A Tale of Two Kingdoms2 Sam 5:1-5, 9-10 & Mark 6:1-13
In our readings this morning we encounter two expressions of kingdoms, both blessed and anointed by God, but one founded on the basis of earthly power on and the other rooted firmly in the power of the Divine. It truly is a tale of two kingdoms.
Lets Pray …
For those of you who don’t know, last week Mae, the kids and I represented Emerson Ave. at the biennial Mission Summit of the American Baptist Churches, USA, the most diverse Protestant denomination in the United States. We gathered in Overland Park, KS with our ABC family from around the world: white and black; hispanic and asian; Native American and natives of the continent of Africa; all of the inhabitable continent were represented. The hues of skin in that convention center was a sight to behold – a rainbow of God’s creative power. And as beautiful as that is, our diversity is not limited to skin tone, gathered in KS were people of means sitting next to people on welfare; there were churches represented who have million dollar budgets and storefront churches with shoestring bottom lines. There were conservatives and liberals; people who hold that the Bible is the inerrant infallible word of God and people who understand the Bible to be a collection of myths; and there were heterosexuals and members of the LGBT community all gathered in that sacred space. The patchwork quilt that is the ABC-USA was fully present. Gathered to celebrate and enjoy each others company.
We saw friends we have not seen in at least two years. We rejoiced in each others company. We celebrated the work we were all doing in our respective communities. There were people I talked to who were encouraged by the work we are doing here at EABC…people I just met there, but had heard about us. Yes, people around the country are excited about the fact that we are becoming an active part in the community with the garden, with Lux Nova, with the Dance School, with the fact that we are open 7 days a week. They see that we are a small, but growing congregation. We are an example for some of how just being present, being hospitable and attentive to the needs of the community can grow a church with out spending tons of money on the next big program. We are an example of how to be church. People are paying attention to us, and more importantly – people from around the world, yes around the world, are praying for us.
But, even as we gathered and there was the air of celebration in our midst there was also something else going on. There was an air of revival in the convention center. And that air was stirring with a call for repentance. While we were in Overland Park, the Supreme Court handed down two decisions that alter the course of our nations history, and in our diversity you are right to assume that there were diverse reactions to the rulings regarding the Affordable Care Ace and Marriage Equality. Some were weeping with joy that they can not legally marry the person the love and others were mourning the fact that they feel the nation is leaving God behind. Honest emotions from both sides, both deeply held and honest.
While we were there, even as we were remembering the nine souls lost in Charleston, news was making the rounds of churches being burnt in the south, female African-American pastors receiving death threats. And in the middle of that news was the power message of the President reminding the nation of God’s Amazing Grace. All of these things brought a flood of emotions, from all over the spectrum, and in that myriad of emotions came a message that brought a sense of revival and a call to repentance.
Each speaker, preacher, named the fact that we as the ABC-USA had been brought together – in all of our diversity – for a time such a this. We have been brought together in Overland Park by the furious love of God. We have been brought together by the love of a God who in all of our diversity invites all to come and sit at the welcome table. We, in our disagreements are all ALL beloved of God and have a place in the Kingdom of God, and so a call of repentance was put forth. For us, as the ABC to repent of those things what get in the way of anyone being fully the person God intends for them to be. We seek forgiveness for our complacency in the face of such a furious love. We seek forgiveness and repent of our giving in to white supremacy, a world view that intentional or not allows for one people to say I am better than you. We seek forgiveness and repent of our failure to love people of God because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, because in the furious love of God – all are created in the image of God. We seek forgiveness and repent of our stubborn refusal to see that God’s vision for the world is so much broader and deeper than our own, and that even though we may disagree over things we are bound together by the love of a God who put on human clothes to love us even unto death.
And as these sins were named and as people began to give them to God, something happened in the convention center. I saw something I had never seen in a meeting of the ABC. I saw a fire of revival being lit. I saw people – even though they disagree theologically or politically – I saw people begin to look at the world in a new way. I saw people, myself included, begin to look at the world thorough the lens of God’s love rather than my own understanding of things. I began to ask questions that force me to always focus first on the commands of Jesus to love God and love neighbor. That is my job. That is our job. And it isn’t easy, it won’t be easy. And there are two ways it could go. A tale of two kingdoms.
The first way it can go is the way of the Kingdom of Israel. In Samuel today, we heard about the coronation of King David. We get the nice story of how the people came to him and crowned him king of Israel (he had already been king of Judah) and in this coronation the two kingdoms were united. What we don’t get is the story of how he became the king, crowned by the people. We know from a couple of weeks ago that Samuel came to him and anointed him when he was just a boy, and now, 10-15 years later he is finally being crowned, but he was crowned by the people out of fear and because they saw what happened to the Saulide line. All of Saul’s kin had been killed and the Philistine army was advancing. They knew David was a might warrior so they came and crowned him King. And the Bible says that David’s power became greater and greater and that the Lord was with him.
We know that David was a man of great faith, the power of the psalms he wrote give us witness of his deep desire to be all God wanted him to be, but we also learn that David was a man who struggled with power. He knew how to use it and many times he used it for means that would please him and and increase his power. He would use his power to kill the husband of the woman he raped when she became pregnant. He would ignore his power when it meant dealing with his rapist son. David was a mirror to our own sin and longing.
