Year C — The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17)

Commentary for September 1, 2013
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Click here for today’s readings
Click HERE for the Lectionary Lab Live podcast with the Rev. Robert Mitchell

Jeremiah 2:4-13
In the Lord’s lament, as recorded by Jeremiah, we have represented the antithesis of worship — a word that has as its root meaning, “something that is heavy, weighty — worthy.” So, if worshiping God is a weighty matter, the Lord wonders why God’s people have gone after worthless things (things that are “light, of no consequence, things that do not matter.”)

Of course, most vividly, God reminds us that those who pursue worthless things end up as worthless people. Ouch!

Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Speaking of weighty matters, God’s actions represented here are worthy of shouts of praise (something that most of us would probably consider a breach of the “worshipful atmosphere” in most of our congregations?)

God literally feeds our souls; “open your mouths wide,” the Lord says, “and I will fill you up!” And just take a look at what’s on the menu: finest of the wheat and honey from the rock. 

Sirach 10:12-18
Sirach provides a vivid counterpoint to the words from the Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Here, we learn that forsaking the Lord is “the beginning of human pride.” When our hearts withdraw from our Maker, we are headed down a very slippery slope, indeed.

Proverbs 25:6-7
As Dr. Chilton points out (in his own unique way) on today’s Lectionary Lab Live podcast, Jesus evidently had this quotation from Proverbs on his mind during the events recorded in Luke’s gospel (see below.)

Psalm 112
Note the actions of the wealthy and the righteous in this psalm; they are not always one and the same!

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
The preacher of Hebrews is winding down his lengthy sermon, and is giving his final exhortations. They are good points, and align quite nicely with the gospel story from Luke (see below.)

Luke 14:1, 7-14
It is the nature of God’s kingdom that many things that we expect — don’t happen. And, certainly, there are many times that we are surprised (often graciously so) by things that happen that we did not expect. Of course, not every surprise in God’s kingdom economy is pleasant, as the text today teaches us.

by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus challenges his host about the make-up of his guest list. The official Chilton paraphrase edition of what Jesus said goes like this “By inviting your friends and family and your neighbors who are in your social class, you have made sure that you have lost nothing, risked nothing, spent nothing, ultimately, sacrificed nothing, actually done nothing that qualifies you as a host in the spiritual sense of the word. You have invited only people who can afford to return the favor and invite you to their house and feed you there. This is a nice social event, its good fellowship, but it’s not real hospitality. “

Biblical hospitality is about taking a risk on behalf of the strangers and aliens in your midst. It is rooted in the Hebrew awareness that we are all, every one of us, strangers here on this earth.

The shema, which every Hebrew was enjoined to pray each morning, begins with these words:
A wandering Aramaen was my father,”  recalling how the first Hebrews, Abram and Sarai, were called out of Ur of the Chaldees, and were sent to wandering the earth, looking for the Promised Land. Abram and Sarai very much depended upon the hospitality they received as strangers in their travels, and kindness to strangers was built into the Hebrew faith from the beginning.

In our text for today, Jesus reminds his host that he gets no credit for hospitality for inviting those who are not strangers.  Notice the list of people whom Jesus tells us not to invite: friends, brothers, other relatives, neighbors. Why? Because these people are not, generally speaking, in need of hospitality.

Okay. So who are the strangers, the aliens in our midst, the wanderers upon the earth whom we are called upon to invite to our banquets and celebrations? According to Jesus they are the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. This is not a random, off the top of his head list. By reciting it, Jesus intentionally offended both his host and the other guests.

The poor, of course, is a reminder to invite those who cannot repay you. The rest of the list consists of those who are ritually unclean; they are persons who were not welcome at worship.

Leviticus 21:17-20, for example, says, in part:No one . . . who has a blemish may approach to offer the food of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, one who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or one who has a broken foot or hand.”

These were people who were not allowed to worship, people whom you could not touch or associate with without becoming unclean yourself. And these are the people whom Jesus calls us to invite to the banquet.

Who are the poor, the crippled, the lame and blind among us? Who are the strangers in our midst in need of hospitality? Who has God placed in our path for us to pay attention to? Who are the “wandering Aramaens” looking for a Promised Land who have happened upon our door?

In order to answer that question, we have to realize a couple of things:

First;  we are all strangers here on this earth. As the old Gospel song had it, “This world is not my home.” We have all been called out of the safety and comfort of the familiar to launch out on a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey seeking a spiritual Promised Land. This journey will lead us to and fro as we search for our eternal home. Because we are all strangers, we are all in need of hospitality from time to time.

