Intro: In 1045 King Edward built his palace, St. Stephens, a stones throw form a Benedictine monastery on Thorney Island by the river Thames. King Edward also enlarged the monks church, known as a “minster” to the West. Today we know it as Westminster Abby. King Edwards house eventually became the Houses of parliament.
It was in Benedictine monasteries that Western parliamentary democracy was born as each monk, when appointing a leader among them, was given one vote, whether the monk was from an aristocratic family, or from a sheep herders clan.
That’s not all. Benedictine monks embraced physical labor, to raise their food, and as a means for knowing God, thus giving dignity to work, something once considered the task of the peasants and to be avoided by the noble. They ran their farms with careful accounting practices. They appointed managers on the basis of skill and merit vs family name giving rise to what we know today as western capitalism.
The belief of Christians in reason and a reasonable world also drove the scientific revolution. The great leaders such as Mendel, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Boyle were all profound Christian men.
[children's sermon: Mendel is considered the father of genetic science. He was an Austrian monk (a christian devoted to God, life in a monastery, and religious studies) who studied some 29000 pea plants discovering that they passed on genes in certain patterns.]
It is the Christian worldview that has given us much of what we enjoy in Western culture. How did it happen? The Faith teaches…
1. God’s Kingdom stretches over every piece of the planet.
A. This is essentially the figure of the dragnet. It’s not your ordinary fishing net on a stick, or even the usual net thrown over a school of fish. A dragnet was weighted at the bottom, floated at the top, dragged to shore by 2 boats with ropes thus scooping up everything in it’s path: crabs, crustations, eels, fish, and bald tires, old tennis balls, you know, whatever the typical Hebrew threw into the lake. Then the whole mess was sorted on the beach.
While many modern church goers think that God’s business is relegated to a hour on Sunday, or to things you think about when you pray, or to how you behave in a church building –scripture clearly portrays the Kingdom of God as the rule of all existence.
Some folks think the parable is about the church and that it means there are all kinds of people in the church, some real, some fake. And that, like Jesus’ parable about letting the weeds grow with the grain and sorted at the end of time (v24-30), this dragnet also means that we shouldn’t be concerned with all the variety of opinions, theologies, or practices that come along in the church, an obviously unbiblical conclusion.
However, this parable is not about the church. It’s about the Kingdom of God, which is more than the church.
The dragnet parable tells us that the Kingdom of God canopies all people, all places, all studies, all disciplines. God rules over politics, over agriculture, over pagan nations over believing nations. There is no true division of secular and sacred for the Kingdom claims authority over it all. This is what the Christian Faith believes.
V49 the end of the age. This is not the usual term used here (teleia). Rather a specialized form: synteleia, or the tying together of all ends. Or “where everything winds/ends up. In other words, history has an ending point. The end of the ages, or the end of the world all comes down to God’s beach and the angels sorting the stuff out. There is a final reckoning.
V49 from the midst of the righteous. Here’s another key phrase. Even Christians often think that God will come some day to extract the believers from the world and burn up the world. But this is not so. The biblical image of the sorting and burning is actually the opposite: that which is not acceptable, not fitting for the Kingdom is extracted from the gathering of all things and thrown away. The OT burning images, like that of Malachi 4 are refining fires, refinery plants -where the impurities in the product, say oil, or gold, or iron, are extracted, burned off and the good product remains!
Now the significance of all this is just this. The world is walking God’s parade route, not Satan’s. All the roads on the map may appear to be going their own way, but God owns the whole thing. His kingdom is over every flipper, every fin, every microbe, and molecule. And though it may not appear to be so sometimes, God’s righteousness, and designs are the norm, from which all variants, mutations will be removed.
Consider the parable in the literary context: the mustard seed (13:31), though a small seed, takes over everything. When we were in Jerusalem we were told that the mustard plant is illegal in the city limits because it’s a plant that takes over the ground to the detriment of other trees and shrubs.
Yeast (13:33): just a little in the bread, and the whole batch is leaven! Jesus says the Kingdom is this way; destined to take over all. Christianity teaches there is an end to the sin-dominated history of mankind. It is headed somewhere. Are you ready?
In our politically correct society it is highly popular to hold no opinions, to pass no judgments, and to disbelieve that there is such thing as absolute truth, or, the ways things should be. The coming Kingdom tells us that there is right and wrong, and the scales will be balanced for God is just. All things are not OK. There is a path of life and there are many paths to death.
Here’s the rub;
2. A Christian ought to live like the Coming Kingdom
A. Often believers fail to live the life they are destined for. That is, we live like old boots, or broken tennis racquets that get fished out of the pond because we figure, hey, we’re God’s fish. But if we’re God’s fish shouldn’t we live like fish now? And when we see other peoples lives looking like dried leather, or old socks shouldn’t we care that their road is going to end on God’s beach too?
Where is the connection between God’s ultimate will, and his present will? They are connected you know. If God will ultimately throw away, say, mean- spirited gossip, shouldn’t we throw it away in this life too?
If in the end, people will share God’s goodness, ought we not to give this life the shape of what’s to come by sharing what we have now?
Throughout history, it was the Christian Faith that changed western culture. It gave us democracy because of the sacred value of every person. It spawned public education for the same reason, and universities. It was the Church that started the phenomena we call hospitals. It was the Church that spawned the scientific revolution. And it is the Faith of the Christian church that can fight the decadence of the modern world and give us hope. It’s you, the Christ follower meant to see God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
B. Furthermore, don’t let a confusion of tolerance keep you from the urgency of the Kingdom! No Christian is free to pass of the misguidance of those others around them. No Christian believes, “Ah this works for me, you do what you have to.” The other paths we dismiss our neighbors to are not working! According to one survey, we are the unhappiest nation on earth, with more mental disorders and depression per capita that any other country! By the same measure, Nigeria is considered the happiest!
Just because we stand for rights to speak and to worship doesn’t mean all religion is true or good! There is only one path that leads to educated culture, equality for all, compassion for the poor, rights for the even the obviously evil criminal -that is the Christian Faith.
For example, lets consider Islam, a fast growing religion in America.
Shari’a, the divine law of Islam, forbids the practice of free speech.
The Quran says, “Fight and slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and seize them, and besiege them and lie in wait for them.” sura 9:5. It teaches that those who war against God and his prophet should be executed, crucified, and have their hands and feet cut off.
In contrast, the Bible teaches us to love our enemies, to overcome evil with good, to repay good deeds to those who persecute us.
““You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:43-45, NIV.
What we have been trying to see so far is that the Coming Kingdom of God in the Faith is the only worldview that can give a hopeful answer to why it matters what we do, or how we live on this earth.
It is because God’s love and justice , combined perfectly in his Son who took our punishment and gave God’s promise of eternal life, is the destiny of history that there is any good reason to be good here.
GK Chesterton explains that Christians are change agents in the world because the world is full of either optimists or pessimists. The optimists are always trying to do good things. The pessimists are always wringing their hands in despair. But the Christian has a balanced view; pessimist because he knows the world is fallen and needs fixing, optimist because he knows God is all powerful, in charge of all things and therefore it can be fixed. He said that “we must be fond of this world even in order to change it…we must be fond of another world in oder to have something to change it to.”
The Coming Kingdom is why life matters. It is the hope of all humanity! It is basic to the Christian Faith.