To begin we are going to do a little activity. I am going to show you two images, and I would like you to tell me which one you like the most. Thanks it. Are you ready?
Field of flowers vs. garbage dump
100 dollars vs. 25 cents
ice cream sundae vs. overcooked peas
So, what did you notice about the selections we made? What did the things that most of us liked have in common? The things that we didn't like?
In life, we make judgement about the value of things based on their appearance, assumptions we have about those things, and our past experience with those things. For example, anyone a field of flowers is visually appealing, while a garbage dump looks ugly to us. We assuem that a piece of paper with the words 100 on it is worth much more than a round piece of metal. And anyone who has tried an ice cream sundae remembers that it tastes better than overcooked peas.
This is a normal part of life, because we have to be able to judge things quickly in order to make decisions on a daily basis. But what happens when we make those kinds of judgments about people?
This man, Tookie Williams, is an example of what happens. Before he died, he was renowned as an activist, fighting to end gang violence, and was even nominated for a noble peace prize. But do you know how he died? By execution, in a prison. Because even though he had done so much good, he was still judged by his past: as the founder of one the most notorious gangs in US history – the West side Crips. Despite many efforts to safe his life, the governor and the courts still determined that he receive the death sentence.
We are taught by our culture from a young age to judge people in the same way we judge things: by their appearance, by our assumptions about them, and by their past history. And it's no laughing matter, because it can be a matter of life or death, bringing us to the point of violence. And it is so ingrained in us that we even turn that judgment and hatred on ourselves. In 2013 along, there were more than 41,000 deaths due to suicide.
Jesus understood the seriousness of this kind of judgment of one person towards another. That's why, when he heard the Pharisees calling the people he had gathered with “sinners” that he shouldn't even associate with, he made such a strong response.
The story in today's gospel flies in the face of everything the Pharisees were teaching, and all of the assumptions and judgments that we make about others and ourselves. By society's standards, the younger son should have been written off well before the story ended. He had already disprespected his father by asking for an earlier inheritance. Then he abandoned his family responsibilities and ran off to spend all of the money on himself.
But Jesus flips the narrative around from what we should expect, and instead of condemning and disowning his son, and father welcomes him back with rejoicing and celebration. The older son doesn't understand – based on what he's done, that son should be worthless to you! But Jesus drives his point home with the father's answer “my son was lost and now is found”. In other words “what he did doesn't matter; it's the fact that he came back to me that makes all the difference”.
Jesus' is essential telling the pharisees, who loved to judge others as “sinners” who are less worthy than themselves, that appearances and past actions aren't what matter; it's the fact that the so called “sinners” around him have turned their lives to God that makes them his beloved children, just as much as the most devote priest.
This is a message of hope for us. No matter what we've done, or how we've been classified, or what we look like, we are beloved and chosen by Jesus – our value is just as great as that of the pope himself. We can live in the freedom of that knowledge of love and forgive ourselves of the ways we may have messed up in the past, because God does not judge us on the past at all.
And this is a message of challenge – for us to examine the way WE judge others, and work to create a world that values people not by human standards, but by Jesus' standards. This is an urgent need. Does anyone recognize this man? He is extremely popular right now, specifically because he makes negative judgments about all kinds of people, inviting his followers to demonize others based on race, class, and gender. That kind of mentality will only lead to violence and destruction. The world NEEDS a counter-narrative to the voices like Donald Trump that are so strong and prevalent right now. The world needs to hear the voice of Jesus, that greets the most judged, people like Tookie Williams, as his beloved children. We are the ones who must share that message, and practice it wherever we find ourselves.
How do you judge yourself and other based on appearance, assumptions, or past actions?
How can we shift the way we judge someones value? How can we value people based on Jesus' standards instead?
Suffering. Guilt. Pain. Death. These have for so long been the first things I think of when I hear the word “Lent”. “A time to shame ourselves for how terrible we are”, was my basic understanding of this season for most of my life.
Does this sound familiar to anyone else? I think Lent has been officially labeled the biggest downer of the year. And why is it so darn long? In our lives, we already have to face so many challenges; feelings of regret and shame; depression and hardship. Why on Earth do we need to chastise ourselves even harder for 40 days straight?