Second; Jesus the Christ is the true host, the perfect and loving welcomer of strangers, aliens and pilgrims upon the earth. We, the Church, exercise our hospitality in imitation of Christ, seeking to be Christ in the world.

It is not by accident that the most important thing we do in church, the central ritual action of our faith, is the remembrance, the re-creation, of a meal at which Jesus was the host. It is not by accident that the bread blessed at communion is also called the host. This word, and its many meanings, goes back to a Latin root word which means stranger. Various English words come from this word, all a result of how one treats the stranger: 

Hospice –  means a guest room. Hospital – a place for strangers who are sick. Host – a person who receives a stranger. Hostile – seeing the stranger as an enemy. Host – bread which one gives to a stranger. Hospitality – welcoming the stranger. All these meanings come into play as we come to communion, as we respond to the invitation,Come to the Banquet, all is now ready!”

We come as though we had just wandered off the street in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. We come as someone who stands in the door of the Upper Room, watching, and suddenly Jesus looks up from table and sees us and says,Come up higher, friend, you look hungry, have some bread, drink some wine.”

We come, leaving behind in the pew our power or position.We come and kneel and bow and hold out our hands, hands with which we have for so long tried so hard to hold on to control of our lives.  We come, and relax our grip and hold out our hands, like a child asking for candy,
willing to receive whatever God has to give us,

We come and God gives to us the bread of life,the host, the food given to strangers, the food which changes us from strangers into friends,indeed transforms us from pilgrims into hosts.

And we return to our pews as new people; and from our pews we are sent forth into the world to seek and save those who,like us, are seekers and strangers upon the earth.

Who are the strangers, the aliens, the lame, the blind, the poor?  They are us, and they are all those in the world who, like us,  stand in need of the love of Christ!

Amen and amen.

Year C — the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16)

Commentary for August 25, 2013
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

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Click HERE for the Lectionary Lab Live podcast

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Jeremiah’s call story: is it our call story, too?

Whether we are called to be “preachers” in a pulpit on Sunday, or simply “proclaimers” by our lives and with our words wherever we go, it is the Lord who has known us since we were in the womb, and who gives us God’s word in our mouths.

Psalm 71:1-6
What beautiful and excellent counterpoint this psalm makes for Jeremiah’s account of his calling. 

Isaiah 58:9b-14
It is always interesting to me to see just how passionately God spoke through the Hebrew prophets concerning God’s “will” for those who are hungry, afflicted, powerless and broken down by life. Apparently, Jesus shared that same concern — as today’s gospel lesson will illustrate.

Psalm 103:1-8
This is one of my favorite passages of scripture, and these are verses that I often pray — in my own life and in my pastoral practice. 

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name…for God forgives all our iniquity and heals all our diseases…bless the Lord, O my soul!”

Hebrews 12:18-29
The preacher of Hebrews has taken great pains to build up the virtues of faith and hope in God; here, we are reminded that faith is sometimes a fearful thing. We approach God with a certain amount of trembling, as did the Israelites at Mt. Sinai.

When we do survive our “fear and trembling” before the Lord, we are amazed to see what remains when all that is impermanent has been removed: the unshakable kingdom of God!

Luke 13:10-17
Jesus is doing the right thing on the Sabbath day; like a good Jewish rabbi, he is teaching in the synagogue. Then, he crosses a line and reaches out to heal a poor, doubled-over woman who can’t even look him in the eye.

As Dr. Chilton says on today’s Lectionary Lab Live podcast, “Sometimes you have to choose between breaking a rule and mending a broken life.” 

I’m glad Jesus is always on the side of life!

by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

Ravi Zacharias tells this story:

“On his way to work every day, a man walked past a clockmaker’s store. Without fail, he would stop and reset his watch from the clock in the window, then proceed on to the factory.

The clockmaker observed this scene morning after morning. One day he stepped outside and asked the man what he did and why he set his watch every morning.

The man replied, ‘I’m the watchman at the factory, and it’s part of my job to blow the 4:00 o’clock whistle for the end of the day. My watch is slow so I re-set it every morning.’

