Readings: Psalm 112:1-9; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-17; Luke 14: 1, 7-14
So about the Kingdom of God.
The one that we are told to strive for – to seek first?
Any vague memories from last week? There you go – it’s coming back to you! Well done!
It’s a bit like an upside down cake. What matters is not on the surface.
I mean think about a genuine upside-down cake. (Not the recipes that have all the fruit slices on the top). I’m thinking of a normal iced cake. Flip it over – and the icing is at the bottom. Weird hey.
WHEN JESUS IS KING
When Jesus is King – your values and ethics change.
That does not mean that the Kingdom of God is purely about ethics – about doing good or being different. They are signs of the Kingdom – just as the church at worship is a sign of the Kingdom – so too changed lives are signs of the Kingdom.
When Jesus is King – we become different. Paul puts it like this in 2 Corinthians 3:
2Co 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2Co 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
It’s not just our inner transformation – it’s a change in lifestyle. And one of the noticeable things is how we invest our time and money. How we treat people – especially the needy.
1. Psalm 112 is an example from the readings set today. The interesting thing is that it is one of the coupled Psalms. You need to read Psalm 111 as part of it. The first part of the coupled Psalm is about the greatness of God and what God has done for us – the second, what we have as Psalm 112 – is about the consequences for people who fear this God. What will it be like for them: listen to verses 4 and 5:
4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
5 Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
One gets the feeling that these Godly people are nice to have around. That’s a key part of our witness as Christians. We are to conduct our affairs with justice – just like the people of God back in Psalm 112.
Tragically – many Christian businessmen don’t have good reputations. That is all. It’s true.
We on the other hand – because of the amazing grace which comes to us – are gracious to others – compassionate and generous. The kingdom works its way out in our daily lives. Or should do.
2. The second reading is also rather lovely. Have a look at the Hebrews reading.
Are you like this? Let the Holy Spirit work in your life – lining you up with the Kingdom of God and the King who makes us his body and hands – his feet and voice in the world – and people will see this in you and me:
“Keeping on” loving one another. You don’t give up even when your brother is a pain in the brain. And elsewhere!
Hospitality. Man I keep coming back to this – because God is speaking about it and I need to tell you what he says! And here’s the wonderful thing about this word – and why it is such a Kingdom word.
The verse says: Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
That puts us on our guard! Here’s what it means: It actually says – Don’t forget φιλοξενιας. Philoxenia. Remember xenophobia? Fear of strangers? It‘s the opposite of this! It means loving strange people!
I love it! (Applause)!
We are to keep on loving each other and loving the strange too! Get it?
The writer to the Hebrews – after writing 12 chapters about what Jesus has done for us (a bit like Paul’s letter to the Romans) ends with these gems about the consequences of the grace of God and the coming of the Kingdom in our lives;
- Keep on loving each other as brothers
- Love the strange! (We have a dear friend called Ken Strange! I must send him this sermon!)
- Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
- Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure (New Zealand!).
- Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have (because God is with you people!) IN fact it’s the best bit in the passage. It goes like this (in the rest of verse 5 and verse 6):
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
6 So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”
And then the writer goes on:
- Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith (challenging for us leaders!). Later he says obey your leaders! (v 17). “Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” Amen to that! I’d like my work to be a joy – and not the cause of burnout and stress!
The Kingdom of God has clear values! And when Jesus is King in your life – things are like this!
3. The Gospel reading is the cherry on our upside down cake today.
If you want Kingdom values – watch Jesus interact with the people of his day who thought they had it all sorted. Listen to Jesus on these issues!
Man I’ve just been 15 000 kilometres to a wedding. And the issue of where people sit is a big deal!
So in my niece’s wedding they had a seating plan!
In my old job they had seating plans for special events and banquets – and they always put me with the people that no one else wanted around! I love it! They actually got something right!
I landed up with people who had fallen on hard times and not made their millions like the rest. The ones who were different and interesting!
In those days honour and disgrace were big issues! You needed to keep in with the right people – in any case you might have to negotiate to marry off one of your kids to that family!
7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests.
11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Here’s the meat in the Kingdom of God sandwich.
We don’t have to be the cream cheese in this world!
Wealth, beauty, importance and influence are not key Kingdom values.
Humility now! Honour later! We will judge the world with Jesus later! (1 Corinthians 6:2 – Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?)
Later matters. Listen to the investment we are called to make: 12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
How are you doing in investing in people who can’t pay you back!
Do it for the sake of what is right! Not for a return invitation!
This is probable what it means to be the salt of the earth!
We bring flavour to a tasteless society. People notice – and are drawn to that kind of generosity as they were drawn to Jesus! There were always people around him! And then he could speak into their lives – as can we – about the Kingdom of God!
Yay God! Amen!