Thursday, February 24, 2011

February 27, Proper 3, "I Just Want to Do God's Will"

Isaiah 49:8-16, Psalm 131, 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, Matthew 6:24-34

Why did you come here today? What do you want? I know what I want. I just want to do God’s will. More or less. Oh, and in ten years or so I’d like to have safe and secure retirement. I’d like to not worry about anything. And I’d also like to live a long life. "Longevity has its place."

What do you want? Personal health and happiness. Well-being. How do you get it? Can you guarantee a good life for yourself? A good job? Good pay? Good benefits? A good pension? Good investments? Home ownership? This is the kind of wealth that Jesus means in verse 24, what “mammon” means in the old translations. Not the wealth of the rich but ordinary people who are planning their finances to insure their security and their comfort. Of people like me.

So I am challenged by this gospel no less than I am comforted by it. As usual. It always does both simultaneously, it comforts and it challenges. It challenges my strategies for my comfort. It questions my patterns of control. How much can I really control my life? Who is in control? What of my life should I surrender my control of? And to whom? Do I dare surrender some of my control to you, the Christian community, this village in the Kingdom of Heaven, when I think I know more than you do? Do I surrender my control to God, when I can see so much evidence that while God may feed the birds of the air there are millions of people who are underfed.

“Do not worry about anything.” Telling an anxious person not to be anxious is useless. Telling a hungry person that God feeds the birds is an insult. Think how challenging this was to Jesus’ initial audience. Someone who’s got to go home after this and find some food for her kids, or cook a meal for her mother-in-law, or take out another loan to buy seed for this year’s crops.

There’s a lot of surplus in this gospel. There’s a lot left unresolved by what Jesus says. You could extend his metaphors to contradict him. You could find lots of examples to counter him and easily offer reasons to dispute him. Which would be pleasing because it would keep you in control. You protect yourself and your way of life against the challenge that Jesus offers here.

You need to consider this gospel as an invitation. Jesus invites you to come inside his kingdom. He invites you to live inside this village with its way of life. He invites you to the choice of serving God. You will accept his invitation, and then you will be tempted to think you can serve God and also keep control of your own security and comfort, but you’ll find you can’t do both, you’ll hate the one and not the other, and so to accept his invitation to live inside his kingdom means you have to look at your own wealth, your own middle class wealth, as like birdseed, and your security as like wildflowers, which flourish and are gone, and your comfort as nothing you own but as a mystery of which you are a steward, your own life as not your own but as a mystery you are a steward of. Do you want that? Can you abide that? That’s what it means to live inside this kingdom, that is the lifestyle of this village. He’s inviting you to make his Kingdom the priority of your life, the medium through which you get your other benefits, the medium of all your pleasures and your comforts and even your security.

Yes, choose it, yes, accept the invitation. You will find here glories and pleasures that are closed off to you when you seek your comfort on your own. You will find freedoms and liberties from which you are excluded when you seek your own control. All these things will be added unto you when you seek first the kingdom, and its righteousness. Not the things you wanted from on the outside, but the things you learn of from the inside, as the kingdom has its way with you, and you learn the lay the promised land, and you learn to speak its dialect, and you learn to use its currency. “Oh, these are the benefits of its citizenship. I didn’t know. But now I see.”

The old translation was better. Not “strive for the kingdom,” that’s not what the Greek word means, but “seek the kingdom,” seek it out, seek to find, like hide and seek, seek to see, to notice and discover. It’s not about striving and exertion, it’s about seeing and receiving, or finding and learning, it’s not about achieving but giving in, surrendering, coming in from the cold, coming in like an immigrant, a refugee, except that the frontier is in yourself, because this kingdom claims the whole territory of the world. The kingdom of heaven is come on earth, can you see it? Be as humble as a sparrow to receive it, and as free.

