In this sermon Tim speaks to the current COVID crisis and illustrates the power and reality of the Kingdom of God, finding our faith in Jesus and the hope He brings! The power of a deep-rooted faith is how it anchors us in Jesus’ love and Kingdom during the toughest of times. Let’s hold onto Jesus!
Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday August 29, 2021.
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- 19/09/21 – Matthew 25:14-30 Have a Crack! (Parable of the Talents) by Tim Giovanelli
- 12/09/21 – Luke 14:16-24 Go Compel Include (Parable of the Banquet) – by Kirrily Smeallie
- 05/09/21 – Rev 21 The Now and Not Yet Kingdom – by Tim Giovanelli
- 29/08/21 – Mark 1:14-15 Jesus and the Kingdom of God – by Tim Giovanelli
- 22/08/21 – Romans 13:1-10 Sermon Being a Good Citizen & Neighbour & Vaccines – by Tim Giovanelli
Kingdom of God During Covid
I wonder, if like me, you have noticed how complex life can be lately?
– I mean it is always complex… navigating family and jobs and relationships… and trying to make sense of politics and social movements and so on.
– But during Covid, I think it has led a lot of people into asking big questions. – For some I’ve chatted to, Covid has been the catalyst for a real spiritual renewal and revival – And then for others, it has led to questions and even deconstruction of faith – And of course both can be used by God to hopefully bring us back to the central things of the Christian faith.
But I really do feel, that it is essential that yours is not a borrowed faith from friends or family, or so shallow that under testing, it can fall apart.
– Right? We want to be captivated by Jesus and his life and message and the meaning of what he has accomplished.
– My hope is that we all could be able to articulate what it is we believe and why it takes on such a central focus for all of our lives.
– We need robust, thoughtful footings to our faith that underpins our beliefs, and worldview and values and praxis.
There is this great verse in Hebrews 6:19 that says “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
– I love that. Hope as an anchor that is firm and secure. That is a good goal. – We want our hope in Christ to be something that stops us from being blown about by all kinds of things that would tear us away from our faith.
– Hope in Christ should be the anchor from which we ask questions and engage with faith… so that, that which is eternal and most important is also most firm and secure in our lives.
Not sure if you saw the boat that got washed up on Manly harbour beach this week during the storm.
– Clearly its anchor did not hold in the midst of the winds and waves that battered it. – It’s anchor gave way, and the boat ended up on the beach against that sandstone wall, continuing to get pounded by waves and breaking apart.
– But then of course, there were other boats whose anchors obviously held. – And its interesting to me, that during good times when there is not much headwind, its easy for all the anchors to do their jobs, but when it gets rough, the anchors get tested.
And so it is I think with faith in Jesus Christ.
– When we can all meet together and maybe there aren’t major challenges going on in our lives, it easy to have a little faith, a little anchor and for things to seemingly all be fine. – But when we get isolated, or something like a pandemic raises bigger questions around God’s reality, or power in the midst of trouble
– That’s when we need a solid anchor for the soul, firm and secure!
– And once again, I think that comes by being captivated by Jesus, and having the kind of thoughtful, robust, secure faith in Christ.
So today I just want to unpack a central verse that is one of the anchor points of my faith.
– It’s a verse in Marks account of Jesus life that sets up the story and meaning and mission of the gospels…
– For me, it’s an anchor verse of what exactly I have put my hope in. It speaks to what is firm and secure about trusting in Jesus.
– So Mark 1:14-15…
“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
So let me unpack each bit of that verse in Mark 1:14-15
Firstly, it says; Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.
– Now the Greek word for good news which we also translate as Gospel is Evangelion… – From that word we get evangelist which means bringer of good news…
– In the ancient world when the emperor died in Rome, he would be replaced with a new leader…
– It was often a bloody power struggle…
– But word would be sent forth through the empire that a new Emperor, a new Lord was on the throne. They would call this “the spreading of the Evangelion” – the good news… – Now no one was allowed to be called Lord except Caesar, except the Emperor.
