In this week’s gospel reading, we have two parables about the reign of God. Alongside the story of an unlikely king (1 Sam 15:34-16:13) and a discussion of new creation (2 Cor 5:6-17), the lectionary gives us two engaging stories that fire our imagination for how God is working now to bring new creation from what seems so insignificant.
What is life in the kingdom of God like? What does it look like to live under the reign of God? These questions are central to the missional life of a congregation. The witness of the Christian community is the life of a people who are living under God’s reign: living by a different set of assumptions about the way the world is, about what success means, about the what the future holds, and what a “life well lived” looks like.
Here’s a copy of the sermon I preached a couple of weeks ago on 3/1/2015. Because it was a “first Sunday of the month,” the worship included communion, and for the last few months I’ve been preaching the sermon as part of the Lord’s Supper liturgy. Instead of placing the offering between the sermon and Lord’s Supper, the offering precedes the sermon. That way we can move from the sermon right into the Invitation to the Table and the Meal. I preach from behind the Lord’s Table on these Sundays, and I try to end the sermon in a way that draws us into communion. So far, I love the format and it works really well. It deepens the meaning of both the sermon and communion on those Sundays, and connects the two. The sermon is the Word heard, the meal is the Word made visible. Theologically they should be together, and in this format they are!
Here’s a link to the sermon I preached on All Saints’ Day, part of my recent series, “Enough.”
In his book Three Outsiders, Diogenes Allen writes,
“The ideal of freedom in the modern world is symbolized by the supermarket, where we can choose what we want from a very large number of alternatives. The larger the range of choice, the more freedom we have. This is not a wholly erroneous view of freedom; for some choice is necessary for freedom. But it is an incomplete idea of freedom. Human beings need to be liberated from those things which keep them from seeking their own true good. Christianity teaches us how to become free of bondage so that we may freely yield ourselves to the greatest good, even at the loss of lesser goods.” (p. 14)
Practicing Lent, especially a Lenten sacrifice, teaches us to become free of bondage so that we may give ourselves to the greatest good. It may begin with giving up sugar, or coffee, or Facebook; it may mean adding time for prayer or serving others. The specific sacrifice is not as important as the discipline of sacrifice: the formative practice of losing lesser goods and choosing greater goods, in dependence on the Holy Spirit. The discipline of sacrifice develops the disciple, and nurtures a spiritual life that is capable of being light to those who in bondage.