The Kingdom of Heaven | Sermon on the Mount

June 9th, 2024 | Series: Sermon on the Mount – Part 3

In this sermon, Rob Karch reflects on the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven as illustrated in the Sermon on the Mount, sharing personal and biblical insights about inclusion, transformation, and shifting allegiances from earthly identities to a unified, Christ-centered humanity.

Sermon Content

We’re coming back to the Sermon on the Mount for the third section. I think it was two years ago, we went into one year ago, Matthew chapter five and then to Matthew chapter six. And next week we’re going to start in Matthew chapter 7, verse 1. And we’re going to look at one concept within the Sermon on the Mount and the entire gospel of Matthew, this concept of the kingdom of heaven.

So rather than walking through verse by verse, we’re going to just look at this concept and how we’re really going to soak in the heart of God this morning. What is this? And we’re going to ponder the kingdom of heaven. So I have a loose structure for this morning that we’re going to walk through.

But more than anything, we’re going to ponder these various aspects of this new humanity, this new way of being together that God is building through his church, through the power of the cross and the power of his spirit. And it’s something that is radically different. from what we’re used to. And so it’s amazing.

It’s beautiful. It’s troubling. It’s really uncomfortable. It’s rich and seductive and maybe it might feel also distasteful and we’re going to might back away from it all at the same time because what God is doing is so different. It goes against what is natural and normal. To us as human beings, what we’ve grown up with, our assumptions, our biases, it pushes against all of those.

I’d like to tell a story of a boy named Mirko. So Mirko he was born in the Croatian part of the former Yugoslavia back in the 1950s. And his father was a Pentecostal pastor living under communism. And Mirko, from the time he was a little boy he understood that they were different that the government would watch them and monitor them, and people would look at them with suspicion because not only were they Christians, not only were they Protestants, but they were Pentecostals.

They were like the minority of the minority and people had all kinds of, thoughts about Pentecostals. Maybe you do too. But we know that God works through all kinds of different methods and forms and people around the world. But anyway, his experience was an experience of feeling excluded when even as a little boy, he was, he didn’t fit in anywhere he went.

So my name is Rob and I grew up in the United States and I spent a good chunk of my life growing up just outside of Portland, Oregon. I God brought me basically to the French speaking world. I met my wife in Paris, France, because if you have to meet your wife in a city, Paris is a great place to meet her.

It’s really difficult to plan, though. Where are you gonna meet your wife? And so we met there. She’s actually French Canadian. And so we’ve ended up in different parts of the French speaking world. Mostly outside of Montreal. Involved in in a lot of different things. Primarily church planting in the French speaking world.

Over the past 20 plus years. We have two children. And there was a chapter in our life where we were coming back to Littleton for one year. And while we were here, that turned into three years because I found out that I had cancer. And so we walked through those three years of cancer and chemotherapy and all of those things with this family here.

And it was an incredible time for us as a family, for my children, for three years to be here and to be part of what God is doing and God’s new humanity here. And thank you for that. I go back for checkups every year. I’m still in remission. Praise God for that. And But that’s the reality for all of us.

We all have stories. We all have journeys. And so I just wanted to situate who I am and how I love this place. Another thing I love about this place Is the fact that leadership in a lot of the people, I feel like we really want to grapple with the way of Jesus. And we’re not afraid. We know that Jesus is shocking.

We can ask the question, at what point did Jesus stop shocking the disciples? And the disciples say, Oh yeah, I’ve heard this before. Oh yeah, I get it now. It never happened. So how can we expect that Jesus won’t continue to shock us and we have to re stabilize and think through and digest and all that?

But I feel like this is a place where we’re not afraid of that. We want Jesus to continue moving us toward Him together. And so what we’re going to talk about, this Kingdom of Heaven concept this morning, Our desire I know that it’s not a us them it’s not a I know I’m here to tell you. It’s all of us together pondering and grappling with what it means to follow Jesus together.

