The world is a mess. Journalists and news media barrage us with a steady stream of stories and reports that perpetuate our low-grade fever of sadness and fear. It’s no wonder we are a people of chronic anxiety.
The Bible, though written thousands of years ago, might as well be written by a modern blogger describing our situation.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Romans 8:22
I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed-- and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors-- and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun. Ecclesiastes 4:1-3
Strong words but true. the world is a mess. So, tell me…how do you react to all that on a day to day basis?
Are you an ostrich? Or are you a cowboy
I’ve chosen the ostrich to represent those of us who when confronted with something we wish to avoid…bury our head in the sand.
· to be fair – According to the American Ostrich Association, ostriches don’t really do that! they dig deep nests and it looks like they have their head in the sand
· but we do! Confronted by the mess of the world many of us refuse to face it by pretending not to see it.
· we may have an immediate reaction – Oh my- then we get back to life
· IL – the conversation I overheard at lunch the other day (but I do the same thing…sometimes I just want to bury my head in the sand and think about cooking or sports)
Maybe you’re not an ostrich – maybe you’re more like a cowboy, in particular one that circles the wagons.
· Cowboys and settlers when attacked or threatened would circle the wagon in the wagon train, pull out their guns and start shooting.
· Do you do that? Seeing the mess of the world have you become belligerent, self-protective, accusatory, have you turned into a suburban survivalist?
· when you see the tragedy are you quick to blame and quicker to pull yourself away from the world?
Tell me – are you an ostrich or a cowboy?
· Don’t like those options? Good ! there is another posture
· There is another posture that you and I can take when facing the tragedy of the world…one that smells like commitment…and feels like valor…and rings with courage
· A posture that doesn’t bury our face in the sand or hide behind our walls of self protection but extends our face into the wind
o A posture in which we have our two feet planted on the rock of solid truth
What truth is it that pulls our head out of the sand and draws us out from behind our walls of self-protection?
It is the truth that God is up to something in this world. It is the truth that God has been and is currently and will completely set this world to rights. And it is the truth that he is depending on you to join his efforts.
It is upon that truth we stand and it is that truth should give us courage.
Now…how do we know this? How can we be so confident in this so called “truth”
Well, let me tell you a story…
The preamble or overture - Genesis 1
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. Genesis 1:31- 2:1
· a beautiful, perfect world characterized by God literally walking with man and woman. A time when the world was right.
Climax or conclusion: Revelation 21
"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:3-4
…The river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5
· a beautiful, perfect world characterized by God literally living with humanity. A time when the world will be right.
· Everything in between is the story of how the world turned tragic and how God began transforming the world from what was to what will be.
Following the overture the story itself begins with sin, rebellion, murder, licentiousness, and arrogance
· humanity sinned, rebelled and sinned some more and the world plummeted into tragedy from which it still struggles.
2000 BC – God began the rescue operation through one family
· Genesis 12 – God chose Abraham to bless so that ultimately – “all peoples on earth will be blessed by you”
· This family would re-introduce God to the world and in time, God said their influence would be like the stars in the sky
by 1800 BC – this family had grown into a tribe
· numbering in the hundreds they settled in Egypt…good news - they grew into a tribe…a people group over 1 million strong…bad news - enslaved by the Egyptians themselves.
· world-wide rescue operation put on hold for 400 years
around 1400 BC – God began to transform this tribe into a nation
· rescued from Egypt – given laws to live by and land to live in and leaders to inspire them
· and God came down to live with them…in a tabernacle among them
· and remember – their purpose was still to rescue the world!
by 1000 BC – this family – turned tribe – turned nation – morphed into a human led kingdom
· under Saul, then David then Solomon they reached the pinnacle of world-wide influence
· God lived with them – in a permanent Temple
· then nations of the world began making pilgrimages to see this God and this nation
· in that day I am sure the people of God assumed that God was finally setting the world to rights
but by 600 BC – it had all unraveled
· the people and their Kings repeated the folly of their predecessors in sin and rebellion
· God departed and the people were deported
· This once massive influential kingdom devolved into an inconsequential blip on the map and eventually disappeared altogether.
by 400 BC an attempt was made to reconstitute the nation
· but it never really took hold and once again God departed the scene for another 400 years - the restoration of the world was put on hold – and humanity swam in tragedy
Now, this is all very depressing except for a few rays of hope in the story.
· while the people of God were devolving into anarchy and chaos a small group of odd ball prophets began to speak up…and suggested that God was still committed to setting the world to rights.
· they suggested that he would establish a world-wide kingdom that would change the course of humanity.
…The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. Daniel 2:44
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:7
…Which at the time sounded too good to be true…until about 30 AD
· in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire a camel suit wearing, locust eating prophet walked out of the desert and said…"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." Matthew 3:1-2
· And sure enough it was… God had come back in the person of Jesus Christ. And Jesus immediate and dominant message was… 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Matthew 10:7
And for 3 years that became the theme of his teaching…
"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Matthew 13:31
"The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." Matthew 13:33
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44
"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. Matthew 13:47
The Kingdom of Heaven this and the KOG that…but what exactly IS the Kingdom of God.
· "This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 …your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10
· the Kingdom of God is God’s reign in which he is setting the world to rights.
· the Kingdom of God is the sum of his hopes and purposes for this world.
It is here…it is advancing and moving toward the future
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. Matthew 11:12
On that you can stand…!
but, wait…there are two more truths I don’t’ want you to miss…
1st is this…remember how God chose a family…a tribe…a nation – human beings to be his agents of change … set the world to rights…well that Plan hasn’t been altered…
…I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:19
The church is now Plan A to set the world to rights. That’s you and me. And this time God is not living in a tabernacle, cloud, temple but within us to ensure it will happen.
· and our job is to assist God in repairing the 6 broken places of this world:
o helping people be reconciled to God
o leading people to healing of the minds, bodies and spirits
o offering real loving community to lonely people
o being ministers of peace and racial reconciliation
o caring for the physical creation of God
o attacking systems of injustice world-wide
“Our job is not only to feed the poor but create a world in where the poor do not exist. A world where people like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King would have nothing to do.” Peter Rollins, Insurrection
That’s the story – God is setting the world to rights and has a vision for the future that will accomplish his whole mission of personal and societal transformation.
· God is expecting you and me to join him in his restoration of humanity and the world – we are Plan A.
· on this you can stand!
But one more thing…as we forcefully advance his kingdom we also keep one eye on the horizon…anticipating that one day Jesus will once again make an appearance … this time much more aggressively…to complete the job we have begun with him.
Some day…take it to the bank…Rev 21-22 will be accomplished…and the world will be restored to its original wonder. And tragedy will be no more.
It is this story you can stand on. Here it is in a nutshell:
We believe that God’s kingdom is the sum of His purposes and hopes for this world. The Kingdom is realized as Christ’s disciples commit themselves to His mission. We anticipate a future time when Jesus will return to complete the mission of God on earth.
Now…what will you be? Ostrich? Cowboy?
May I suggest a 3rd posture…
· courageous ambassador of the Kingdom
· daring emissary of God
· audacious agent of change
· a devoted witness of Christ
The world is still a mess…but it’s time we plant our feet, put our face to the wind…and get to work …bringing light into the darkness, hope to humanity and justice to the broken places all around us.