Reflections for the Week of Sunday, June 17, 2018 Fourth of Pentecost

Gospel: Mark 4.26-34 are two parables of the kingdom of God: it grows from scattered seeds with people unaware of its growth, not suddenly, but slowly, but surely.

The Creeds hardly speak of Jesus’ life and work, but of His birth, death, and resurrection, and of the Spirit and the church. Aside from his crucifixion Jesus’ main effort during His life on earth was to launch the kingdom of God ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ (Mt 6.10). The kingdom exists wherever Christ is King in people’s hearts. It is made up of His followers who have been born of the Spirit so, like sheep, they know their Shepherd, and follow Him. They are members of the covenant family that God promised to Abraham who have become ‘Israel.’ Like their spiritual father, Abraham, they are justified by faith (Gen 15.6; Rm 4.3,5,13ff) and adopted as children of the Father (Rm 8.15; Gal 4.6).   They are no longer under the condemnation of the law (Rm 8.1), but have died to the law (Rm 7.4) of sin and death (Rm 8.2b), and dwell under the ‘law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ (Rm 8.2a). Believers in Christ are members of His body which is the ‘invisible church,’ the present day Israel of God whose spiritual father is Abraham, and the kingdom of God on earth. There are nominal members who do not (yet) believe in the Lord Jesus, who are included in the ‘visible church.’ They are like the ‘tares’ (weeds) in another of Jesus’ parables (Mt 13.24ff), which cannot be distinguished from the true wheat but will be separated out and discarded by the Lord when He returns in judgment. True believers comprise  a ‘royal priesthood’ (1 Pet 2.9; Ex 19.6; Rev 1.6; 5.10). ‘Royal,’ because, bearing His image, subjects of Christ the King will one day reign with Him (Rev 5.10) and are to reflect God’s glory into the world for the benefit of all people. A ‘priesthood’ because in this world they are to reflect the praises of people back to God in gratitude and worship. These functions will help to extend God’s kingdom which grows slowly but inexorably. It may not be growing in Europe or North America, but it is growing by leaps and bounds in China and Africa. Jesus’ parables present the truth, usually about the kingdom, in ways that break truth open so that it can be seen in new and profound ways that have hardly been thought of before. Most of Jesus’ parables were based on simple and natural realities like fields of grain and seeds with which everyone was familiar but presented profound truths that are mind bending. People need to exert effort to understand them, and they separate people into two categories––those who understood (’those with ears to hear’) and those who did not, based on spiritual understanding. The task of God’s people is to be actors in the story of the Spirit-led church, the Scripture-reading community whose mission is the Gospel laid out in Gen 1,2, Isa 40-55, Rm 8, 1 Cor 15, Eph 1, and Rev 21,22, that Jesus Christ, the living God, has defeated the powers of evil and begun the work of new creation. They are called as individuals to submit in faith to the lordship of the crucified and risen Christ and so to become, through baptism and membership in the body of Christ, agents of the new creation itself (Gal 6.15, 2 Cor 5.17), under God’s authority mediated through Scripture and prayer. The goal is the full and complete new creation gloriously (Rev 21,22) anticipated in Jesus’ resurrection.

Memory Verse: Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, teaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1.14,15).  

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