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Pentecost 8 July 6, 2008 “No Greater Kingdom” Psalm 145:10-13 (Read text) In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

On this fourth of July weekend we are reminded of what a blessing it is to live in America, arguably the greatest nation history has ever witnessed. And yet we don’t hear this very often, do we? We are constantly reminded of what is wrong, not right, with America. Gas and food prices are rising, and the stock market is sinking. We’re stuck in overseas conflicts that appear to have no end in site. For some freedom has been confused with licentiousness leading to unimaginable and unlimited acts of immorality. Our two presidential candidates are both standing on platforms of change, giving the impression that America is going to hell in a hand basket—and fast! While it is easy to criticize, find fault, and point out the problems—be it about America or other things in life—I find that it is far more productive to assume a more positive perspective. As one who has lived in other countries, I can tell you that for all that is bad about America, there is much, much more that is good. Though food prices are high— there is still an abundance of food. Though the rate of child poverty in Colorado has increased drastically, we don’t have children, like those in Haiti, who are lucky to have one meal a day. Yes, we pay a lot in taxes, but unlike PNG where we lived, we don’t have to worry about being stopped by road bandits due to a lack of a local police force. None of us wake up worrying if today is the day we will be imprisoned, tortured or
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killed simply because we were born into the wrong tribe, or practice the Christian Faith. The recent tornado in Windsor is a reminder of how good we have it—while people in places in China and Mynanmar are displaced and dying when disasters strike, Americans and their government are quick to respond and provide help at such times. America is still a great nation—and rather than being reminded of it once a year on the fourth of July, maybe we should daily give thanks for all the things we usually take for granted. And yet, for as good as she is, there is a country greater than America. It is the great, the glorious, the grand kingdom spoken of by David in this Psalm. What kingdom is it? The kingdom of God in Christ Jesus! It is no coincidence that the first words our Lord Jesus speaks are these: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Those who heard His words probably misunderstood them and thought that He meant that He would re-establish the monarchy of David and Solomon. That’s what the disciples, who had been with Jesus for so much of His ministry, were still thinking prior to Jesus’ ascension, for we hear them asking; “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” It is also probably why, at least in part, Jesus was crucified. The Jews expected, and the Romans feared, the possibility of a new king who would replace Caesar. But as Jesus made clear to Pilate prior to His crucifixion, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Clearly, His kingdom is heavenly, not earthly. His kingdom is eternal, not temporal. This is what makes the belief that some have that Jesus will return and establish a thousand year earthly reign in Jerusalem so silly—He had that opportunity, and made it clear that this was not His purpose. His purpose is much
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greater—to restore not the earthly kingdom of Israel, but the Kingdom of God lost in the fall. What are the characteristics of this kingdom? The catechism spells it out: His kingdom is one of power, not of man but God. His kingdom is one of grace, not law. And His kingdom is one of glory not shame. A Kingdom of Power—in that it exceeds any earthly ruler or authority. Jesus made it clear to Pilate that he had no authority, were it not given to Him by God. Ponder this, dear friends: The only election Jesus ever participated in resulted in His crucifixion. He lost—we won. A Kingdom of Grace—Man’s kingdom is maintained by law, but God’s kingdom by grace. In America, if you commit the crime you should expect to do the time. In the Kingdom of Heaven Christ Jesus has kept the law that we broke, and took the punishment for our sins that we deserved. So even though we have all committed the crime, because of the loving mercy of our Lord Jesus, the only time we will be serving is eternity in heaven. But we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to be beneficiaries of His grace. For that grace is given to us every time we hear His Gospel forgiving us our sins or receive His sacrament which does the same. We live in and under grace now, all the while waiting for His eternal glory to be revealed. A Kingdom of Glory—Does the name “Julia Ward Howe” mean anything to you? She was the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Written during the Civil War, and though applied to the victory of the Union Army, it spoke of the Second Coming of Christ,
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when the eternal glory of God is revealed. When Christ Jesus comes with the heavenly hosts, He will bring an end to all earthly kingdoms, and finally reveal His heavenly one. What a glorious day that will be, when we get to witness the heavenly Jerusalem, with Jesus sitting on His throne surrounded by the angels! This is why David says in our psalm “They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of thy power.” Note, that though David is king he is extolling not the glory of his kingdom, but of God’s. God’s kingdom is greater than Israel, greater than Rome, and greater than America. How so?

Unlike our U.S. citizenship, we are not natural-born citizens of Christ’s Kingdom. Rather, our entrance is a super-natural one, by water and the spirit in baptism. As Jesus made clear to Nicodemus—“Unless one is born again, they cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

The kingdom of God is not established nor maintained by force and strength—but by weakness. You have heard the phrase, “To the victor goes the spoils”. The exact opposite is true in the kingdom of Christ. “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek and merciful. Blessed are those who are persecuted. For THEIRS is the kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus Christ established the kingdom through these very means.

The kingdom is eternal. For it is not of this world, as Jesus pointed out to Pilate. Therefore it does not depend on temporal events for its well-being or survival. The kingdom of God was present in Christ Jesus long before there was an America, and it will last forever after America ceases to be. Heb. 12:28 tells us

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that we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken, one which the very gates of hell cannot prevail against. Today, may we rejoice in the gift that we have been given of living in this great nation of America. And may we also rejoice that we have been given a greater gift—citizenship in the kingdom of God in Christ Jesus. And may we continue to pray not only for the well-being of America, but for the coming of the kingdom of heaven. “Thy kingdom come. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.”

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