What I want to say to you today, is that Lent is not actually about ANY of those things I just mentioned. Instead, it is about one thing: TRANSFORMATION.
In the gospel today, Jesus gives very specific instructions about how to pray, how to fast, and how to give alms. But behind all the detail of his instructions, there is one central purpose. He is calling them back from a life centered on themselves, to a life centered on each other.
Between heavy taxes enforced by the Romans, and demands for tribute and sacrifice from the religious elites, the people of Israel were under extreme financial pressure. Under all this pressure, people had abandoned the values and teachings that they had inherited from their ancestors, and had adopted an “every man for himself” attitude. Everyone was trying to get a one up on everyone else, even to the point of trying to prove something by how well they prayed, how much money they gave to beggars, or how long they fasted. These practices, which had originally been created as a means to benefit the whole community, had been turned into a means of self-promotion.
But Jesus saw this, and he cut through all of it and instructed his followers to the opposite; in essence, to turn their behavior around. Instead of make a big deal about how great they were, so they could get social and economic benefits, he told them to do things in secret, so that it COULDN'T be about themselves – it could only be about God and others. And at the end, he laid out for them a clear vision of what a fully restored and healed community would look like: one where everyone had enough bread to each; people forgave each other's debts; and instead of bring each other to judgment, they would treat each other with love and generosity.
In a moment, we will come forward to receive ashes on our foreheads. But the ashes aren't just something we do every year, because we are “supposed to”. They are a reminder of our own impermanence, that the selves we work so hard to serve and promote will one day return to the earth from which we came, and provide nutrients to the soil, so new life can be born. This lent, I challenge you to forget about all of that guilt, shame, and suffering stuff, and reflect on the prayer Jesus taught us. Rather than looking out for ourselves, how can we look out for each other? How can we make it so that others around us have enough to eat? That they can be free from debt? How can we stop judging and condemning others, and begin to embrace each other with love?
It is only by shifting our focus from inward to outward that we can truly be freed from the guilt, shame, pain, or regret that can bind us and limit us. In teaching us to love each other, Jesus shows us how we can truly be free. Amen.
21 Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 23 He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.”’ 24 And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers[a] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Have you ever NOT received something you felt entitled to? When I was in boy scouts (yes, I was a boy scout), each time our troop met, we had to do the pledge of allegance to the United States flag. Each time, one of us got to hold the flag during the pledge and lead the pledge; this was considered a great honor, and we each had our turn to do it. When my turn came up, I was so excited. But as soon as the flag was in my hand, before I had a chance to say a word, everyone just started saying the pledge on their own. I was so mad, I almost threw the flag on the ground. That was my chance to lead the pledge! I was entitled to MY turn!
Maybe you have had an experience like this. Turn to your neighbor and share with them a time you didn't get something you felt entitled to.
Not getting what we feel like we deserve can be a frustrating experience. But we usually don't even notice when we DO get something we feel like we deserve; we just take it for granted. But as nice as it may feel to get what we feel we deserve, there is a big drawback to it: we lose touch with how it feels to be on the other side of that, to be the “un-entitled”. Think about it – if I went to Starbucks ever day and they handed me a free latte, I would come to expect it. And if it happened every time from the first time I ever walked into a Starbucks, I wouldn't even think about it. It would be so normal to me that I wouldn't even understand what it was like for all of the other customers, who always paid for their coffee, and had to watch me walk in and get a free latte without a second thought.
The people in Jesus' hometown were like a whole village that had been getting free Starbucks for generations. They were Israelites, the “people of Yahweh” – and they believed they were entitled to God's preference because they had inherited it. So when Jesus shows up and proclaims that HE is the one to fulfill God's promise, their immediate response is, “hey, this is great for us! We're gonna get double the special treatment, because the Messiah is from our hometown! I can't wait til the good stuff starts coming in...”
But Jesus quickly checks them. He quotes two stories of where God came directly to the help of foreigners and non-Jews INSTEAD OF helping the Israelites. He basically says, “you aren't special, God has called me to ALL people”.