And I love that about this place. And so I actually feel more freedom to preach here, more the way I preach in the French speaking world, than some other places in the United States. Because I, when I come into a lot of places, I just know that there are certain things that I’m going to say that are going to get a lot of pushback.

A lot of people are really sensitive in the United States. Not that they aren’t elsewhere, but it’s just that I have to think, okay, now I’m going back to the States. All right, now I’ve got to think about how I’m going to handle this or that. Whereas in Quebec, I’m a lot more direct. I’m going to be more like that.

This, we’re going to be more like Quebecois church this morning here. All right, how’s that? How’s that? So I was in, I grew up outside of Portland, Oregon. And I was 10 or 11 years old, and I had my one of my younger sister. She’s a year and a half younger than me. And we had two cousins. Also that the four of us, we were always playing together.

We loved being together. We love doing things together. We would play army. We would play Monopoly and my one cousin, every time she lost at Monopoly, she’d flip the board over. We never knew who won, but we knew who lost. That was maybe in your family you had somebody who flipped the board over.

Maybe you’re the person that flipped the board over. I don’t know, but that’s, that was, but we loved each other and we just loved experiencing life. The four of us, we were really close. And one of the things we love to do is we would scrounge together spare change. And then we would walk about the 10 minute walk through the suburbs to 7 11 and buy some candy bars and specifically Butterfinger.

Like we would, we love doing that. I think it was 35 cents a Butterfinger at that point. Long time ago. It doesn’t feel like that, but then my kids tell me, Dad, anyway.

So one day we’re walking down to 7 Eleven, the four of us, and we’re just old enough. Our parents are letting us go out and we’re walking down and something really destabilizing happened. It was really confusing. All of a sudden, like these four, I think maybe three older boys, maybe 14, 15 riding bikes rode up to us.

They begin riding around us, began yelling at us, and spitting at us. Spitting something at us. And I just remember it was really confusing because they were riding around us and began yelling, Hey Blackie, spitting at us, and then they left. And I remember the four of us were just Whoa, we weren’t angry.

We weren’t even hurt. We were just really confused. Because for those of you who can see me,

I’m like the whitest black person you’ll ever meet. I’m not African. I’m not. And so it was really confusing. I didn’t have categories for everyone. Just really strange things. And kids are mean. I’d never seen those boys before. I never saw them again. We never, so we did, it was just a really confusing situation.

But then as we’re growing and getting older, different things continue to happen. But only when I was with my cousins,

That’s true. My cousin’s father was from Mexico. He was a pastor of a Spanish speaking church. Their skin is a little darker than mine, and specifically my cousin, her skin was actually a lot darker than ours, and she had frizzy hair. And after probably a few years, I was thinking back on the situation, thinking, yeah, if somebody had, if she had said she was African American, I’d believe her.

She wasn’t, but, I don’t know.

And it began to just ponder what happened and realized that for whatever reason, I never had a chance to ask these boys, but when they saw her, they immediately categorized her as something else, something different. She’s not part of us, she’s part of them. And that kind of thing happened on a really minor scale, but every time I was with a girl, with my cousins.

Not every time, but from time to time, things would happen. And I would experience what it felt like to be excluded, to be, to live in a world where external categories are primary. The most important thing, even if it’s subconscious is how I, you look physically, What language we speak, what culture we have, what kind of food we eat, those kinds of things.

And then we divide ourselves into us, them, and that’s actually really normal. It’s part of kind of identity formation. Because as we’re growing up, we have to develop some kind of shorthand to understand who’s safe and who isn’t. Who’s going to take care of me? Who’s a threat? Who, and we don’t have the time to do a full on background check for each person we run into at the grocery store.

We just don’t have time, right? So we develop, I remember one family just recently, they have a, I had a daughter that’s a few months old and I picked her up and I was holding her and she was smiling and reaching out to my face and touching my beard and then I looked over at the baby’s father And he has a brown beard and he has, he looked really similar to me.

And so this baby was reaching up to me and feeling oh, I know that kind of face. I like this face. This is the kind of face that cares for me. This is the kind of face that loves me. I was at another house, similar situation. Their daughter was a few months old. I picked her up and she leaned back and looked at me.

