Summary: We change our citizenship to the kingdom of God through confession, repentance, faith, receiving, going public, and following Jesus.

The Secret Message of Jesus June 25, 2006

Entering the Kingdom

John 3:1-21

I’ve been speaking over this last month about Jesus’ message – the Message about the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught us that the Kingdom of God is not something that will only happen in the future, but the Kingdom is also now, and you can join it now. You can change your citizenship from the old confining kingdom of egotism, racism, consumerism, hedonism and other associated “–isms” to the expansive kingdom of God. Today I want to talk about how to do that – how do you enter the Kingdom of Heaven, how do you change your citizenship? To start to answer that question, I’ll begin with a story that Brian McLaren tells in his book, “The Secret Message of Jesus.” In honour of the world cup, it is a soccer story

“It happened years ago, when I coached soccer for my kids. We were the mighty Yellow Jackets, an eight-and-under girls’ team, and in our first few seasons we would lose by double-digit scores that seemed more like football scores: 2 1—3, 17—0, 28—4. The girls liked each other so much, and they had so much fun just being together, they hardly noticed the score. Even after a trouncing, they’d run up to me, jumping and smiling and giggling. “Did we win? Did we win?” they would ask. “Well,” I’d say,

“we came in second.”

During one game, Alexi, a good-natured (but not so good-playing), was playing fullback. In an unusual moment of inspired intensity, she stole the ball and dribbled—or perhaps chased is a better word—the ball up to midfield. Soon she was swarmed by three players from the other team, and they instantly formed a knot of eight kicking feet, eight flaring elbows, and four swaying ponytails. In the middle of the scramble, Alexi spun around a couple of times, trying to keep the ball in her control. When she broke free, a little dizzy, surprised to have the ball still in her control, she saw something she had never seen before: a wide open field between her and the goal.

I saw her glance up at the goal and then down at her feet, and I detected a look on her face I had never seen. It was as if, for the first time in this sport, she knew exactly what to do, and all her resources were unified in a glorious moment of clarity, hope, and commitment. She—a fullback—was going to score!

So she started dribbling. She had never dribbled so well. She drove forward, head down, fists clenched, deep in concentration. Kick, kick, step, kick, step, step, kick. There was only one problem in the entire universe at that moment, a problem of which she was blissfully unaware: she was driving to the wrong goal.

I started yelling, “Turn around! Turn around, Alexi! It’s the wrong goal!” She plunged forward. Then the parents started shouting too. “Wrong way, Alexi! Wrong goal! Turn around!” She couldn’t hear us; she was in another dimension of time and space. Her fellow defenders didn’t want to steal the ball from their friend and teammate, so they backed away, confused. Kick, step, step, kick, pause. She neared the goal and looked up once more, oblivious to our shouting, grim in her determination, pursing her lips. She was a fullback, a defender, and she had never been in scoring position before. Her latent inner athlete had come alive, and the thrill filled her with ecstasy. As her right foot cocked back in her backswing—the backswing of the most important kick of her entire eight-year life—somewhere in the inner regions of her brain a tiny alarm went off. “Why was her best friend and teammate Robin in the goal box? Why did Robin look so afraid?”

“No, Alexi! No!” Robin shouted. But it was too late. My little fullback was already in motion. The reflexes of her newly awakened inner athlete had clicked into motion and could not be stopped.

As her right foot came forward and connected with the ball, you could see the agony of an awful recognition spread across her face. First her expression and then her crumbling body folded into a living parable of repentance as she collapsed to the

dirt. Her heart sank and the ball rose, sailing, sailing in a beautiful arc toward the net. Robin dove to her left, and at the last instant, the knuckles of her left fist grazed the ball so that it veered slightly to the right and down until it grazed the goalpost and dropped to the ground, rolling to a stop in a tuft of perfect green grass—just out of bounds. Robin had averted disaster for Alexi and for the Yellow Jackets. Her teammates, including

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