After that, things went downhill pretty fast. The Nazarenes were so shocked and angered by the idea that they didn't deserve special treatment over others that they almost threw Jesus off of a cliff. They were so out of touch with what it would be like to be without God's special entitlement that they couldn't even process it – instead they responded with rage.
So, an easy question to ask would be, “who are the Nazarenes of today, the entitled ones?” I can bet that you can all name off the top of your head at least three people or groups who you immediately think “of my gosh, yes” about, people of privilege or power who don't get what it's like to be “un-entitled”. But the harder question to ask is, where do we find ourselves being like the Nazarenes? What do we take for granted as what we deserve, and how are we ignorant of what it's like to not be part of the “un-entitled group”?
I think there is one group of people today that can relate to those Nazarenes looking for special treatment from Jesus, and many of us in this room are a part of it: that group is called “church people” - folks who consider themselves to be Christian or Catholic and are regularly involved in a church. Think about it – “church people” can often be the biggest barrier to Jesus' message reaching the world around us. Take this example: on oakwood street in Melvindale there is a church sign that reads “where death finds you, eternity will keep you”. The message behind that sign is fairly clear - we have what you need to get to heaven, and we are SO confident that we are in the right and already have God's blessing, that we are judging anyone who isn't part of our group as needing to get to work and shape up quick.
This is an extreme example, but I have encountered no church group that is not at least somewhat guilty of this attitude. Time and again, friends who aren't part of church have told me about the subtle ways in which church folk talk down about and to people of other faiths or, especially, the non-religious – as if they are the lost ones, and need to get what people in church already have. And can you imagine how church people would react if Jesus showed up at their churches, called them arrogant and entitled, and said that they aren't deserving of any special treatment more than the guy who sits at home and watches netflix on a sunday morning? It might not end on the edge of a cliff, but I could imagine the pastor throwing Jesus out on the street! So, for those of us who feel we are a part of this “church” that Jesus founded, his words to the Nazarenes are like throwing a glass of cold water in our faces and telling us to “wake up!” and check ourselves.
That's my two bits. So I ask you,
1) Where do YOU find yourself being like the Nazarenes, taking for granted something you receive as something you deserve?
2) AND, where do you see God showing a love that is about grace rather than entitlement in the world around you? How can you more fully embrace that kind of love and let go of entitlement?
Have you ever had your “five minutes of fame”? There is this saying that says everybody, at some point in their life, get's their five minutes of fame – that is to say, their moment in the spotlight when they are at the center of things, when they are important and the world is looking at them. An example would be when Meghan's brother was invited to a hockey cup party with the Red Wings. He met some of the most famous hockey players of all time, and even got to hold the Stanley Cup.
Have you ever had a 5-minutes of fame experience? Turn to someone next to you and tell them about a time that you have, or almost have.
The reason that having 5 minutes a fame is such a big deal is because most of us spend our lives outside of the spotlight and the center of things. We rarely have a chance to be the main focal point, and even more rarely feel like what we say or do has any impact on the larger society, culture, or government. We see the people who are at the center of things – movie stars, politicians, CEOs of big companies – as almost untouchable super-people that have more influence than we can even imagine having.
But here's the shocker; according to Jesus, WE are more important and have more power and influence that those people! How could THAT be?! You might ask.
Let's look at what Jesus does in the gospel today. He has just finished fasting in the wilderness for 40 days, and has returned to civilization to begin his ministry. Jesus' mission was to challenge the very centers of power – the religious elites and Roman leaders that supported them. He intended to call them out for the way they were abusing and using the common people for their own benefit.
So where did he go? Did he march to the temple, the center of the religious leader's power, and the seat of all political, economic, and social life for the Jewish people? No. Instead, he did the opposite. He went to the synagogues. Who here has ever seen a synagogue? Can you tell me what it was like?