And then she started not shaking her head like this. Started reaching out to her mother. And then you look over at her father and realize, okay, her father no beard, black skin. So she’s looking up at me and saying, I don’t know what this thing is that has me. But it doesn’t look like what I know is safe and what is part of who.

So there’s a part of this identity formation that is normal and it’s necessary. But then it goes off the rails when we stop questioning that and we start letting our subconscious, our feelings and how we feel direct how we treat people. So we’re sitting somewhere, we’re in a particular space and somebody walks in and all of a sudden just we feel the hair on the back of our neck, stand up and we say, Ooh, I don’t know about this person.

Something about them makes me feel weird. Feels, I feel slightly unsafe, slightly uncomfortable, something like that. And that is actually a, that’s part of the that’s a good way for our body to respond in a sense of just trying to keep us safe. But it goes off the rails when we let that subconscious part of us direct everything.

And so we, that we don’t question it. We don’t ask ourselves, wait, is this true or is this not true? Is this just because the person is different or is it because there really is something legitimately there about that? So when we look at what Jesus is doing when he’s building his kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, he is doing something that is so radical.

He’s saying that he’s building a kingdom that will no longer be defined by external categories, but things that are happening internally. It’s no longer about how I look. It’s no longer about how I speak. It’s no longer about how much money I have. It’s no longer about these. He’s saying those are no longer dividing lines, but it’s so hard for us because everything in us is built around these external categories.

And so in order to discover the beauty of the kingdom of heaven, and to participate it in the way that Jesus talks about, we have to partly go to war with this old way of being human. Do you feel it? Because everything in us says no. That’s not how it works. And Jesus is saying, I am presenting a different way of being human, a new humanity, my kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, that’s starting on this earth and we’re gonna live it out in eternity.

Do you feel it with me?

We’re going to look, to ponder a few aspects of this and it’s the somebody saying it’s not on. I love it. Let’s see here.

Maya Angelou. Said this, in every town and village, this is one of her poems, in every city square, in crowded places, I searched the faces hoping to find someone to care. I read mysterious meanings in the distant stars, then I went to school rooms and pool rooms and half lighted cocktail bars, braving dangers, going with strangers, I didn’t even remember their names.

I was quick and breezy and always easy, playing romantic games. I whined and dined a thousand exotic Jones and Janes In dusty halls and debutante balls on lonely country lanes I fell in love forever, twice, every year or so I wooed them sweetly, was theirs completely But they always let me go Saying bye now, no need to try now You don’t have the proper charms Too sentimental and much too gentle I don’t tremble in your arms This is a beautiful poem about our deepest longing to find belonging.

Find a place where we’re going to be fully loved and accepted. Home. Robert Frost, he said, home is the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.

This young boy, Mirko, when he was still a young boy, his father moved their family to, from the Croatian part of the former Yugoslavia, to the Serbian part. And he already felt excluded and out of place, but when they finally got to the Serbian part, it just got, it got worse, because now he’s Croatian, surrounded by Serbs.

He’s attending a school where everybody is culturally Serbian Orthodox, and he’s a Pentecostal pastor’s kid. And he talks about the deep sense of shame that he felt being part of that family, part of that identity, and so he rebelled against being a Christian, rebelled against his family, he wanted nothing to do with that.

There was the government, there were people making fun of him, it was, every aspect of his life was about being excluded.

Later in his teen years, he met Jesus again, and he calls that a quiet conversion. And at that point, he became the only open Christian at his school. And he was constantly being challenged by his teachers and fellow friends, but at this point, this was different. This wasn’t just about his It was about he had finally found somebody who loved him and accepted him.

It did not exclude him in the person of Jesus. And there was no room to mess around with this. He had to constantly defend what it meant to be a follower of Jesus and saying, yes, there is a deep spiritual side of this, and it’s also intellectually coherent at the same time. And so by the time he was 17, 18, he was having these deep intellectual debates and communing with Jesus at the same time as a Croat in Serbia, in the former Yugoslavia.

