Reflections for the Week of July 16, 2017 Sixth after Pentecost

Gospel: Mt 13.1-9,18-23 is the parable of the sower (or, perhaps better, of the soils) which tells of the kingdom of God in terms of those who hear of the kingdom and understand what it means. And so we continue N.T. Wright’s After You Believe… which is also about the kingdom. When God created Adam and Eve His intention was that they would be the human agents to bring in the kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6.10). But Adam failed to obey God and strove for divinity himself by eating from the Tree of Wisdom in the garden and so was put out of the garden and lost access to the Tree of Life and to God’s presence. He thereby became subject to death as did all his descendants. In Rm 5.12-21 we learn of Adam’s failure and then of Jesus’ victory over sin and death which rescues believers and incredibly gives them authority over God’s creation (Rm 5.17). This is what “glory” means – the wise rule of humans over creation reflecting God’s powerful life-giving presence. Those who are “in Adam,” who don’t get it and do it their way and don’t know that they are to follow Jesus, are condemned to death. But those who are “in Jesus” by knowing who He is and following Him receive the gift of grace and are justified and “will reign in life though the One, Jesus Christ” (v. 17). Rm 8.30 says those He justified, He also glorified which means to set in glorious authority over the world. This is what it means to reign in life through Jesus. If this is the goal, the telos, our destiny, then we must begin to learn in the present the habits of mind and heart which will enable us to reign. It is a matter of anticipating at the present time what we will be called to do in the future. Our vocation is to become angled mirrors to reflect God into the world and to reflect the praises of the world back to God. This is what it means to serve as a royal priesthood. This is a goal we can move toward, an art we can practice, a language we can learn. This has been the call ever since God led Israel through the wilderness to Mt. Sinai (Ex 19.4-6). To prepare ourselves for this goal, this vocation, we are to strive for personal holiness through prayer (Rm 5.1-5; 8.12-17; 8.28-30), to love and serve one another, to forgive one another and ourselves. The future hope is the hope of all who are “in Christ” and who accordingly receive the Holy Spirit and are empowered and enlightened to take up the vocation commanded in Gen 1 and Ps 8 and sharing the inheritance, and the final rescuing work of the Messiah Himself, as in Ps 2. Jesus spoke throughout the Gospels of the kingdom of God and defined it in His parables. He fitted His disciples to carry on His work when He ascended as the first fruits of humanity to rule over the universe. And His disciples came to understand when they remembered His words and received the Spirit. And the Gospels were written for us so that we can carry out the charge. The church has gone off track thinking that our goal is to dwell as disembodied spirits in heaven whereas Rev 21, 22 make it clear that the new heaven and new earth will come to earth and believers will dwell in resurrected bodies in this renewed earth (Rm 8.18-23) with the Lord forever. This has been the goal from Gen 1 and is being realized in Jesus the Messiah who has overcome the deceptions of the satan and opened the eyes of the blind to see with clarity what faith, hope and love promise us.

Memory Verse: But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty” (Mt 13.23).

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