Summary: Illustrations and Metaphors for the Kingdom - so we can get a handle on what it is.
A pastor, known for his lengthy sermons, noticed a man get up and leave during the middle of his message. The man returned just before the conclusion of the service. Afterwards the pastor asked the man where he had gone.
"I went to get a haircut," was the reply.
"But," said the pastor, "why didn’t you do that before the service?"
"Because," the gentleman said, "I didn’t need one then."
I’ll try not to take too long this morning!! What is the Gospel? We have been looking at Jesus declaration of his Gospel – It is God’s kingly rule is at hand, it’s close; it’s available now to those who will change. This kingdom of God is seen when the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven. When Jesus was preaching the kingdom he and his audience would have had God’s shalom on their mind. God’s peace, prosperity, justice, well-being was now coming, this was fantastic good news, this is what the kingdom is about.
I want to talk today a bit more about what the kingdom of God is, because it may still not be clear. What is clear is that today kingdoms are not what they were, kings do not wield the power they did. I doubt that Jesus would use that phrase today. So what kind of words would Jesus use today to illustrate his Kingdom? I’m going to suggest a few that I have come across….
1. God’s Dream for the world
One picture that expresses what God’s Kingdom is about is that God has a dream for the world, not in terms of a sleeping dream, but a dream in the sense of a vision, a goal for the world. The kingdom of God is that dream - "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever."(Rev.11:15). Whenever we pray for God’s kingdom to come we are praying for God’s dream to come true, that his will be done and kingdom come. Someone said a way of paraphrasing this is “May all your dreams for creation come true.” We re in the business of making God’s dreams come true. On 28 August 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial a man declared his dream: Listen to some of his words
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, and rough places will be made plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
I believe Martin Luther King Jnr.’s dream was God’s dream, it was God’s will, and it was of the justice of the Kingdom of God. The bible is full of talk about justice. We tend to think of those places as speaking of eternal justice, but look again, when the OT the prophets are crying out for fairness and justice for the oppressed, they are expressing God’s heart for the world. Look at Matthew, Mark and especially Luke and you will see that Jesus is in that mould. Does God care that people are hungry, oppressed, sick and hurting? Jesus heals the sick, welcomes the outcasts and feeds the hungry. So what is the Good News of God’s Kingdom? It is that God’s dream is at hand. That a relationship with God, his peace and joy, the hungry fed, justice for the oppressed is available if people change and become part of God’s dream, if they work together to make it happen. So what does it mean to be a Christian in these days? We are praying for God’s dream to come true and also of being the means of making god’s dreams come true in the power of His Spirit. The kingdom is available; God’s dream for the world and us is available if we will change.
2. God’s Revolutionary movement
Closely allied to this and picking up on last weeks’ theme is that of God’s revolution. In what sense? Well people like Martin Luther King saw that bringing God’s dreams to pass meant confronting injustice, racism, poverty etc. Go back 200 years to William Wilberforce, a committed Christian, encouraged by the great John Wesley and others he had a dream, that became a revolution as he took on the powers that be to end the appalling practice of slavery. William Booth seeing the drunkenness of the cities of Victorian England started the Salvation Army. Some have justified the use of violence in bringing an end to injustice. But King, Wilberforce and others showed that God’s kingdom is not a religion but it is a peaceful, non-violent revolution whereby God’s dreams for his world can come true and people can get to know the King. The Jews of Jesus day thought of the Kingdom in terms of a bloody revolution, Jesus showed them His kingdom would spread in the power not of military might, but the Spirit, not using weapons of steel but of the Word of God and characterised not by hate but the love of God. That is the revolution we are called to be part of. I asked why has the church so often been one of the most conservative organisations on the planet? We are called to challenge the status quo not support it. We are called to challenge sin, evil, injustice, oppression etc. The Kingdom is God’s Revolutionary movement. The call to follow Jesus then was to join his revolutionary new way of living, of acting, that would make the world the place God wants it to be. That was and is the Gospel of Jesus. The kingdom of God was always meant to be more than private religion, but a means of transforming the world into the place where God’s rule is acknowledged, not by coercion but out of choice.