The kingdom of heaven. Just a few things about it. The kingdom of heaven in the Old Testament was predicted that God would set up a kingdom, which was to be universal and everlasting. And of this kingdom, the Messiah was to be the head. He is everywhere in the Old Testament set forth as a king. It is called the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of the Son of Man, and the kingdom of heaven.

And this is, this. This concept, its foundation is the person and work of Christ. It is multi faceted and diverse, and also in some of its aspects expands progressively. And what did we read? One, one of the parables we read, the wheat and the tares, that we talked about the weeds, but the wheat and the tares.

What does that tell us about the kingdom of heaven?

I know this is not a Pentecostal church, so this is a monologue.

Yes, but then you’re supposed to yell out the answer amen. But it’s interspersed, right? It’s not a geographical kingdom. It’s about Christ reigning in each one of us. Amen. And us giving our allegiance to him regarding our motivations and our desires and why we do what we do and who we like.

And so it goes from person to person and space, place to place. But it, like the parable tells us, it’s really hard to identify sometimes. Because it’s not just a piece of land. There are no signs that say, now you’re entering the kingdom of heaven. So it’s interspersed, expands progressively, interspersed among earthly kingdoms and passing through different stages.

And this kingdom in the interval between the first and second advents of Christ is interspersed among the peoples and nations and sometimes difficult to clearly identify even within the visible church. And I love it because, okay, I just saw the time and I just realized That I will have the same struggle I have every time I come to South.

It is not analogous to the kingdoms which exist on this earth. It is not a kingdom of external splendor, wealth, or power. Because I want to preach a sermon on each thing here. So that’s, I can’t do that. It’s citizens, the people of God, are not identifiable by external characteristics, such as physical features, language, or culture.

This messes with us. This really messes with us because it goes against everything. We think it doesn’t really, not with me. I could, it does. Because 90 percent of our subconscious is built in a different way. And so we have to let Christ come in and transform us and change us. Jonathan Pendleton says that the major theological emphasis in the first gospel in Matthew is the redefinition of the people of God as based on faith response to Jesus rather than ethnicity.

Because as we’re building our identity and our sense of being safe, it’s built around like my family, my community, my language, and my nation.

So what Jonathan is saying is that if I’m going to be a part of the kingdom of heaven, My primary allegiance can no longer be to my family or to my people or to my country. I still love my family. I still love my people. I still love my country of origin. But I’m, they are no longer my primary allegiance.

And that often feels like betrayal. It isn’t betrayal. No. But it feels like it to people who, and as we’re even, as we’re going through it, it is so difficult. But this is the radical nature of the kingdom of heaven. So let, pondering the kingdom of heaven, three questions. What are the people like? So what I like to situate ourselves.

Imagine we are anthropologists or whatever. Imagine that we’re not a part of the kingdom of heaven. And we’re just hearing about this for the first time. And we’re on the outside and we want to know, what about this kingdom? It sounds radically, I want to learn what this look what are the people like in the kingdom of heaven?

I want to learn where we can find these people. And I want to learn, and ask whether or not I really want to be included in the kingdom of heaven. Because maybe I do, but maybe I’ll meet some of the people and then say, Ah, not really.

So I’m going to just loosely walk through these three questions. First question, what are the people like? And one way to ask what people are like is what fountains do they drink from to find life?

The poem from Maya Angelou that we read, what fountains was she drinking from to try to find life? And she was talking about all of these romantic interests. Find somebody that would love her. Or it can be job or it can be Our identity or it could be our political identity. It could be any of these things.

I love it. Jesus when he was speaking to the woman at the well Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst Indeed the water I give them will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life He’s talking to a woman who had been married multiple times who was going through the same struggles That Maya Angelou spelled out in her poem, and he’s saying, I can feel that.

Come and drink from my well. He says, whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. Revelation, for the lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

He said, Revelation 21, 21. Verse six, it is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To him who is thirsty, I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. So first of all, these people are people who are drinking deeply from Jesus.