So, today, synagogues are thought of in the same way as churches of today – as buildings where people gather for religious worship. But like the early church, the synagogues of Jesus' day were quite different. A synagogue actually referred to the gathering of people in a Jewish village or town, not a building. The synagogues would gather once or more a week, for prayer and reading scripture, but also to discuss important business and political issues for the town, as well as pass legal judgments. It was really the center of life in the villages where farming families made a subsistence living off of the land. If the religious leaders and Romans were like the Tom Cruzes and Donald Trumps of today, then the people in the synagogues were more like the people gathered in this room, except much more on the fringes of things. They were the most effected by the decisions made by people in the power centers, and were suffering more and more because of the taxes and offerings that the wealthy leaders were demanding of them. But, in the Roman system, they had no say at all in decision making beyond their own town politics. Have you heard the phrase “no taxation without representation” from the American revolution? Well, taxation without representation was an unquestioned norm in Jesus' time, and the ones who suffered most from it were the rural working peoples of the villages. These folks never even had 5 seconds of fame, and would never have thought of themselves as significant in creating a change in the political structures that so deeply influenced their lives.
But then Jesus stepped in and started preaching a different message. He strolled into the local synagogue of his hometown, a po-dunk little village called Nazareth which was basically a dusty pit-stop on the road to the coast. He proclaimed that is was to the people in that synagogue, and the synagogues of the other villages he was preaching in, that the good news of God's liberation of people from poverty and exploitation was to begin taking place. No wonder everyone stared at him! What did they have to do with God creating a whole new kingdom, a new power structure for all the people of Israel?
You see, Jesus believed in a concept that is still in practice today, among many of those who fight for justice and change. It is called “organizing from the margins”. This principle assumes that it is actually not the appointed powerholders but the people most impacted by political decisions who are the most important to making society and political systems change. Jesus' message was simple, yet very intense: God was calling those marginalized people from the villages to be the crucial leaders in what his Son was about to do – to challenge the very foundations of power in the Roman Empire.
If that was Jesus message then, how does it translate to now? Could the Nazareth of Michigan be Southwest Detroit? We have to admit, we are literally as far on the fringes of the power centers as we can be – on the edge of the city, 5 miles from city hall, Over 100 miles from the capital, in the most polluted zip code in the state. Its pretty difficult to image residence of southwest as making things change downtown in the mayor's office, let along in the state capital where governor Snyder is in charge.
But if we really take Jesus seriously, that is exactly what he is saying. We are the ones God is calling to change the very foundations of the political system that is polluting our air, poisoning children in Flint, and developing Detroit and other cities like it in favor of big business instead of local residents. We are the ones that Jesus' wants at the for-front of changing all of that.
QUESTIONS: So let me ask you, if you live in Southwest Detroit, what does it mean for YOU that GOD is calling US to be at the forefront of changing the realities that negatively impact our community and communities across Michigan? And if you aren't a resident of Southwest Detroit, how is God calling you to get behind what He is already doing through the residents of Southwest Detroit and neighborhoods like it who are on the fringes of power in our city and state?
Who has authority over you? Early in our lives, we share a common authority figure: our parents. Parents express authority in different ways. mine rarely yelled or threatened consequences if I didn't do what they told me, but I knew well enough that there WERE consequences if I disobeyed, and that kept me in line. I remember one time I was in a store with my Dad, and he tripped over my foot. Thinking I had done it on purpose, he looked me in the eye and said quietly, “don't you ever do that to me, especially in public”. I wanted to say “but I didn't mean to”, but decided I should just say sorry and keep my mouth shut.
In the gospel today, we heard the story of the three wise men coming to see Jesus, the one we know as the story of Three Kings Day. But I believe that this story is really about authority, and it raises the question of who really has authority over our lives. As adults, it might seem that we are our own authorities, that we are free to do what we please. But even as adults, there are people we have to answer to, who have power over us. They might be our employers; our teachers at school; they could be the people we are in debt to; or our religious leaders: priests, pastors, rabbis, or imams. Who are the people who hold some authority over you? Who, if they asked you to do something, would you have to at least think twice before answering “no”?
Having authorities figures is not necessarily a bad thing. The challenge comes when the demands of authority and our own values come into conflict. What if an authority figure asked you to do something that would harm another person? Or if they asked you not to do something that could help another person in need?
