Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Where Is the Washed-Out Bridge? (5)

We've learned that the core of Jesus' teaching began with the word "repent!"  It means to "turn around."  You were invited to imagine driving towards a bridge that had been washed out and hearing someone by the side of the road shout "repent" as you drove by.  Stay on your current path, and disaster awaits you!  Turn around and instead, head for "the Kingdom."  We've learned that the people of Jesus' day were filled with expectations regarding "the Kingdom."  But the Kingdom that Jesus taught about looked very little like what they wanted.  Their response?  Murder.  Is it that hard to imagine that when a leader fails to deliver what is expected, that people respond violently? 

On that ominous note, let’s look again at the first word in Jesus’ teaching.  We are getting a better idea of what he meant by the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom that we should turn toward, a spiritual, not physical Kingdom.  But what exactly was he warning us to turn from, to "repent" from?  You’ve probably already guessed.  It is another kingdom.  This other kingdom has many things in common with the kingdom that the people of Jesus’ day wanted.  This kingdom is built on human power.  This kingdom is selfish, promoting the interests of ourselves and others like us.  This kingdom is one that we can easily access with our five senses.  In short, this kingdom is the one that each of us builds around ourselves.  It is a personal kingdom that promises to provide all the things that a traditional kingdom provides; safety, security, comfort, control, a sense of belonging, etc.  But each of our kingdoms is completely unique in one critical sense—each of these kingdoms has a different king.  Each of the kingdoms that you and I build to help us answer the big questions in life has someone sitting on the throne that promises to make us happy.  Each of these kingdoms is ruled by someone that we are comfortable with and confident in.  That person?  You.  And me.  You on your throne, and me on mine.  Because of his great love for us, Jesus is warning us that this kingdom, the one that you and I are building around ourselves, will always fail to deliver on what is promised. Of course,  it feels good to be in control!  It feels good to call the shots!  But for many of us, we know that something is missing.  We know that the very security we seek, the happiness that we long for, the freedom from anxiety and the strength to endure tough times is just not there.  Worst of all, we know that, despite our best efforts, we still fail in life, sometime miserably, and we don’t know where to go with the pain and the guilt that seems to surround us.  Of course, there are some of us who are doing “just fine.”  We cruise through life without a care in the world—everything is “puppies and rainbows.”  Really?  Never a doubt?  Never a longing for “something more?”  Never a time when you concede that you are just sick and tired of being sick and tired?  The fact is, at least according to Jesus, that we are all headed for disaster.  Our own personal kingdoms are failing us, which often prompts us to drive faster and longer, while all the while there is that pesky man, standing by the roadside, shouting “Repent!”  THAT is at the heart of the message of Jesus.  His great love and his great commitment to do whatever was necessary to save us, is what compelled him to say those words.  And what he did next was even more shocking than the message he came to bring.

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