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Learning to live in the Kingdom of heaven

by davesandel on August 12th, 2021

Thursday, August 12, 2021                            (today’s lectionary)

Learning to live in the Kingdom of heaven

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” But Jesus answered, “No, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” When Jesus finished speaking, he left Galilee and crossed over the Jordan River to Judea.

I listen to Jesus, and to the story he tells about a king and his indentured servant, and I think how can I? Peter looked up at Jesus in shock. We have no idea, do we, of how the Kingdom of heaven truly works? We have had too little experience with the generosity of kings. And what doesn’t go around, doesn’t come around.

So can I watch my King and learn how to forgive seventy-seven times, and in the process learn how to give back what has been taken from me without resentment? And if others don’t do the same for me, should I become a giver-back anyway? Is that the way I live if I live in the Kingdom of heaven? Is that the way the King lives in the Kingdom of heaven?

I think of course, the answer to all these questions is “YES!”

God spoke to Joshua, and Joshua spoke to the Hebrew people at the time of harvest, when the Jordan River waters were at their highest and fastest. “The ark of the covenant of the Lord of the whole earth will precede you into the Jordan. And its waters will cease to flow.” Thus the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel crossed over on dry ground, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan until the whole nation had completed the passage.

Life has moved on since Joshua left boats behind and crossed the Jordan on dry ground. Not a single one of his followers was there when Moses led his people (their parents and grandparents) across the Red Sea, on dry ground! Surely they were just as amazed as their ancestors had been, even if they weren’t being chased by Egyptian chariots full of killers.

Jesus’ version of the Kingdom of heaven looks far different from the Promised Land Yahweh gave to the children of Israel. Those Israelites were commanded to kill everyone and destroy all their property. Jesus’ Kingdom leaves that kind of exclusionary violence far behind. We watched episode 5 of Season 2 of The Chosen last night. In it, Jesus asks to see Simon the Zealot’s dagger. Simon has, in awe and wonder, turned to Jesus and called him Messiah.

But then Jesus looks into Simon’s eyes and throws the dagger into the lake. “Didn’t see that coming, did you?” Jesus asked Simon. Simon said, “But Messiah, if you don’t need my sharp killing dagger, what need have you of me?”

Why is it, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? You mountains, that you skip like rams? You hills, like the lambs of the flock?

Jesus often asked questions, but he rarely answered them. He told stories instead, like his story of the King and his servant.

Be patient with me, O king, and I will pay you back in full. Then moved with compassion, the king let him go and forgave him the loan.

The trees of the field clap their hands. (Isaiah 55) The sea flees. The mountains skip like rams. All creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed, for it to be brought into the freedom of glory of those children of God. (Romans 8) God’s compassion is revealed in the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus is alive. Magic is afoot!

(Joshua 3, Psalm 114, Psalm 119, Matthew 18)

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