“The Now And The Not Yet”
By: Kenneth Sauer
Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church
As most of you know,
I was raised in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse is the snowiest city in the country, and winter
takes up about 7 months out of the year.
So, if one is going to live in a winter wonderland, they might as well take advantage of
some of the fun which a cold and snowy climate provides.
There is a pond near my parent’s house which freezes over every winter, and is used for
There are also alot of hills and mountains nearby, and most people enjoy downhill skiing.
Snowmobiling is also a popluar past time and mode of transportation, but what I loved
the most was something called cross-country skiing.
There are lots of state parks which provide cross country skiing trails. It doesn’t cost any
money, it’s great exercise, and one can go anytime they want.
One place in particular that I enjoyed cross country skiing was a place called Green
Lakes State Park.
There are lots of woods, and you can choose from several different trails--depending on
how long you want to ski.
Now when one is cross-country skiing, It is much easier to follow the trail if someone has
already set down some tracks.
And since it snows nearly every day and night up in Syracuse, those tracks get covered
But the park rangers get up early each morning and take the first trips down the trails in
order to make fresh tracks for others to follow.
They are the trail blazers, and I can remember many mornings where it had snowed
maybe 6 inches to a foot the night before, but when I showed up to ski, the tracks had already
Well, we see in our gospel lesson for this morning that Jesus had a trail blazer, and his
name was John the Baptist.
We see in verse 2 that John was preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
John preached this message to all--to the general public and to the religionists alike.
No one was excluded.
Repentance means to change; to turn; to change one’s mind; to turn one’s life.
Something exciting was about to happen, and John was preparing the way. He was
getting the people ready. He was blazing the trail.
Christ’s ministry here on earth was about to begin, and John was making the paths
If the park rangers had not made the paths straight on those cross-country ski trails in
Syracuse New York, it would have been too dangerous for me to ski, I could have gotten lost,
because I wouldn’t have known which way to turn.
Well, John the Baptist came and told the people which way to turn. He told them to turn
away from their sins, and turn toward God for the kingdom of heaven was near.
Now what exactly did John mean by saying that the “Kindom of heaven is near”?
Often we think of the kingdom of heaven as being some place which is intangible to
those of us here on earth.
It’s somewhere way up in the sky. It’s where God lives.
But John was saying that it is near.
And when people heard about this, they began confessing their sins, and were baptizeed
in the Jordan River.
Obviously, John was talking about something that is tangible to those of us living here
on earth. Obviously he was not just talking about some far away place that we go after we die.
And this is because the kingdom of heaven is both the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’.
Now what in the world does that mean?
It means that the use of the word ‘kingdom’ can be misleading.
Often when we think of a kingdom, we think of an actual place where some King sits on
a throne in a palace in some actual geographical location. And we would have to go there in
order to get near it.
But this is not so with the kingdom of heaven.
The Greek term from which we get the English word ‘kingdom’ would be better
translated as ‘kingship’.
And if we look at it this way, John the Baptist was preaching that the kingship of God is
John was talking about the act of ruling itself, not just some geographical region.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 5, Paul writes that “if anyone is in Christ,” he or she is “a new
creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Now isn’t this what happens when we repent and allow God to take control of our
When we allow the kingly rule of God to rule our lives we are living as part of the
kingdom of God right here and right now!
Yes, what amazing good news this is!
Even though we are living in a fallen world, a world where our bodies ache, our children
go off to war, and we are faced with evil every day we can live in the kingdom of God right now!
It begins when we repent, confess our sins, and make that turn toward God--allowing
God to be the ruler of our lives.
As Paul wrote to the Phillipian Christains, “But our citizenship is in heaven.”
And Christ told us that although we are in the world, we are not of the world.
So John the Baptist was playing the part of a trail blazer for Jesus.
In essence he was telling the people that the coming of the kingdom of heaven is
immediately upon us. Therefore, repent and get ready for God’s sovereign rule!
And this kingdom which John was talking about is a spritual kingdom; it is not physical,
not something we can see, look upon and handle.
And it’s not some place that we have to load up our cars and our kids in order to get to.
As Jesus tells us in Luke chapter 17, “The kingdom of God is within you.”
And this is why Christians throughout the ages have been able to stand up for their faith
in the face of persecution, hatred, and even maryrdom.
Because the kingly rule of God was taking place within their souls.
This is what enabled people like Martin Luther King Jr. to have the courage and vision to
lead a peaceful struggle for civil rights in the face of all kinds of opposition.
This is what led Mother Teresa to dedicate her life to serving the poorset of the poor in
And this is what enables many of us to face the every day trials of life with hope,
conviction, and inner peace--no matter what is going on outside of us.
Is the kingdom of God within you?
If not, then in the words of John the Baptist, it’s time to repent, confess your sins and
change your direction.
Now reemmber that I said that the kingdom of heaven is both the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’.
The kingdom of heaven is now, as soon as we put our full trust in Christ as Jesus said,
“whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
As a matter of fact, He said that whoever “believes in me will live, even though he or she
When our souls leave this earth we will continue to live under the kingly rule of God in
an actual place called heaven.
And for those of us sitting here this morning, that is the ‘not yet’.
And this prospect gives us hope as Christians in our present actions.
Yes we are living in a difficult world.
Yes many of us feel the stress of financial burdens, and bills not yet paid.
Yes many of us are lonely due to the passing of loved ones.
Yes many of us live in fear as our world is at war.
But we can still live in hope because of the ‘not yet’.
I was watching a movie starring Jack Nicholson recently.
He was walking through the waiting room of a psychiatrist’s office.
The people sitting in the room were looking miserable, feeling the weight of the world
on their shoulders, suffering from all kinds of mental problems that are often a part of our
existence on this earth, and Nicholson with his glaring look asks the question, “What if this is
as good as it gets?”
Thankfully, as Christians we have the hope and are given the assurance that this is not as
good as it gets.
In verse 11 of our gospel lesson, John the Baptist declared, “I baptize you with water for
repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandles I am not fit
to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
And this Jesus will gather “his wheat into the barn.”
Those who are living under the kingly rule of God are the wheat.
They are the ones who are producing good fruit through their actions on this earth right
here and right now.
They are the ones who are fulfilling the part of The Lord’s prayer which says, “your will
be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
They are the ones who are feeding the hungry, offering a glass of water to the thirsty,
clothing the naked, looking after the sick, and visiting those who are in prison in the name of
And God will never leave nor forsake those of us who are doing this.
As Jesus promises us in John chapter 14, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in
God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would not have
told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will
come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
In sixteen days we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, but this spring we will be
celebrating the Resurrection of this same Jesus!
The Christ we serve, the God who is the kingly ruler of our lives is risen.
The tomb on Easter morning was empty because it was impossible for death to keep its
hold on Christ.
And because Christ is risen, we who belong to Christ have the certainty of eternal life in
a place called heaven.
Yes, the kingdom of heaven is both the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’, and because of this faith,
we need not be defeated by the problems of this life because God has something better in store
for us--eternal life where as the Bible says, “the dwelling of God is with men and women, and he
will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their
God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or
crying or pain.
What a reason to head John the Baptist’s message to “Repent, for the kingdom of God is