Friday, March 27, 2015

Lenten Devotion – Day 33

Friday, March 27, 2015

Today’s Scripture: Luke 4:38-44

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." (Luke 4:43)

“We preach grace, but we don’t always practice it. We talk about God’s mercy, but we don’t always want the people who need it most to know it or get in on it. We say we are in the redemption business, but the door to that redemption is often locked by us from the inside. We say, “Come in! All are welcome!” but “all” is often marked with an asterisk. How, I ask, can the world change – how can heaven come to earth – if we stingily protest against God for his grace to others, grace we have freely received ourselves? How can we pray “thy kingdom come,” and be resentful toward God and those he allows to enter the kingdom in his way and his timing?” ― Ronnie McBrayer, How Far Is Heaven?: Rediscovering the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now

Kingdom-of-God  In our scripture reading today, we have Jesus’ first mention of the Kingdom of God in Luke’s gospel. Jesus came “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities.” Jesus quite clearly states his purpose and he does this after healing Simon’s mother in-law, healing other sick people and casting out demons, who clearly knew who Jesus was. Ask anyone what they know about Jesus and most likely they will mention Jesus’s healing of the sick. Though Jesus healed and cast out demons, he also in this first mention of the Kingdom of God in the gospel of Luke states this is not his purpose for this ministry. “Proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God” is.

  We have been looking at what it is to enter and receive the kingdom of God as a disciple of Christ, which was a topic Jesus addresses frequently. So then based on Jesus’ parables and illustrations about kingdom, what then is the gospel? What is the “good news”?

  You will often hear others, speak about the good news by saying things, like, “Do you know that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?” or “If you were to die tonight, and God was to ask you, why should I let you into my heaven, what would be your answer?” Though these are important questions, Jesus, on the other hand, did not approach his world with a question at all, but with a proclamation of the arrival of the kingdom of God. A kingdom that exist in the past, present and future, a kingdom is far off, but is also near, a kingdom that exists in heaven, but also is among us.

  Often churches and pastors reduce our faith to a series of decisions and transactions, and although there are decisions we each need to make as disciples, reducing the Gospel to a decision to accept “God’s plan for my life” or giving the right answer to the question of how to go to heaven seems to only comprehend part of the message Jesus was proclaiming was doing in his earthly ministry.

  The good news is about God and what God is doing. It is not about me and my doing what I think is important. It is not about some idea of success or happiness as the world might define it. For some individuals, they have reduced the gospel to what God is determined to do to fill out our shopping lists of needs and wants. This is not good news, spoken about. This good news is an announcement that things are going to be different. Back in verses 18-19, Jesus gives us more of an idea about this proclamation of the good news when he says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)

  When you read the Gospels, Jesus is including the excluded, healing the hopeless, remaking Israel, reaching out to the pagan, overturning the religious professionals ideas about what God is doing, redefining all the predictable terms, shocking those who know all the answers and, in general, making it unmistakably clear that the Kingdom isn’t just about forgiveness and “heaven,” but about the life we are living, and will live, both in the Kingdom here and now, as well as in the future. As Jesus walked through this world the Kingdom of God was like a big ship cutting through the waves. Every place he goes, the work and the fruit of the Kingdom flow out from him. Blind people see, hungry people are fed, deaf people hear, those with leprosy are cured, outcasts are included, people who are left out are brought in and beloved. The guilty are forgiven, the dead are raised.

  If God is here now, and his Kingdom is present now, then your life is going to be deeply transformed. God himself is going to give your life an entirely different definition and direction. Big questions get asked and answered: What is your God like? Who is your neighbor? How does the Kingdom look when you live in it? Will you follow Jesus to the cross? Everything Jesus says and does is dominated by this Kingdom he is announcing, and his actions and words make it very clear what kinds of changes must take place. The disciples are blown away by it all, and that’s our cue to get our helmets on as well, because the ride through the kingdom is going to get wild.

  What did Jesus mean when he spoke of the kingdom of God? He meant, quite simply, the reign and rule of God, God is the one in charge. God does love more than we can imagine and God wants us to join Him living our lives into eternity, but most importantly God wants to enter and receive the kingdom in the life we live out daily today and reach out to bring in God’s other children into the kingdom, the lost, the hopeless, the hurting, and those living in darkness. We have to take our lead from God about the tasks set before us and then we will know the kingdom is indeed among us. “’God’s kingdom’ in the preaching of Jesus refers not to postmortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but to God’s sovereign rule coming ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’” ― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope

Today’s Lectionary Readings
Morning: Psalms 22; 148
Evening: Psalms 105; 130
Jeremiah 29:1–14
Romans 11:13–24
John 11:1–27 or John 12:1–10

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