So, you can imagine how subversive it is then when Jesus begins to proclaim the Evangelion of God.
– From this backwater town out of Galilee, in the far flung corner of the Roman Empire, Jesus makes a claim for the throne.
– He says he has good news from God!
– That a new Kingdom is being established, and that a new Lord will begin to rule…
Secondly he says, the time has come:
Now this kind of suggests that Jesus is coming into an old story that has been waiting to be fulfilled
– Now you know this story right if you grew up in Sunday School…
– It begins with a guy called Abraham who is promised by God that his family… the family of God would be blessed and bless all nations and be as numerous as the stars in the sky. – If Genesis tells us the story of creation and fall, it is to be God’s people who will reverse this – But here is where it gets interesting… they weren’t to be like other nations. They were to be set apart (in many ways – holiness, compassion, worship)
– And one of the defining characteristics of that is they weren’t to have a King – Because God was their King who ruled them, cared for them and guided them. – God was their Lord alone. Yeah? He was their law giver, their leader, their protector, their deliverer.
Now here is the crazy thing… and you can read about this in 1 Samuel 8… the family of God demand to have a King like all the other nations…
– So post the Exodus from Egypt, and the giving of the promised land
– The family of God want to be ruled over and God warns them that this will come at a great cost – And he says, you will cry out to me after you’ve appointed a King, but I won’t answer… – Despite this, they get what they ask for – first God gives them as King Saul, then David and then Solomon….
– And basically it is this downward spiral of good Kings and bad kings until they get defeated and dragged off into captivity again…
– So it looks hopeless. How could God set the world right and rule again, when his people can’t even do what is right or be ruled by one of their own?
And it is while they are in captivity that the great prophets emerge and warn them of why they are no longer in the favour of God…
– And this theme emerges of a time when God himself will intervene… he will come into history and make things right again…
– They would read the prophets like Isaiah where God promised a Son who would be called Wonderful counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. And there will be no end to his government and peace!
– So this Son who would be God, who would be a prince… who would have a government that wont end…
– And this messianic figure who would establish a new kingdom (that is what government is about). And for 700 years they wait… in exile… unfulfilled…
So in the arrival of Jesus he says the “THE TIME HAS COME!”
– In a particular moment in time, in a particular place, through a particular person. The time has come.
– Now remember the family of God who were promised to be blessed, a blessing and numerous are first dragged off into captivity by Babylon, and then over time subjected to Roman rule. – So, they have these big “God will come and set things right” passages that gives them hope. One is Isaiah 61:1-3…
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
So there they all are waiting for this day of salvation and judgment to come. And they thought it would all come at once…
– God would arrive as King, destroy the nasty Romans and any rebellious people, and save the faithful family of God…
– But here is the kicker… one day in the synagogue a Galilean carpenter opens the scroll of Isaiah 61 and reads
– “the Spirit of the Lord is on me, he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, freedom for the captives, recovery of the sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour… (stops)… Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Now do you see what has happened… Jesus reads Isaiah 61 but leaves off the announcement of the day of vengeance of our God…
– So the time has come… this promise is being fulfilled in your hearing, but Jesus is saying, I am splitting the day of salvation and the day of judgment in two…
– That was not what the people of God were expecting…
– Jesus is announcing a period of grace moving into the world, in his ministry, for all, before a final judgment…
– A time when God as King would bring good news to the poor, freedom for captives, sight to the blind, set the oppressed free.
– So… says Jesus… the time that has come… a time of grace and liberty through Jesus.
Thirdly, in Mark, Jesus says, the Kingdom of God has come near:
The big themes of the Kingdom that we see break in are the promised themes all through the OT story… all the things we would expect if God is ruling… right?
– There’s a defeat of evil and healing of the sick
– Good news for the poor and broken
– An ethic of mercy and radical forgiveness and love for your enemy.
– The Forgiveness of sins
– All comes together at once… in the arrival of King Jesus. The time has come, good news. The kingdom of God has come near!
