Sermon 21 Aug 4 — Luke 4:43; Acts 1:3,6; Col 1:13; Rom 14:17 “Two Kingdoms” , part of the “Culture Gap” series.
First the things we can learn from the four passages: Luke 4:43; Acts 1:3,6; Col 1:13; Rom 14:17;
43 he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
Jesus was compelled to preach the message of the arrival of a kingdom of God way of being in this world (Luke 4:43 one among many verses). He emphasized this message even more once he died and was resurrected (Acts 1:3). His followers showed a this-worldly understanding again as he spoke — just as before when they bickered about who would be the greatest in this new kingdom (Acts 1:6). In asking when the kingdom would be restored to Israel, they are asking “are you now going to make Israel great again?” Jesus says that is not something they are to know. They are however needing to know that they will soon be empowered in a different way than they expect. Empowerment to be witnesses with a testimony of God’s glory to every culture is coming.
By Pauls day this new way (or restoration of an original way) was better understoond. So Paul could write that there is a “dark side” of hiding and chaos and desctruction to life and a “side of light” and truth and deep joy and peace. He knows Jesus has offered a rescue from the darkess and an invitation to participate in the kingdom of light, the kingdom established by God’s son Jesus (Col 1:13). Simply and maybe simplistically put, there are two ways of being in this world: the way of darkness, of claiming equality with God as we reach for forbidden fruit again and again, just like Eve and Adam — or the way of light, the way of the kingdom of God.
“When we no longer live by the values and principles that come to us naturally, we create culture that is different. We create a culture of giving instead of taking. We create a culture of forgiving instead of seeking vengeance. We create a culture that does not first reach for weapons of war or politics to defend God’s way. Instead we create a culture of seeking the best for our enemies in this world. We create a culture of authentic peace and joy, not doom and gloom. We create a culture of Heart change, not stasis, not hearts hardened and enslaved by meaning-lost rituals and activities. We create a culture rich with God’s meaning and our creative expressions of it. And so on.”
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Paul knows this and emphasizes exactly that new kingdom way when he writes “Do not be conformed to the ways of this world, instead, undergo a metamorphesis in your way of thinking and acting…” (Rom 12:2)
What happens in the institutional church is that slowly the ways of the world take over, and slowly the meaning of important rituals and traditons is lost as people preserve its culture of a bygone day for their own comfort (“The comfortable Pew” by Pierre Berton). Slowly the institution serves its own needs and the body of Christ she is supposed to support atrophies and begins a slow death. As this all happens the relationship with God gets lost, and then our children and neighbours start to believe (with some legitimacy) that church is all about creating quaint living museums where people re-enact the past with little relevance to today or tomorrow. And that is called a culture gap. Within the church we fight about what to wear or not wear, we bicker about who should have authority or not, we classify who is in or out, what musical style we should use, what worship style we should practice — as if those are the main thing! They are NOT!
That is what Paul is addressing in the last passage we looked at, Romans 14. The whole chapter is about this, but the focal point is when he says: “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” It is not about specific culture or cultural expressons, but about bearing kingdom fruit.