There’s a further invitation here as well. Not just to enter it, but to exhibit it. To serve it, to share it, to develop it, to flourish within it. Jesus calls us not to passivity but to activity, activity free from anxiety because it is free from our own self-control, it is free from anxiety because we acknowledge that our own lives are mysteries even to ourselves, and yet that we are stewards of the mysteries of our lives which are fully known to God, which means we can rest in his Lordship and control, and live our lives in freedom and creativity and beauty. In doing his will.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We pray that every day. The Lord’s Prayer comes in Matthew 6, just a few verses before the gospel we read today. The Lord’s Prayer is at the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, it’s the high point that it rises to and comes down from. Our gospel lesson is an implication and application of the prayer. You can pray the prayer because your Father in heaven knows you need these things. The birds get their daily food from God, so Give us this day our daily bread. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, so that we not be anxious about anything. You can manage to live the sermon by praying the prayer.

You pray the prayer to live the sermon, because living it means depending so on God, and God invites your dependence. God tells you that if you accept the invitation to live this way, God will supply you with what you need to do it. It will not be what the world thinks you need, and you will hear voices that tempt you to those other sorts of comfort and control, but God will be with you as you pray the prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is the mountaintop of the sermon on the mount. When you pray that prayer, you can open your eyes, and look out on the promised land like Moses did, when you’re praying that prayer you can see the kingdom you are seeking.

So here’s the take home. To seek the kingdom is to do God’s will. To do God’s will is to see what God is doing and to do it too. To see God’s will is to learn the kingdom, and to learn the kingdom is to find out what God’s will is. God’s will is a whole way of life, a way of living in a village, a community of Jesus, which gives witness and healing to the community around it. To seek the kingdom is to see what God is doing and to do it too. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

[From MLK’s last speech:] “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Copyright © 2011, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Renewing the Chandelier

Old First has this magnificent chandelier. We lowered it a couple weeks ago (a complicated process requiring steel cables, a geared windlass, and a number of ropes) in order to clean it and change the bulbs. Then we built scaffolding around it in order to reach its higher parts. Working in these pictures are Michael, Daniel, Rachel, William, and Christina. Photos are by William and Michael.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February 20, Proper 2, Gleaning, Love, and Deacons

Note: This sermon speaks of two men, who because of my wife, became very important in my life. They were flawed, but yet better men than me. I loved them and they loved me, for which I will be always grateful.

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18, Psalm 119:33-40, 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23, Matthew 5:38-48

My father-in-law Phillip Takken died five years and five days ago in Hudsonville, Michigan. I loved him and he loved me, though he blamed me for his daughter liking to live in Brooklyn. His life’s work was a baby clothes factory in Grand Rapids. He wasn’t the owner, but he was the vice president in charge of production, and over thirty years he brought that factory from twenty operators to four hundred. He didn’t like labor unions, so he gave his employees better conditions and benefits than a union could bargain for. He gave jobs to Viet Nam refugees, and they worked hard for him. He got licenses from the Smurfs and Disney and the NFL and they churned out the sleepers and pajamas by the truckload. One day the owners informed him that they had sold the factory to a conglomerate. A few weeks later he was told the factory was being closed down. They had been bought to get their licenses and then be taken out of production. My father-in-law had to lay off every one of the four hundred workers he had hired over the years and close down the production he had given his life to. The owners walked away with buckets of money. My father-in-law prized loyalty, and he said, “Well, it’s all about the bottom line.”

But in the kingdom of heaven that’s not the bottom line. It’s a top line, it’s a superficial line, it’s a line in the breeze, it’s the conventional wisdom. It’s not the wisdom of God nor the law of God. The real bottom line is the love of neighbor as yourself. I don’t mean love as feeling or affection but actions and practices, even when they cost you or reduce your profits.

Jesus is not talking about charity or generosity. Those things are great, but they are voluntary. He’s talking about something obligatory. It’s obligatory not as a burden but as an attitude in tune with the very deep structures of creation as God designed it. The other mammals have the bottom lines of their appetites or their rank within the herd or their survival. But to choose against your natural appetites and your self-interest in order to love your neighbor is what makes you a human being as God designed you. That’s not charity, that’s actually in keeping with the hard realities of the world, although we keep fooling ourselves against it with our pretended wisdom of the world.