The clockmaker laughed and said, ‘You won’t believe this. That clock in the window is fast, so I re-set it every afternoon by the factory whistle. Heaven only knows what time it really is.’ ”

(retold from The Real Face of Atheism, BakerBooks, 2004, p. 52)

That story is about the search for a true and reliable standard by which to measure time.  Our Gospel lesson is about the search for a true and reliable standard by which to measure morality.

Jesus is at worship on the Sabbath day. There is a woman present who has suffered for almost twenty years from a crippling disease. Jesus responds to her illness with love and compassion; he reaches out and heals her. And immediately, the leader of the synagogue attacks Jesus for having the wrong standard for moral behavior, for coloring outside the lines, for not following the exact letter of the law.

Jesus responds by pointing out that even the strictest interpretation of the Law, the most reliable eternal timepiece, allows people to untie their cows and horses and mules and lead them to water on the Sabbath in order to prevent unnecessary cruelty. Jesus then asks the rhetorical question: 
“Is not a woman’s unloosing from the suffering of disease as important as the unloosing of an animal from its thirst?

We will lose the point of this story for us if we dwell too long on the subject of Sabbath observance; that battle has already been won or lost, depending on your point of view. Very few of us here would really hesitate to do anything on Sunday that we would do any other day of the week.About the only thing that Jesus could have done in this situation that would have shocked us would have been to not heal the woman because it was the Sabbath.

For us to get the point for us, today, we must think outside the box and consider ways in which our understanding of religious rules and regulations could block us from showing genuine, heartfelt compassion to those in need. Hmm. Gee, I can’t think of any right off the top of my head.  Which is precisely the problem. 

No one of us considers our self to be a cruel and unjust person. Nobody here thinks that our way of being Christian gets in the way of our being kind, caring and compassionate.

I’m sure the leader of the synagogue surely thought of himself as a kind man; and so did his neighbors. After all, they made him their leader.  He’s just a local working man, a fisherman or cobbler or farmer or tentmaker, who has taken on the volunteer leadership role. He’s doing his best to interpret and enforce the rules as he knows them.  He says,There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, but not on the Sabbath Day.”

I’m sure he never imagined that one day, 2000 years later, he would be held up in sermons to millions of people as an example of religious hypocrisy. He would surely protest; “But, but, I’m an unpaid leader of a tiny congregation. I spend countless hours aiding the poor and the widows and the sick in our community. All I was trying to do was keep order, make sure everybody followed the rules; after all, that’s my job.

What it looks like to us may not be what it looks like to others; to someone looking in from the outside.  We may think we are friendly and caring and compassionate people, while other eyes may be the ones who see us more clearly as we are. This is why we need Jesus to look at us and speak to us about ourselves. 

Just as Jesus broke into the pat little world of first century Palestinian Judaism with a new set of eyes and a fresh voice; we need to let Jesus look US over and tell us what he sees. We need to hear and heed the call of Christ to break out of our old comfortable way of seeing things and doing things; we need to look at the world with the fresh eyes of Jesus, we need to look at the world as a place filled with opportunities to bend the rules in the name of love.

In his book How Sweet the Sound, Billy Graham’s long time songleader George Beverly Shea tells a story about one of Graham’s classmates at Wheaton College: 

Mr. Frizen, called Bert by his friends, was a talented and popular singer on campus, involved with several singing groups . . . .  He went on to serve in the military during World War II and was involved in the famous Battle of the Bulge . . . . Bert was wounded during one of the attacks and lay on the battlefield, slipping in and out of consciousness. At one point, with his eyes closed, he started singing his mother’s favorite hymn as best he could, “Jesus Whispers Peace.” When he opened his eyes, he saw a German soldier standing over him with a drawn bayonet.  Bert understood enough German to know that the soldier was saying to him, “Sing it again; sing it again.”  Bert continued the song; “There is a Name to me most dear, like sweetest music to my ear/And when my heart is troubled, filled with fear/Jesus whispers peace.” Soon he felt himself being gently lifted up in the arms of the enemy soldier, who carried him to a rock ledge nearby where the American medics found him a short time later, taking him to safety.

In the midst of war, one German soldier broke the rules in the name of love, in the name of compassion, in the name of Jesus.Our challenge today is to set our spiritual clock by the unchanging rhythm of God’s love. God calls us to look deep within and to find the courage and the faith to break the rules in the name of love, in the name of the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen and amen.

