Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday in Pentecost, Proper 23: The kingdom of God and the cross of Christ

Opening Sentence
Their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:4

Come, Thou Almighty King

Commemoration: St. Luke the Evangelist
Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 18:1-20

Lessons: Jonah 3-4, Acts 27:27-44, Luke 9:18-27

Millennial views are like bad days. Everybody has one. No one particular view, however, is truly adequate to explain the multi-dimensional nature of the coming eschatological kingdom of God. Jesus declared to his disciples, “there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27). This statement becomes very problematic for those who are wound up in arguments over millennial views. If “the kingdom of God” is synonymous with “the Son of Man” coming “in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26), why have believers been waiting some 2,000 years to see something Jesus promised would be seen by his earliest followers?

If all that is meant by “the kingdom of God” is the return of Christ in glory at the end of history, then we might have a problem here, but “the kingdom of God” is a much larger project than just its final consummation. It is connected not only with Jesus’ glory, but also with his suffering. Likewise, it is seen not only in the final triumph of righteousness, but also in the ordeal of righteous suffering at the hands of the fallen world. Jesus connects his glory with his suffering and commands “anyone” who “would come after” him to “deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow” him (Luke 9:23). The glory of the Son of Man is inextricably connected with the suffering of the Son of Man. The kingdom of God is inextricably linked with the cross of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ first disciples would “see the kingdom of God” in their lifetime by seeing Jesus “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). Jesus’ resurrection was the inaugural event of the kingdom of God. Jesus, after his ordeal of suffering and death, was raised up in glory, vindicated as the true Christ of God, the victorious Son of Man “in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

The resurrection, however, was only the beginning. Jesus called his disciples to deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow him. They were to continue the work he began. They were to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom of God to all the nations, never being ashamed even to give their lives for their Lord. In Jesus, crucified and risen, they could “see the kingdom of God.” Their mission was then, and our mission is now, to make others see that kingdom in lives that become an authentic imitation of the crucified and risen Savior.


Rescue the Perishing