My father-in-law’s father-in-law, that is, my wife’s maternal grandfather, Gerrit Boldt, was a very successful farmer. He grew carrots on forty acres of muck in Grant, Michigan. Muck is black dirt, very fine and fragile; it’s what remains when you drain a swamp. Grandpa Boldt told us once that he was losing a foot of soil a year to erosion from the wind. He told us the main reason was that they had cut down all the trees along the edges of the fields. They had done this to make it easier to turn around their tractors and get a few more rows of crops. But when they cut down the trees they lost the birds who ate the bugs, and they had to start using lots of insecticide, which burned the soil and made it powdery and dry, and as there were no more trees to break the wind, the soil just blew away.

When Leviticus talks about not reaping to the edges of the field, it’s representing the deeper laws of existence, which we think we can ignore, but only for so long. When Leviticus talks about loving your neighbor as yourself and Jesus adds to even love your enemy, they’re telling us the deep laws of existence that we keep ignoring at our peril. The kingdom of heaven is not come on earth to lift us away from real existence, but to bring us back to reality, to get us back into harmony with the deepest structures of creation, the only source of true and lasting prosperity, the great shalom under the great and arching firmament of the sovereignty of God.

People fear that this kind of life will reduce them or disempower them. But if you work out what Jesus says about turning the other cheek, you see that it’s the opposite of that. He most certainly says to not strike back if someone strikes you first. But notice he does not say to roll over. He does not say submit. He says to offer up the other cheek. “Did you call me Roy?” To offer up the other cheek communicates something like, “I don’t believe you hit me,” which the striker might read as “I dare you to hit me again,” and he might think, “Only this time harder.” It takes the power of great self-discipline to act this way. It takes greater courage to turn the other cheek than to strike back, it takes more courage to be non-violent than violent in your resistance to abuse, and you will be tempted to listen to those voices that tell you its less realistic. But Jesus is following Leviticus to call you to the deeper structures of reality, and the long term vision, that “the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice,” because it is the will of God.

You need to learn this, because you will have enemies. Especially if you live by love. Do you get that? People seem to think that Christians should have no enemies. But it’s the following of Jesus that will make you enemies. The world resists the holiness of God. But if Jesus loved his enemies who are we who wear his name to do otherwise? Do you want a miracle? Love your enemies. Do you want to work a miracle? It’s easy. Love your enemies. I believe in miracles.

Of course what he calls you to also depends on your having neighbors like yourself who in turn look out for you, who join in your cause, and join you and support you in your obedience. His ethic is not an ethic for heroic individuals, but an ethic for a community of love. It’s an ethic of holiness, because of the holiness of God, and this is the holiness which God requires of us. God says that a village in the Kingdom of Heaven is holy when we consider the fortunes of our neighbors to be essential to the fortunes of ourselves. And who is your neighbor? Well, since this Kingdom claims the whole territory of the world, that means even our enemies are our neighbors. Even your enemy belongs to God, and is therefore holy to you. It doesn’t matter how you feel about them, but what you owe them. You know that’s true, to the deepest structures of the world.

And so we have deacons in the church. They lead us in our intercessory prayers, not only for our own community, not only for the poor and the needy, but also for our enemies. And after they lead us in the offering of our prayers, they lead us in the offering of our money. They collect our money and they count it, and while they may spend most of our money on our own community, they have to make sure that the gleanings and corners of our money go the poor and the aliens, because “God is the Lord.” How large will they make the edges of our fields? How many grapes will they purposely let fall to the ground? You can support them. You can support the deacons by going the second mile with them, and by not refusing them when they beg you for your money.

Jesus got it from Leviticus, that we love our neighbors as ourselves. Yes, it means we have to love ourselves. There is great self-love implied in the command to stand up to the evils and injustice done against you, there is self-respect required in the expectation of self-discipline and self-control. But to love your neighbor as yourself also requires you to treat your neighbor with the same indulgence that you always give yourself. You know how you understand yourself in the best possible light even when you do wrong? Indulge your neighbor as you do yourself. It doesn’t mean to take your enemy’s violence lying down, but it does mean to understand your enemy as you desire to be understood.

This all means that we don’t believe that evil is built into the universe. It means we believe that evil is temporary, and passing, and should never be invested in or given more credit than it deserves. It means to believe that the victory of God is inevitable. It means we believe that we are called to holiness, not a holiness that we can earn or have to earn, indeed, we are holy even in humble repentance, because our holiness is a gift that absorb by having a holy God among us. And God promises to be among us, because God loves us.