The wise men were caught in a situation like that, pulled between two authorities. One authority was Herod, the governor of the region in which they were traveling. He commanded them to find Jesus, the “king of the Jews”, then return to tell him where Jesus was. What Herod didn't tell them is that he intended to then send someone to kill Jesus. As the one prophecied to be the Messiah, Jesus was a rival ruler and a threat to Herod's power. He wanted to exterminate anyone that could call into question his absolute authority.
But thankfully for Jesus, the wise men didn't only answer to Herod's authority. After they came to see Jesus, God spoke to them in a dream, telling them not to return to Herod. It appears that the decision was quick for the wise men, even though they knew that Herod might punish them, even seek them out and kill them for not coming back. For the wise men, any consequence that came from disobeying Herod's authority was nothing compared to the consequence of ignoring God's command.
We know, like the wise men, that disobeying human authorities is not an easy thing; there are real risks involved. This week, Meghan and I went to a community forum about a permit application that would allow the marathon oil refinery to increase the amount of pollution it is putting into our air. The people from the state government who are in charge of allowing or rejected this listened for hours as residents pleaded with them, asking them not to destroy their lungs and the health of their children. But the people from the state said nothing, and it looks like they will probably allow this plan to move forward. Why? Because their authority, the legislator of Michigan, is requiring them to approve the permit allowing marathon to increase pollution. If they reject the permit, it could mean that they lose their jobs and get banned from ever working in the state government again.
So what can we do in the face of authorities that demand we submit to them or risk losing the things that give us a sense of safety and security? This is where faith comes in – the kind of faith the wise men had. Alone, we cannot stand against the human authorities around us. Our only hope is an authority that is greater than those authorities, an authority that overrules every unjust or immoral action or inaction that human powers push us to take. That authority is God. If we believe he is real and his power is real, there is no power on earth that can control us or tell us what to do. Accepting God as our ultimate authority is the truest freedom we could ever have.
I ask you to consider, where do you feel torn between following the demands of an authority in your life, and doing what you know is right? How can turning to God as the ultimate authority help you as you choose what to do?
Tired feet, a pounding headache from eating too much sugar, and a swell of pride as I looked over a floor covered with hundreds of bright colored wrappers. Those are some of my most vivid memories of Halloween as a child. They are fond memories of times running around the neighborhood with friends. But if you had asked me what the point was of all that running around for candy, I would have shrugged and ripped off another wrapper.
To my surprise, I learned as an adult that Halloween had once never had anything to do with door knocking or sugar rushes. My ancestors of long ago celebrated it as a time when the spirits of family and friends who had died would come back to visit the living, somewhat like the Mexican Day of the Dead. It was an opportunity to recognize the life and wisdom of those who had gone before us, and hear God speak to us through their legacy. How the heck did we go from that to it being the day to worship the holy trinity of Nestle, Hersheys, and Mars?
Mark 13:1-2 - "As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."
Jesus probably didn't eat candy bars, but he would have understood the Halloween dilemma. The temple, the place considered to be most holy and closest to God by the Jews of his time, had been taken over by the Romans and the religious leaders and transformed from a holy sanctuary into a money making machine for Rome and its leaders. The big, beautiful buildings of the temple were sponsored by the Roman governor Herod, who, in exchange for financing its construction, slapped a giant Roman eagle to the front of the Temple.
Jesus, however, was not fooled by the seemingly unbreakable power of the all-mighty dollar. he predicted the complete destruction of the temple, which did take place some 70 years after his death. But, rather than it being an end to the faith that the temple originally stood for, Jesus predicted that the destruction of the temple would be the beginning of God's reign come to earth.
It seems pretty clear that Halloween is at this point not much more than a holiday of the candy corporations. In our neighborhood, Day of the Dead is being encroached on too by those who see the opportunity to make profit off of culture. But Jesus tells us that the roots of culture and faith behind these celebrations are far more lasting than any business interest. candy and costume companies will come and go, but God, and the spirit of those who went before us, remain. How can we listen to that low, ongoing voice of God and our ancestors amidst the loud but short-lived cries of worship to the idol of cash?