Year C — The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15)

Commentary for August 18, 2013
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Click here for today’s readings
Click HERE for the Lectionary Lab Live podcast with the Rev. Julian Gordy

Isaiah 5:1-7
Isaiah’s opening sounds a bit like Solomon’s Song of Songs — a love story! 

The vineyard is so carefully (lovingly) prepared and cultivated, it seems that every crop that springs forth should be “guaranteed” to be fruitful and delicious. Alas, it is not so. 

As with the “things of the Lord,” stuff doesn’t always work out. When we allow our spiritual lives to go untended, we may expect waste, overgrowth, and drought. 


Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19
Asaph, the court musician, pens a plaintive lament seeking to understand why God has withdrawn God’s hand from the people of God. 

The closing verses are a beautiful, heartfelt prayer for God’s return — the light from God’s face that brings our salvation.

Jeremiah 23:23-29
It appears that God takes the preaching of God’s word fairly seriously.

We want to be pretty careful that it is not our own “dreams” that we proclaim from the pulpit, but rather the word we receive from the Lord. 

Of course, that raises a whole other set of issues, as the word that comes from God is not always a calming, comforting word. It is like fire; it is a hammer that breaks the hard rock of our hearts (or maybe our heads?)

Psalm 82
We are reminded again of what is important to God: “justice to the weak and orphan, giving what is right to the lowly and the destitute.”

How are we doing, church?

Hebrews 11:29-12:2
I live in the hometown of the University of Florida Fighting Gators; current radio broadcaster and “Voice of the Gators” is Mick Hubert. One of Hubert’s catch phrases — used after a dynamic play or a devastating (to the Gators) call by a ref — is, “Oh, my!”

I’d kind of like to give this passage from Hebrews a big, “Oh, my!” It is a stunning piece of scripture and a dynamic section in the extended sermon by this long-ago preacher.

Be sure to consider the relationship of the long list of heroes and martyrs that concludes chapter 11 and the more famous opening words of chapter 12, concerning the “great cloud of witnesses.”

Our call to follow Jesus is always and ever a call to the way of the cross — and, evidently, to some other fairly uncomfortable situations on the way to any great victories God desires to give us.

Luke 12:49-56
On this week’s Lectionary Lab Live podcast, Dr. Chilton raises the question of the “family values” revealed by Jesus in this week’s gospel text. This is not one of the more comfortable texts you will ever have to deal with, preachers!

Disruptive and divisive at times, the gospel is always moving us from somewhere to somewhere. We rarely are allowed to simply sit and watch the world go by. 

by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus talks about the ability to read the signs of the times. To look at obvious things, like dark clouds and south winds andknow what they mean. Jesus wonders  why people can interpret ordinary stuff, but don’t know how to look at the social world around them and see it for what it is.

When we read this section, we usually assume that Jesus’ is referring to a dark omen of evil times in the offing. But let me propose that that is not necessarily the case.  There are many times when rain in the offing is good news, not bad. Jesus says here nothing about looking out for evil times; he merely suggests that we should pay as much attention to the times as we do the clouds.

In the Jewish tradition clouds were a sign of God’s presence. When Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments, he ascended up a mountain into the clouds where God was hidden from the view of those below.  When the Children of Israel were crossing the wilderness, they were led by God, by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. The clouds were signs of God’s presence, God’s protection, God’s provision.

The letter to the Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians. In it, the author uses the phrase 
“a great cloud of witnesses.” He is referring to the long list of folk he has named who trusted God throughout their problems and difficulties.

The first part of our text is about the exodus and coming into the promised land. The second part is about the time the history of the kingdom of Israel. The third part is about the great trials the Jews faced during the Maccabean period. 

Then, in 12:1 and 2, the author makes his point:  we are surrounded by this cloud of witnesses.   A “cloud”, not a crowd; the witnesses are a sign to us of what God can do with and for us in the midst of difficulties and hard times.
12: 2: “Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for our sake endured the cross, disregarding its shame, . . . “  ties directly to the beginning of the Gospel lesson.  Jesus here refers not to some future apocalypse, some deep punishment of the earth which an angry God holds in abeyance until it suits his whim and fancy to unleash it on us. Jesus is talking about himself, telling us that he came to bring good news, but not necessarily “pleasant news.” Jesus says he came to break in order to heal, to burn in order to purify, to tear down in order to build up. 

Though the world often seeks pleasant news, it has often been the un-pleasant duty of the church to bring good news that is frequently neither gentle nor welcome . People want, in the midst of the misery that their sin and rebellion have brought upon them, to be told that God is love and forgives them. That is pleasant news.