Copyright © 2011, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

February 13, Proper 1, Elders Choosing Life: On the Ordination of New Elders at Old First

Deuteronomy 30:14-20, Psalm 119:1-8, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Matthew 5:21-37
"Choose life.” Deuteronomy 30:19. Keep choosing life. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, choice after choice, judgment after judgment. By many small choices and judgments. But how do you know what to choose?

The paradigm case is Adam and Eve. God had given them a daily choice for life and not for death. Their choice was between two trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They could know the difference between good and evil by trusting in God’s commandment to eat from the first and not from the second.
Not that the fruit of the second was evil or poison; it was good and lovely, and I’m sure other creatures ate it with no problem, but for Adam, God had commanded against it. And so every day Adam had to walk past that tree and choose against his natural appetites and choose for God’s commandment. He had to exercise his judgment and his trust in God, even against his natural appetite, which no other creatures have to do, and to choose against it day after day is what made him and kept him a human being. He had to keep choosing life according to the words of God.

That story is at the beginning of the Torah, the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses, and at the far other end, like the other foot of a rainbow, is our lesson from Deuteronomy 30, from the very last speech that Moses gave the Children of Israel, just before they entered the Promised Land. It was for these people (and their parents) that the story of Adam and Eve was first recorded, because they will need it on this occasion. The Promised Land is their own Garden of Eden, and the Laws of Moses are an expanded version of the commandment of the trees. Every day they have to keep on choosing life by choosing to trust God and obey. And their doom will be the same as Adam’s if they make the same kind of choices.

The Children of Israel move into the Promised Land in order to “set forth a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” so to speak, because all men and women are equally in the image of God. This new nation is quite literally the Kingdom of God, the only nation in the world without a human king. Its only king is God, so this new nation is, quite literally, “thy Kingdom come, on earth, as it is in heaven.”

As they enter the Promised Land, God is giving them responsibility, they’re given responsibility to develop a culture and an economy. They’ll have to make many choices. They’ll have options and possibilities, and many temptations to do it like the other nations do. How will they know what to choose? Short answer: follow the instructions. Do you want God’s blessing? Follow the instructions. Don’t pray for God’s blessing if you’re not following God’s instructions. God doesn’t play games with us, God is straightforward and rather pragmatic. The blessings come from following the instructions, which for Israel, as a political unit, take the form of laws and decrees and ordinances. They describe a way of life. They are the gift of God that calls us to maturity and responsibility. There needs to be at least a little bit of Jewishness in every Christian.

The Laws of Moses left room for judgment calls. How do you apply it here, how do you apply it there, especially as the centuries wore on and the culture developed new situations that were unknown in Moses’ day. The scribes and pharisees dealt with this by ever more detailed applications—where this law counted here for this and but did not count there for that, which Jesus touched on in our gospel lesson. As if you could keep it perfectly by being scrupulous with the precise details. As if you could escape the risk of making judgment calls. Jesus has a very different strategy: he makes it a matter of your heart. Every law always counts every where; not one of them shall ever pass away. But what they count for is your conscience, and your freedom, and your love. Every law always convicts you and every law guides you and every law inspires you. For Jesus the law is the means and not the goal. The goal is life, abundant life, and the goal is love, the love of God.

What Jesus began, the Apostles continued. It was their well-considered decision that the Law of Moses was not binding on the church. What is binding on the church is the Lordship of Jesus. The way that we choose for life is by choosing for him. We cleave to him, we bind ourselves to him, we put our trust in him. We obey him, not as a letter, but as a living Lord. That kind of choosing is harder to define than doing it by the law, but it’s also more personal, and it brings us closer to God. We go so far as to bind ourselves to strong name of the Holy Trinity.

So you, yourself, as an individual believer, are wonderfully empowered and responsible. You are responsible to make judgment calls and daily choices, week after week, year after year. You have the word of God to inspire you and guide you. Not just the law, but also the prophets. And the gospels, and the epistles. Every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. And all these words are made so easily available. Not in secret codes, not in priestly mysteries, but in this book, this book that children read. So many of the words in here are sweet and wonderful and as obvious as Mother Goose. So many of the words in here are challenging and daunting and as hard to understand as Grimm’s Fairy Tales. But if we are patient and humble we can help each other understand them. A congregation does this when we’re a living community of Jesus.