You ask them about Jesus, and they’re not just gonna give you an evangelistic spiel. You ask them about Jesus and they are going to, you’re going to see a deepness. You’re going to see them say things like, I never had felt fully loved in my life and then I met Jesus. They’re going to say things like that.

You said there’s, okay, there, here’s somebody, they’re not just attending a church, they’re not just, they’re, they are drinking from the well that Jesus is offering. A second question. We can ask. Okay, before we get into this, so talking about this question of identity, I’m going to come back. This is actually Mirko.

His name is Miroslav Wolf. And he grew up. He went to college. He went to Fuller Theological Seminary. He went to another school in Germany. And he was Croatian and he was becoming a well known theologian, a public intellectual. And then the war in the Balkans broke out. The former Yugoslavia broke into pieces.

And it was brutal. It was in the 1990s. And there were the Croatians over here, the Serbians over here, the Bosnian HercuBosnian Hercu Help me out. Hold on a second.

So he’s Croatian who lived his life amongst Serbians.

They there was a group in Germany that asked him to come and speak on the subject of reconciliation in Europe. And before he went there, he went and he spent some time back in Croatia, the place of his birth. And this is what he said about it. He said, I was crossing the Croatian border for the first time since Croatia declared independence.

State insignia and flags that were displayed prominently at the gate to Croatia were merely visible signs of what I could sense like a charge in the air. I was leaving Hungary and entering Croatian space. I felt belief. Now I was free to be who I am. Does that sound like home to you? But, the longer I was in the country, the more hemmed in I felt.

At the time, I sensed an unexpressed expectation to explain why, as a Croat, I still had friends in Serbia and did not talk with disgust about the backwardness of their Byzantine Orthodox culture.

You feel the tension that he’s feeling? That Mirko, Miroslav, he’s feeling? Maybe you felt that tension.

What does the rhythm of their dance feel like? So these people are people who drink deeply from the well of Jesus. What does it feel like to dance their dance, the people in the kingdom of heaven? And so what I did is I just walked through the text of the Sermon on the Mount and this is what it looks like.

This is what dancing in the kingdom of heaven looks like. It looks like peacemaking. It looks like sincere motives. Looks like bringing calm to others. It looks like they keep their promises. These are people that are content in simplicity. These are people who are working for reconciliation. These are people who are committed to loving their spouse.

These are people who mourn. These are people have who have compassion. They’re privately generous. They’re doing the right thing when it’s extremely difficult. So if we start looking around and say, not only do they drink deeply from the well of Jesus, this is what they’re dancing like. I love one of my mentors in Quebec.

He told me what the image he has in his head of what it means to, to follow Jesus. When Jesus says, follow me, what is the image that came up in his mind? What’s the image that comes up in your mind, my Pentecostal congregation?

I’m actually not part, I, anyway. When Jesus says, follow me, what do you think of? Okay, but what image? Is that one of the images? Great.

You guys are being conceptual. I’m looking for more concrete. Yes, it’s good. Yeah, it’s good. That’s good.

Just at a really basic level. When somebody says follow me, I imagine them walking and then I get in line behind them. Just super simple, alright? Just So my friend and mentor in Quebec, he says the image that he has when Jesus says follow me, he loves, Montreal has maybe the best jazz festival in the world.

He loves jazz. And has anybody here been a part of a jazz ensemble? Somebody here? Here? Okay, tell me. When you’re sitting there, and you’re playing, and someone says, follow me, what does that mean? But what does it mean? Do you get up and walk out of the room? No!

Watch their cues. Listen to this. Jesus is basically saying, come and dance with me. No, you’re stepping on my foot. No, stepping on, no no, like this. Like this is the rhythm. It’s not, following Jesus isn’t just about getting somewhere, it’s about being and feeling the rhythms of Jesus.

They look like this. This is beautiful. So if we’re looking for people who are part of the kingdom of heaven, they’re gonna dance like this. This is the rhythm of their dance. And then what do the contours of their face look like? Do they have a beard with white skin like me? Or no beard and black skin like my friend?

