in our world only when God discerns that we are ready. Our understanding is always a “God thing.” It is always a very humbling experience to receive God gift of discernment. Christians can never be arrogant in our understanding because we know that our discernment is a gift of life that comes from God only when God knows we are able to hold it.

Knowing about God’s kingdom and living from it is so crucial because there are other kingdoms in our world that undermine what God is doing. There are other forces in the world that would keep us in darkness and cause us to doubt and suffer needlessly. Jesus felt an urgency to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God in order to alleviate this kind of suffering. As we explore the kingdom of God, we prepare ourselves to move from darkness to light, from death to life. We also prepare ourselves to be found worthy to hold God’s truth in our hearts and live that truth in our lives so others may receive God’s gift and live as well.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wonderful Birthday Celebration!

On August 15th we celebrated J.P. Bradley's 80th birthday with his entire family in worship. This family picture is a clear image of how God continues to pour out blessing upon blessing year after year. What a gift that they would share their special day with all of us.

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Six Week Sermon Series Begins on Sunday!

Beginning this Sunday and running for the next six weeks we will continue to explore the Kingdom of God by focusing on Jesus' Sermon On the Mount. The upcoming texts are listed below for your personal study and devotional life:

August 15 - Matthew 4:12-22

August 22 - Matthew 4:23-25, 5:1-12

August 29 - Matthew 5:13-20

September 5 - Matthew 6:5-15

September 12 - Matthew 6:19-34

September 19 - Matthew 7:13-29

Riggs Vacation Bible School

The Riggs Church led a wonderful Vacation Bible School August 2-5, 2010. Generous offerings from the children were matched by the congregation and used to purchase animals for people in need through Heifer International.