Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ambassadors of Another Kingdom

Homily on Luke 8:1; 13:29; Colossians 1:12-14; and 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.  Delivered 13 July 2014.  My first homily delivered as the assistant pastor of Pequea Evangelical Congregational Church. 

Good morning, brothers and sisters. It's a delight to be here today to celebrate a new beginning.  And I can't think of a better place to start a first sermon than with the story of 'in the beginning': In the beginning, God was king.  God created and ruled everything in its pristine goodness.   God created humans in his image, for priestly service and kingly rule over the earth, to spread the worshipful order of the Temple of Eden over the whole land.  But we see in the story of King Adam and Queen Eve how they lost their way and settled for smaller lives.  They fell into rebellion against the God of Gods and King of Kings.  And through that familiar human demand to govern life on our terms instead of his, the whole creation fell short of the glory God had in store for it.

As their heirs, we became broken rebels.  We need to be reconciled to God, our rightful king.  And so, at the climax of God's long mission through Abraham's family, through Israel, through a remnant, God sent his very own Son.  He sent Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, to reconcile us back to him.  Reconciliation is no cheap or easy thing. Jesus, anointed with God's Spirit and preaching about God's kingship, was often despised and rejected as he preached the "good news of the kingdom of God".  His message led King Jesus to be crowned – with thorns. It led King Jesus to be enthroned – on a cross.

But now, praise God, King Jesus is a risen king!  Amen?   Earthly kingdoms rise and fall, worldly kings live and die, but King Jesus is an eternal king, and his kingship has no end!  King Jesus rules over his kingdom from God's own heavenly throne, where he's installed as prophet, priest, and king. And he invites us in Revelation 3:21: "To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne".

Those who follow only this King, and who seek first this Kingdom and God's righteousness, are the church: the people redeemed through their King's blood; the people called out of every tribe and tongue to be a holy people and a royal priesthood; the people built together as the one living temple of God's own Spirit; the people under God's kingship who live to show their living faith in their living King.   Through union with King Jesus, the church shares his inheritance and is a living glimpse of the new creation that God has promised.

No matter what nation claims their mortal birth or their residence, faithful Christians' highest allegiance is to this King, who calls us to serve our local and global neighbors in his name.   As our own Discipline declares, "under the New Covenant the 'nation whose God is the Lord' is the Church of Jesus Christ, with its member-citizens scattered throughout the nations of the world".  So wherever the people of King Jesus live, we have dual-citizenship, earthly and heavenly; and we're sent to our neighbors as ambassadors.

And so the local church is an embassy of God's kingly domain.  As an embassy of the kingdom, King Jesus calls us at Pequea EC Church to reach out to our communities with spiritual words and self-sacrificing love – the same way that Jesus himself exercises his own kingship.  We invite our neighbors in all our cities, our towns, our villages, and our countryside: "Be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ!"  In this way, and through our public life of Christian faith, hope, and love, King Jesus wants to transform the many local communities through which we here are spread – and so are we made a sign pointing forward to God's new work of creation, which even now is bursting into the world.

And now here we are, gathered as God's people, to worship God in song and to witness to one another what God has done.  When we leave this place, we're sent out to worship God in loving our neighbors and to witness to them about what God has done in Jesus Christ – and is still doing today!   And then we come back together to repeat the rhythm, drawing strength from our spiritual communion with God and with one another.   This Sunday, that communion is represented physically in the bread and the cup.  Our King Jesus invites us into his presence, to his table, to eat with him the food that only he provides, because only he could pay the price.  He invites us here to worship God in thanksgiving, and to bear witness of Christ's death until he comes.  Our communion points back to the Last Supper and the cross, but it points forward to the wedding supper of the Lamb, when all who accept the invitation will sit down together as one reconciled family in the kingdom of God.

Until that glorious day, we pray, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven".   Until then, we pray, "Maranatha: Come, Lord Jesus".  Until then, we point to Jesus, pleading with family and neighbors, friends and strangers, loved ones and enemies, and even the very institutions of our culture itself: "Lay down your arms!  You have sinned, but Christ has died!  What's more, Christ is risen, and Christ is coming again!   So in him, be reconciled to God, and become disciples of the one true King".  That's our message and our mission.  Here at Pequea Evangelical Congregational Church, I've already seen your love and faithfulness to our King and to his message and mission, and I'm thankful that he sent me here to join the Pequea embassy staff.  Together, as we partner together and with other believers, we will bring this message to our communities in word and in deed, and we will see the mighty work of God's Spirit as he reconciles Lancaster and Chester Counties to himself, one life at a time.

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