There is this interesting scene in Luke 7 where Jesus has just raised a dead man back to life… so it says;
18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Verse 21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
– So in other words Jesus says… yep you better believe it – it’s happening! The long awaited kingdom of God has arrived!
– Because the King is here, the kingdom is breaking out into people’s lives.
– That’s what it means for it to come near. The rule and reign of God in a place should do something. It should look like something. It should change things and people and situations. – Well it’s a powerful message and in us it demands a response…
So finally, Jesus says in Mark 1:14-16, Repent, and believe the good news:
What does it mean to repent? The Greek word for repent is metanoia which means a transformative change of heart or change of mind…
– You see in light of Jesus, we decide to stop doing the things that don’t align with being a part of King Jesus’ kingdom, and we start doing the things that align with his reign!
– In his kingdom people are not oppressed, so we turn from oppressing people and love them instead.
– In his kingdom neighbours are loved, so we turn from harming those around us and begin to serve and love like he did.
– In his kingdom, truth and grace matter, so we turn from lies and self deception and harsh judgements… and we embrace the ethics of the kingdom!
– Do you see what I mean? Repent! Right, what a beautiful offer from King Jesus. – Right, there is generosity in his kingdom so we turn from little…
You see we live in this highly individualistic world of competing kingdoms of our wills being done.
– Our wills are often coercive and destructive.
– I think of my own story (certainly ongoing) but nothing I have ever had to repent of, that is not destructive.
– All of us have to come to this conclusion and conviction… that I want to turn from my own will and embrace the will of King Jesus.
– Worst place to be is a follower of Jesus with one foot in the world and one in the kingdom
That’s why Romans 2:4 says it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance…
– It is God’s sweet mercy that he calls us from one way of life to another.
– I remember being in London at a church service and coming under the conviction of sin in my life…
– As the Spirit of God filled me, I alternated between weeping and laughing… – Weeping over the state of my life… but being filled with the joy of forgiveness and the kingdom – So Jesus says, the time has come, repent and get on with the Kingdom and following the King
Well finally today and linked to the time having come, the kingdom appearing in Jesus, the announcement of good news and our repentance…
Is to Believe the good news:
That is the entry point… now more will be required of citizens…
– It would be weird to become a citizen of heaven and then go on living like a citizen of hell… – Weird not to conform our hearts and will to the kingdom after gaining entry… and his Spirit coming alive in us to help!
– Because the citizens of the kingdom begin to look like and act and speak and live like the King… – You don’t join the local soccer club and then demand we play rugby…
– Or join the Liberal party and then demand everyone has to join a union…
– Or look up instructions for changing the oil on your car and then put yoghurt in… – Right? There’s a way you will live… there will be expectations of following King Jesus…
But hear this! It always starts with good news to the poor and the prodigals, to the humble and the weak.
– So Believe the good news and receive the Kingdom of God.
– That’s why the poor in Spirit are blessed because theirs is the Kingdom of God… – Blessed are those who realize they need a King, realize their spiritual poverty and have a change of heart and mind and embrace the King!
– Do you recognize the time has come? Do you welcome the good news of the Kingdom? – Are you ready to call Jesus Lord and repent of your sins?
So next week I am going to do something on the here and there, now and then, present and yet future reality of the kingdom.
– Right? It can be such a wrestle as to why we see the kingdom break in, in power here, but not there. Why do faithful people get sick and die.
– And if God is so powerful, then why the absence of so much of this Kingdom in the world. – And where do we see the kingdom break in in marvelous, transforming ways. – Right – where do we see the heavening of earth happening and what is our role in that story?
But for this week, I just want us to know King Jesus.
– The evangelion of good news is going forth to all the earth. There is a new King on the throne. A foot washing, compassionate, truth telling King.
– Who beckons us to come to him humbly to receive citizenship to his kingdom! – To know the nature of his kingdom and the good news for us who believe. – And it is an anchor of hope for my soul, firm and secure to the end.
– “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Amen.