Or do they, what do they look like? The contours of their face. Obviously, I’m talking about physical characteristics, but if we look at the fruit of the spirit, If we look at James chapter three, what wisdom looks like, and we start putting that together, the contours of their face looks like when we see a joyful face, when we see a gentle face, when we see goodness coming out of a face, when we see a loving face, a trustworthy face, a face that is showing inner strength and conviction, a kind face, peaceful, patient, self control.

We’ve got to get past the external and see what kind of face is this?

And this is when we’re drinking at the well of the feet of Jesus and we’re learning about his rhythms and dancing with him, it’s going to change us and we’re going to begin looking more and more like this.

It also is going to look radically different from anything we’re used to experiencing. Again, Miroslav Wolf, he was talking about his identity as a Croatian. His allegiance to Croatia. In his book, Exclusion and Embrace, I would recommend this to everybody to read. He said in his book, The new Croatia, like some jealous goddess, wanted all my love and loyalty, and I must be Croat through and through or I was not a good Croat.

And I would say, almost every nation and people on this earth, we struggle with the same exact challenge. You must be American through and through, or you’re not a good American. You must be Canadiens Français en complet. Ou peut être on n’est pas certain si tu l’es pour vrai, là. C’est un accent. You understood what I said?

And he said it was easy to explain the successive demand of loyalty after forced assimilation under communist rule the sense of ethnic belonging And cultural distinctness was bound to reassert itself Moreover, the need to stand firm against a powerful and destructive enemy who had captured one third of its Croatian territory, swept it clean of its Croatian population, and almost completely destroyed some of its cities, left little room for the luxury of divided loyalties.

You want to talk about feeling that tension that he was feeling? How do I love my people so that they feel loved and still remain loyal to Christ? Because they feel like my loyalty to Christ is disloyalty to them. Yet the unsettling questions remain. Did I not discover in oppressed Croatia’s face some despised Serbian features?

Might not the enemy have captured some of Croatia’s soul along with a good deal of Croatia’s soil? And he’s talking about how the hateful response And the fearful response and the response of disgust by the Croatians toward the Serbians, they were mirroring the abuse that they had received.

Second question, where can we find them? And the answer, the kingdom of heaven, this new humanity primarily flows through the stranger and flourishes amongst the marginalized. This is something else that it’s hard for us To get our minds around this. But if we just, we soak in scripture. Nestor Abedin said, A Christian view of migration paints a story of the movement of people as a response to God’s call or a movement directed by God to fulfill his mission, to make himself known, and to redeem humanity.

It’s this movement where, God is moving people for the purpose of His mission, but often He’s moving people who maybe don’t want to move, or He’s allowing them to move. And so where we see migration, where we see immigration, most of the time God is doing a great work right there. And so we, as members of the kingdom of heaven, or people who want to be part of the kingdom of heaven, as we’re looking at this from the outside, we have to ask ourselves a question.

Am I able to see the kingdom of heaven in the movements of migration and immigration? Among the marginalized? God also expresses his concern for the foreigners and calls his people to show care and compassion and make them part of the community. And I’d like to just soak in a few texts that talk about God’s heart for a moment.

God’s heart for the migrant and for the marginalized. And His, it starts in, it starts before that, even in Genesis 9, the mandate to fill the earth is a mandate where God sends people to move to places in order to experience His kingdom in that place. And so even when we look at, something like the Tower of Babel, There is nothing in the story of the Tower of Babel that says that God causing people to be dispersed was a curse.

In fact, I would argue that it was a blessing. Because God wanted to work around the world, and he wanted to, people to experience his kingdom around the world, but they had to go there, and they didn’t want to go. He said I want you to experience me all around the world, so I’m going to send you in a really creative way.

And we can talk about this. Abraham, go and leave your country. taking Joseph to Egypt. And Joseph said that you meant it for evil, but God meant this to save many lives. We talk about coming out of Egypt, and many other people went up with the Israelites. They were surrounded by the Israelites. So it was the Israelites and non Israelites together coming out of Egypt.