A congregation is like a village in the kingdom-of-heaven-come-on-earth. In this congregation we live together as a community of Jesus. As I said last week, by our life together we illuminate the kingdom of God for the neighborhoods around us. And how we live together depends upon our constant choices in behavior and how we treat each other. We do this organically all the time in many ways.

But sometimes we have to make judgment calls. Difficult choices. Risky choices. Some of them requiring sensitivity and confidentiality. And that’s why we have elders in our church. A board of elders, in whose spiritual sensitivity we have confidence. We appoint them and anoint them because we trust them and we trust their judgment. We empower them to make choices and judgment calls about our common behavior and our common expectations, with one eye on the Lordship of Jesus and the other eye on our witness to our part of the world.

Next week I’ll preach about our deacons. Our deacons here work very hard and the work they do is very obvious to you. Our elders here work just as hard, but much of what they do is harder to see, and it must be so, for much of what they do is done confidentially. They have to carry burdens in their consciences and their hearts. They deal with the kinds of jealousies and quarreling that we read about in the epistle, the kind of things that develop in a community as naturally as Adam’s appetite. These things are natural and deadly. And the elders have carefully to choose among them in order to choose life for this congregation.

The kingdom of heaven is not something separate way up there. In the Lordship of Jesus the kingdom of heaven is come on earth. Its territory covers everything. It blesses everything and judges everything. This is why our elders have to have daily jobs not in the church but in the world. Our elders make constant subtle choices and judgment calls on how our church can help our human lives receive the Kingdom of God and bear witness to it by our common life. The office of elder is the distinctive office of the Reformed church. Other versions of the church have pastors and deacons, but the office of elder is what makes us Reformed. Our elders have been meeting together for 356 years, as pastors have come and gone, meeting together and choosing life for this community of Jesus. All that we ask of them today is that they keep their watch of three more years, and leave the next 300 up to God. I believe that God will continue to be just as faithful to us as God has always been, because God has chosen life for us, because God loves us.

Copyright © 2011, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

February 6, Epiphany 5: Light and Salt and Beds and Water

Isaiah 58:1-12, Psalm 112, 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, Matthew 5:13-20

Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world.” Old First, you are the light of Park Slope. You are not the only light, and you are not only for Park Slope, but also for Prospect Heights and Windsor Terrace, etc. You are to illuminate your part of the world. By your good works.

Last week I ended my sermon by saying that in our life together as a congregation we could help little Schuyler Orr learn to see God, and that we can help each other see God. This week I’m going one more step by saying that we can help our community see the Kingdom of God, and what is in it. We can illuminate “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” And today I want to give two very practical examples of how we can do that. Both of them are from Isaiah 58.

First, Isaiah 58:7: “Is it not to bring the homeless poor into your house.” Here is a very clear message for us at Old First, to bring the homeless poor into our house. Look, a few months ago I got a request from a local service agency called CAMBA. (Check the link.) The CAMBA agency asked me if this July and August our church could host a respite shelter for the homeless right here in this room. I think this is something it would be good for us to do, so I passed the request to our deacons, and they are now considering whether the congregation would support it.

The homeless population of New York City is now the highest it’s been since the Great Depression. Our homeless shelters are packed to their capacities. The homeless who sleep in the city’s gigantic public shelters are more likely to stay homeless than those who sleep in the small shelters run by churches and synagogues. These small shelters are being opened up again after the city tried to close them all down. But most of the small shelters shut down for the summer, and there’s a great need for beds during July and August.

A “respite shelter” is a flexible shelter of five to twenty beds that is set up at night and taken down every morning. The agency screens the guests and brings them to the church at 6 pm. The volunteers make an evening meal, and they serve it and eat it with the guests, and then the guests set up their beds and most of the volunteers go home except for a couple folks who stay on all night. At 6 am the guests wake up for coffee and they pack up their shelter into storage and they’re out by 7, with the room completely cleared for other use all day.