I have a vivid memory from my grade school textbook of a picture depicting the arrival of Columbus to the Americas, featuring Columbus shaking hands with a man wearing a head-dress. It told a clear story; this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the Europeans and peoples of the Americas. It wasn't until I became an adult that I learned the true story - that that first meeting was the beginning of the massacre and enslavement of entire nations of people.
From Luke 1: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High...He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
Cesar Augustus was emperor of Rome at the time Jesus' was born. He was known not just as a man, but "a son of the most high", whose kingdom would "bring peace to the nations". In reality, he brought "peace" by subduing weaker nations, enslaving their people, and exploiting their resources. The early church tells a story that is subversive to the Cesar story, about Jesus. He would be the Son of God who would "brings down the powerful from their thrones, lift up the lowly, fill the hungry with good things, and send the rich away empty" (from Luke 1).
Indigenous People's Day is an effort to shift the dominant narrative in the United States, from one that glorifies white power to one that lifts up the power of colonized peoples. How can the church's resistance to the Roman narrative through Jesus inform our efforts today to change our nation's narrative?
- written by John Cummings, Pastor of Grace in Action
"I know I had planned to stay here til I died" This statement came from a senior citizen who lived in what is now the new "Albert", a renovated high rise in Downtown Detroit that once housed seniors on social security. Now it is full of luxury apartments, and is home to young professionals moving into the downtown area. The seniors were evicted a little over a year ago. "Everyone's getting monetary value out of what's costing us our lives".
MARK 10:21-31 ....21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had much property.
I couldn't help but think of the former residents of the Albert when I read this story from the bible this week. This man who had "much property" had almost certainly gained it at the expense of peasants - rural farmers who were indebted and forced to give over their land to him. Jesus tells him that, to enter God's kingdom, he must give back the property he had unjustly taken.
The early followers of Jesus didn't believe in private ownership. They sold their land and possessions and distributed the earnings to all who had need (see Acts 2). Those who have power to decide Detroit's future are those that hold the land. What if the people of Detroit took the land back? What if Detroit residents decided the future of a place like The Albert, instead of corporate developers?
This week's post by John Cummings, Pastor of Grace in Action
Greetings Grace in Action community, and welcome to the first ever Grace in Action Blog Post.
Our topic this week: HOPE. Hope is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” But in a life where the presence of what IS happening can be overwhelming, and require all of our energy, what is the point of worrying about something that COULD be?
About a month ago, a group of local organizers and community members were fighting like mad to keep a father of two young children from being deported and separated from his family. Phone calls were made. Rallies were held. Petitions were submitted. But at the end of the day, he was still deported back to his home country, and his wife and kids were left on their own, to fend for themselves.
When our best efforts end in failure, how can we imagine that things could be different? How can we continue to have hope?
The first followers of Jesus understood this question as well as anyone today, if not better. Their people had been under the oppressive thumb of the Roman Empire for generations. When their leader, Jesus, began speaking out and openly defying the Romans and the religious leaders, he was put to death on a cross for treason. When they tried to continue the movement Jesus started, they were imprisoned, stoned, and crucified as well.
But somehow, against all logic, these followers of Jesus didn't give up, or lose momentum, but grew and became more powerful. How could that possibly be?
9 ‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
In this early version of what we know now as the Lord's Prayer, Jesus lays out this “coming kingdom” in clear words to his followers: 1)Each day, they would receive the food they needed to live that day, 2) the financial debts that kept them working like slaves would be forgiven, and they would forgive their debtors, 3) they would be saved from going to trial before the imperial powers of Cesar.
In it's first form, the Lord's Prayer gave a very concrete image of hope – hope for how things could be when God's governance was put in place. For Jesus' followers, this kingdom was not some vision of the afterlife – it was something they believed could really happen in their own lifetime: a society where everyone had enough to eat, debts were forgiven, and persecution would cease.
If Jesus' disciples found hope in the midst of struggle through this vision of the kingdom he taught them, what is the vision God gives to us today? What does that future “kingdom” look like to you? And how does it help us to face the challenges of what IS really happening in our world right now?
- This week's post written by John Cummings, Pastor of Grace in Action