He built a great kingdom, but it wouldn’t last. Within two generations the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were once again split. The prophecies of Samuel to the people of the disingenuousness of their kings was coming true. Time and again the kings would worry about their own power and turn away from the face of the Living God. They would turn and rely on their own devices and not operate under the supreme law of Torah, to Love the Lord Your God and Love Neighbor. The loved self and put nation above love. While David was the exemplar of a Godly King, he was also the model that led to the fall of an empire because he – as we all do – split his focus on God and Self. And we see what happened, military defeats. Exile to Assyria and then Babylon. We see the line of the kings disappear into dust as first the Greeks and then the Romans over take the land of milk and honey.
And as the Romans took over the promised land, into a back water community called Bethlehem – the city of David’s birth – was born another king, in the line of David, but poor, born of an unwed teenager girl, without a place to lay his head. This king was born and heaven and earth touched. This king was born and was anointed by the waters of the Jordan and called Beloved. This king was anointed to, instead of bring power and glory to Israel, he was anointed to bring healing to the sick, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, to proclaim the year of God’s favor. This king came in and brought with him a kingdom that is still standing 2,000 years later.
Jesus ushered into the world the Kingdom of God. The ideal kingdom that God wanted for the people in the promised land all those years ago. The kingdom they turned down when they demanded a king be anointed, forsaking the King of Kings. Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, and people did not like it.
It was subversive and dirty. It touched the untouchable. It sat with the outcasts. It brought the tax collector and the zealot together at the same table. It healed the possessed. It acted in pure unadulterated love. The kingdom of God that Jesus ushered in ignored all of the rules, all of the biasses, all of the walls that people had built to separate themselves from everyone else and instead built a house of love where all could gather and eat.
And we see what happened, in his own home town he was rejected. He was told it was impossible because of where he came from – that poor woman Mary who had a baby before she was married, and that Joseph the carpenter who made stuff that was good enough for them to eat on, but was still an outcast because he did not divorce Mary. This bastard can’t be anything other than a charlatan.
Jesus, in disbelief, acted in love and said to his disciples, “well, let’s go.” He didn’t fight. He didn’t argue. He didn’t demand that they do what he says, he just said, ok, let’s move on. Because in the Kingdom of God, in the Kingdom of Love, even in disagreement seeds of resurrection are planted.
This is the second way we could go is the way of love. The way of radical, subversive love. The way that will get us accused of being race baiting, gay loving (note: in preached sermon I said queer loving in order to reflect the derogatory names we will be called for being allies. I apologize if this causes offense to any of my LGBT friends), , immigrant loving, “friends of sinners.” Dishonored our hometown because we are acting too much like Jesus, but his is the way of the Kingdom of God. This is the way of the furious love of God. Jesus never said lover the sinner hate the sin, Jesus just sat down and had dinner with friends and in that meal lives were changed. Because the love of Jesus, the love of God sees us all as friends and longs for us all to gather at the welcome table. The table of transformation of redemption of salvation. The table of love.
It is this excitement, this good news, that caused a wind of revival to blow in the Mission Summit. The wind blew across everyone in the place, regardless of race or ethnicity; sexual orientation; political allegiance; portfolio size; the wind of the Holy Spirit blew across the Mission Summit calling us to love one another as Christ loves us. Because it is in that love and only in that love that we will truly touch the Kingdom of God. It is a radical act that challenges us. It forces you and me to confront our own biases. It puts a mirror up to our own faces so we can take the splinter out of our eyes. This radical love, this furious love of God when it takes center stage is the foundation for the ongoing Kingdom of God.
When the love of God took center stage it transformed a killer of Christians into an apostle to the nations.
When the love of God took center stage it said there is no Greek or Jew, no slave or free, no male or female for we are all one in the Christ.
When the love of God took center stage it cave courage to the women in the gladiators’ arena facing their deaths with courage.
When the love of God took center stage it brought an empire to its knees and changed the creed from Caesar is Lord to Christ is Lord.
When the love of God took center stage it built a church that changed the social order and gave power to the powerless; the widow; the orphan; the minority and said you are equal.
When the love of God took center stage it blew its holy breath across the pages of scripture opening up the Word to everyone with the advent of the printing press.
When the love of God too center stage it said you don’t need to buy your way into heave, grace is free.
When the love of God took center stage it stood fast in a river in Amsterdam and claimed int he face of persecution that God loves me.
It crossed an ocean and said that religious liberty is for everyone; that slavery is evil; that women have rights; that former slaves have rights.
When the love of God took center stage it said, I have a dream that one day we will truly sing the words of that Spiritual, Free at Last Free at Last thank God almighty I am free at last.
When the love of God took center stage in Overland Park, it took what could have easily been a contentious and divisive Mission Summit and transformed it into a revival tent.
When God’s love take center stage it reminds us that Jesus’ reaction in these days when people are shot because of their skin color, churches are burned, pastors receive death threats, people are allowed to marry the person they love gay or straight – Jesus’ reaction would be to “Love your neighbor.” Love without exception. Love with your whole being. It reminds us that if we follow Jesus we love our black neighbor, our brown neighbor, our gay neighbor, our straight neighbor, our fundamentals neighbor, our atheist neighbor, our Muslim and Jewish neighbors, and even our annoying neighbors next door. It reminds us that it is our job to love and God’s to judge.
God’s love takes all of us and reminds us that through it all … in it all … each one of us is a child of God, created in the the image of God…created in the divine image of Love. Created to love with the furious love of God that envelops us all, ALL, like the winds of a typhoon. Consuming us, soaking us, redeeming us, all. ALL.
Thanks be to God.