And then we see this in the book of Exodus, in the law. The same law applies both to the native born and the foreigner residing among you. So I picked out a couple dozen texts, but there are hundreds and hundreds of texts all throughout scripture that show God’s love for and working through migrants and immigrant movements and refugees all around the world and he’s still doing it today.

Exodus 22 Exodus 23, the foreigner, Leviticus 19, leave them for the poor and the foreigner. So you’re leaving part of your vineyard for the poor and the foreigner. I love Leviticus 19, when a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native born.

Love them as yourself. Why? Because you were foreigners in Egypt. You were foreigners, and I blessed you. Now there are foreigners amongst you. Love them. This is central to the heart of God. The poor, the vulnerable, and foreigners are, by definition, vulnerable. When you reap the harvest, leave part of that for the poor and foreign and foreigner.

Boy, okay, we’re gonna fly. Let’s see, foreigner, the fatherless, the widows living among you, the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow, again and again. See, I only picked out a few. I promise. This is powerful. Deuteronomy 10, God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and He loves the foreigner residing among you.

How dare I show disgust towards somebody that God loves!

And this is true in every nation and every people. If I was in Quebec, I’d be saying the same thing. But foreigners would be different people. And native born people would be different people. Ruth 2. 10, she talks about herself being a foreigner. The, 1 Kings 8, we talk about the foreigner coming to the temple.

The movement of peoples. The Lord watches over the foreigner in Psalm 146 and sustains the fatherless and the widow. So as we have people from different nations speaking different languages and different faces coming in here, they fit under this Psalm 146 verse 9. These are people that the Lord is watching out for.

Do I want to join in what God is doing? This is how he’s working through his his kingdom.

Isaiah 14. He says that foreigners will join Israel. Isaiah 16, hide the fugitives. Do not betray the refugees. Let the Mo Fugi Moabite fugitives stay with you. Be their shelter from the destroyer. Isaiah 58, provide the poor wanderer with shelter Matthew five. Love your enemies and pray for those who per persecute you.

And when Jesus said that, who is who are the enemies of Israel?

I wrote it up on that. I was like, I gotta give him the answer. All right. You can read it.

Okay. Remember this. Remember, okay, this is key. This is something that jumped out. I never made this connection until a few weeks ago, and I was reading through and I was and debating with one of my professors. It was in, in some, it was great. And he was showing, Matthew 25, the king will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine.

So he’s talking about believers traveling from place to place. Love your neighbor as yourself. Who is my neighbor? Who is the neighbor? Who acted as a neighbor? The Samaritan? Who was one of the enemies of the Jews?

Luke 14, But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Not that we don’t invite other people, but we are including people who are on the margins. Why? Because God is working there. And we want to be a part of it. In John 4, 9, it says, The Honduran woman said to him, You’re a white American, and I’m a Honduran immigrant.

How can you ask me for a drink? For white Americans do not associate with Honduran migrants. Wait a second. That might not be the exact translation. The Arab Muslim said to him, you’re a white American. Wait a minute. Okay, I think this is the trans, okay. The Samaritan woman said to him, you are a Jew and I’m a Samaritan woman.

How can you ask me for a drink? For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.

We struggle with the same tension today in the kingdom of heaven. is asking us to see the humanity, to see the image of God in each person, to see that God died for each person, to see the worth in each person, and to no longer create boundaries based on external characteristics. And from the standpoint of the Old Testament, we’re almost there, okay?

We’re gonna bring it, we’re gonna loop it to the end right here in a couple of minutes, for those who are worried about the time, from the standpoint of the Old Testament, and particularly later Judaism, there were Jews, and then there was everyone else called the Gentiles, or more literally the nations, the etnei.

And the Gentiles came to be viewed as the other, those on the periphery of human existence. The designation eventually became an ethnic slur, a pejorative ethnographic designation for non Jews who lacked the sign of circumcision. Okay, are you ready? We’re gonna make a connection here. When the Romans took political control over Israel in 63 BC, the category ethne became nuanced as referring to all those who are enemies of God.

