Yesterday we heard a sermon from Matthew chapter eleven where Jesus is asked by the followers of John: should we look for someone else?
Let me just say that this attempt to question the Kingdom of Jesus is not a John the Baptist problem. Prying the Kingdom of Jesus away from the person of Jesus is something we all attempt to do. We can work with a Jesus without a kingdom. We can dress him up in our cultural artifacts, pray to him after touchdowns, wink at him from the safety of the worlds we create for ourselves. Kingdom is an antisocial idea, and the insistence on the Kingdom of Jesus may create distance in our culture. So we attempt to separate Jesus from his kingdom believing Sunday morning has nothing to do with Friday night, or we pray earnestly for peace but with an equal earnestness ignore the poor and withhold forgiveness from our enemies. We attempt to separate Jesus from his Kingdom when we separate worship from justice, the Baptistry from the beggar. Jesus responds to the question “should we look for another” this way:
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:5the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.6And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Jesus responds to questions about his Kingdom by talking about his ministry. The world is full of broken people: the physically, mentally, emotionally broken. He tells the crowds that the power of sickness and death, the power of degradation and humiliation, the power of poverty, is in the process of being overcome. Jesus met power with power.
The power of Jesus’ Kingdom is seen in both its inclusivity and exclusivity. It includes (verse eleven), “the least.” Who are the least? They are the broken ones, abused ones, neglected ones, powerless ones. And what does Jesus’ Kingdom exclude? The proud, the oppressor, the abuser, the authorities and their Kingdoms of suffering and loss. Their Kingdoms of indignity and degradation. Their Kingdoms that create the irrelevant, anonymous poor. Jesus did not bring a lesser power, the power of a new ethic or philosophical system, because what 'the least of these' needed was not that. They needed a Kingdom.
And you need a Kingdom, too. You carry with you the full measure of the human experience: the pain of abuse or neglect, the shame of abandonment or weakness. You carry, God knows, the power of your own sinful heart with you too. Just as Jesus cannot let go of his Kingdom you cannot let go of that kingdom you carry on your back like a snail. The weekly worship service is a collision of those two kingdoms: reminding you that you are valuable, and that you are loved. Every worship service casts aside the kingdom of brokenness and unbelief, and welcomes the Kingdom of Jesus.
New City Presbyterian Church ministers the Kingdom of Jesus every week not because we want to frighten but because we want to comfort. Our church hopes to follow Jesus’ example: we do not fiddle with ceremonial power; rather we bear the Kingdom of Jesus everywhere the Person of Jesus is proclaimed.