We’d need to recruit volunteers. I have no doubt we would find them. I’ve already had expressions of interest from other parishes and civic groups. We have the space, we have the need, and we have Isaiah 58:7: “Is it not to bring the homeless poor into your house?” We can do this. We can respond to God’s call on us. Let the deacons know that you support it. If the deacons approve it, I’ll need six people to serve with me on a steering committee to get the whole thing going.

Second, Isaiah 58:11: “You shall be like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.” I am proposing we install a public drinking-water fountain right outside the front of our church. And let me tell you why: Water is a gift of God for the life of the world; flowing water it is a powerful symbol in the Christian faith; public water is a human right; and a public water fountain can be a wonderful illumination to our community of what’s included in the kingdom of heaven come on earth.

Two years ago I read a book called Bottlemania, by Elizabeth Royte. (Check her link; she lives in Park Slope.) The book describes how public water is being privatized. In our public schools, the water fountains are being removed and replaced by vending machines which sell bottled water and give a cut of the profits back to the administration. In September of 2009 I attended a conference in South Africa and I heard stories of third world governments in the global south which were selling their public water sources to international conglomerates, and the poor no longer have the free use of it, and now they have to buy it, for which they need our foreign aid. At this conference, they said that this is an issue for the churches, because water is a gift of God.

Last spring Elizabeth Royte called me up and said, “How about a public water fountain outside Old First?” Both for the real public need of it and for the message it would represent. I said I liked it but I needed time. Last summer I went to Grand Rapids for the General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (check their link), and they had a workshop on water justice and the church. I thought of Elizabeth’s idea, but it seemed like such a small thing, compared to the realities of India and Africa. But then I mentioned it to the leader of the workshop, who is a theologian from Switzerland, the home of Nestle, which owns Poland Spring. He’s a leader in what’s called the Ecumenical Water Network. (Check their link.) He told me he thought it was a very good idea and we should do it, and they wanted to be part of it: they want us to share with them the process of our doing it and any problems we might face. He said it might seem like such small thing, but it’s a very important thing to do.

We’ll involve the community. We’ll need the support of the Park Slope Civic Council, of which I am a member, and its Committee on Livable Streets. We’ll need the support of our city councilmembers, Brad Lander and Steve Levin; both of them are good friends of Old First. We’ll need to celebrate this thing, and to publicize why we are doing it, and we’ll need creative ways to use the fountain liturgically. We want it to express our faith. So, I’ll need six volunteers to work on this with me. I think I might have two already.

Beds and water. These two things are being asked of us. And Isaiah 58 is telling us to go ahead. You will ask what real difference do these things make? Well, what difference does a light make in the house? It doesn’t move the furniture, it doesn’t clean the dust, it doesn’t fix the walls. So how needs light, right? What real difference does salt make in the soup? What difference does salt make in the omelet? How small a thing is salt, how little it does, but you put it right there on the kitchen table, because it opens up the taste of everything you eat. It is the same with light, it opens up the sight of everything. We need to be salt and light, and we can do it with beds and water.

Look, Old First, you can’t change the world. You can’t even change this neighborhood. But Jesus doesn’t ask you to. He reserves that for himself, and he does it in his own way, by the power of his word and his spirit, which you must be patient with. He is the one who is perfectly in control of his kingdom, he is the one who makes his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. That’s why you pray to him about it, because it’s in his power to do it and not in yours. You can’t build the kingdom of God, and you are not expected to. But you can certainly receive it, and share it, and be witnesses to it, and point to it, and let people know what’s in it, and by your words and your good works you show the world around you what it means and what it stands for. When you host a respite shelter, you illuminate the kingdom of heaven. When you host a public water fountain, you open up the kingdom for anyone who wants to drink of it.

A skeptic might say that things like this are meaningless, but there are two more reasons that we do them. First, as our epistle suggests, not for the approval of the wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age, but as Jesus says, for the glory of God. If these things are God’s ideas, then we do them for the glory of God. And the second reason is to enjoy them. To enjoy them. To enjoy the light as God’s light, to enjoy the salt, to enjoy the water, and even to enjoy the beds. That’s how you know it’s the kingdom of heaven, by how much joy you get from living in it.

Copyright © 2011, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.