That is Gentiles. So the Gentiles, they’re not just people who are different. These are people who are enemies and we hate them. From a Jewish perspective. I want us to feel the gravity here. Because then when we get to Matthew 18, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, of all ethnic. Now, go make disciples of them.

The Romans, the Greeks, the Samaritans, the Gentile nations. These people who have been our enemies for generations.

So Jesus command to love one’s enemies in the Sermon on the Mount was the prerequisite heart preparation to later receive the command to go and make disciples of them. The command to make disciples of the etne was even more radical than we previously thought. I know it’s a lot, right?

And that’s what Miroslav was struggling with. The cross underscores that evil is irremediable without the cross. The ultimate scandal of the cross is the all too frequent failure of a self donation to bear positive fruit. Because when we do go and give ourselves Often it doesn’t go the way we thought it, would you sacrifice your life and stabilize the power of the perpetrator, whatever that means.

He’s talking about in the context of Croatia, there is a place for justice. We’re for that. And the pain and the frequent failure of the way of the cross are a scandal for all human beings in every age. So what we’re preaching is difficult and it takes generations. But is the scandal of the cross good enough reason to give up on it?

There’s no genuinely Christian way around the scandal.

In the final analysis, the only available options are either to reject the cross, and with it the core of the Christian faith, or to take up one’s cross and follow the crucified and be scandalized ever anew by the challenge.

And what that’s going to mean is to see people who were formerly different, who were formerly categorized as other, who were formerly enemies, and to express love, and to invite them in, and it means in this room, in a very practical way, the colors, the languages, the colors of skin, the languages, the cultures, the food we eat, is going to transition and this place will be transformed.

Why? Because the kingdom of heaven is not defined any longer by our tribe or our culture or our language. It’s defined by all of those who put their faith in Christ. And what the local church is the visible expression of that unity. to our community. So we have to physically be with people who are different.

We have to physically enter into relationship and that must necessarily transform into physically worshiping together. That means this will be different. We will be uncomfortable and then we will discover that the beauty and the richness of what it means. What does it feel like? Last thing. The Voyager of the Dawn Treader, C.

S. Lewis, he tells the story of what it feels like to go through this process of changing allegiances from what it, our people or our nation, to the kingdom of heaven. He tells the story of a boy named Eustace. He stole a golden bracelet. And it transformed into a dragon. He became huge, but the gold bracelet stayed the same size.

It was really painful. And so Eustace, he was this big dragon in pain everywhere he went. He finally met Aslan, the lion. And he asked Aslan to help him to take off this this bracelet and to free him. But he was a dragon. He was no longer a little boy. And Aslan said to him, Eustace, first you must undress.

And Eustace thought, I’m a dragon. I’m not wearing any clothes. I can’t undress. Then he remembered, dragons are scaly kinds of things, and they shed their skin. So he started to try to take his skin off, and try to take his skin off, and try to take his skin off. I thought it was a beautiful metaphor for us with Our allegiances to our nation, to our people, to our language, to our culture.

We want to be like Jesus, but we can’t figure out how to do it. And then Aslan said to Eustace, You have to let me undress you.

And Eustace said, Okay. And so Aslan put his claws into Eustace. It began ripping into his skin. and ripping into his skin. And it was excruciatingly painful for Eustace. And it said he felt like he was going to die. And Aslan continued ripping into his skin, and ripping into his skin, and ripping into his skin.

But eventually, after all the pain, the skin came off and he discovered that he’d become a little boy again. And there was a pond. He could jump in and he could swim in the pond and he rediscovered what it meant to be and find his, the identity that God had given him initially. That’s what Christ has to do in us so that we discover what it means to be full citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

He’s going to have to transfer our allegiances to Christ and Christ alone. It’s going to be painful and it will be the most beautiful thing And enriching experience we’ve ever had that will last for the rest of eternity father. Thank you for this morning We love you. And We are excited to see what you’re going to do through this body of jesus in my prayer.

Amen