They do not wish to be told that while God loves them as they are, God also loves them too much to let them stay that way.  God will always seek to change and transform us more and more from sinners into saints.

It’s a different message than we’re used to hearing, but it is an important one. Jesus came into this world with a message and a mission, both of which were good, but neither of which was pleasant. His message was a message of love, and as we all know, love can be very, very unpleasant at times.

The opposite of love is not hate, not anger, not unpleasantness. The opposite of love is apathy, uncaring, uninvolved; which can often be very quiet and pleasant. Love is noisy and nosy and involved. Love will not let you slip away unchallenged into nice failure.

Jesus had a message of love, a message of love that disturbed families because it called upon people to get beyond roles and to get into relationships; real, messy, involved relationships; and that kind of love is disruptive, it broke what isn’t working in order to create a new family, a new community of truth and love.

Yes, Jesus came with a message and a mission, and his mission was to break the power of the evil one through the power of selfless love. That is the “baptism” he refers to, the thing that must be completed.  Jesus came to complete what was begun many years ago in the parting of the Red Sea; Jesus came to rescue God’s people,  Jesus came to fight the good fight of faith and to break us free from our bondage to sin, death and the devil. Jesus came to be the capstone, the final chapter, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

So, what is our sign today, what do the clouds hold for us? Life is difficult for many of us. We are living in the midst of tough times. But, we are called upon to look to the “great cloud of witnesses” who went before us.

We are not alone, sisters and brothers, and we are not traveling down roads untrod. Where we are, for the most part, others have been before, and they held on to their faith and God held on to them. We are called to look to them as a sign, a seal and a promise of God’s presence, God’s protection and God’s provision; we are to look to them and trust in the hand of God to carry us through.

Amen and amen.

Year C — The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14)

Commentary for August 11, 2013
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Click here for today’s readings
Click HERE for The Lectionary Lab Live podcast with the Rev. Amy Walter-Peterson

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Ours ears prick up a bit when we hear the prophet call out “Sodom” and “Gomorrah” as stand-ins for those hearing God’s message from Isaiah. 

In our time, we have become accustomed to those names being invoked with sexual sin, when in reality, in the original context it seems that these cities’ sin was something else: “they did not aid the poor and needy.” (see Ezekiel 16:49-50)

This makes Isaiah’s words much more easily understood — “Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” 

God might just be more concerned with how we treat our neighbors than with what we do in the bedroom?

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23
The psalmist echoes the theme that it is not just our sacrifices and offerings to God that God desires; God seeks righteousness from God’s people, as God, in God’s self, is righteous. 

(Connected to the theological concept of aseity.)

Genesis 15:1-6
Interesting juxtapositions in today’s readings.

We have Abraham, the great exemplar of faith according to Hebrews 11; we have Jesus telling the disciples (which includes us) that we should not be afraid in Luke 12; and, we have Abraham acting a bit nervous and — well, afraid — in Genesis 15.

What’s a preacher to do with all this?

Of course, Abraham’s story of faith includes honest doubt and struggle. It is in the striving to understand and to act faithfully that our faith becomes actual.

I don’t think that’s a bad message to bring.

Psalm 33:12-22
Let me make my Lutheran friend and colleague happy:

“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.” 
Ein Feste Burg Is Unser GottMartin Luther, 1529

I believe Luther is simpatico with Psalm 33 here.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
You can’t really “see” faith, can you? But you can see faith in action.

‘Nuff said.

Luke 12:32-40
One of the questions I always encourage preachers and students to ask when digging into a passage is, “What do we learn about God here?”

God takes pleasure in supplying the needs of God’s children. What a “happy” thought to realize that I can swap the cares and concerns of the world for the pleasure of God.

by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

Most of us don’t spend a great deal of time worrying about the kingdom of God.  Holding on to our jobs, raising our kids in a safe and decent world, bringing them up to be good and decent people, making the house payment, etc. etc.; these are the things that occupy our minds.
If we think of the kingdom of God at all, we think of it as a somewhat vague religious term that has something to do with church and maybe the social ministry committee or something. Whatever it is, it seems to have little or nothing to do with the way we live most of our lives, most of the time.
A careful reading of the gospels show that most of what Jesus talked about most of the time had to do with two things; money and the kingdom of God.  And Jesus seldom talked about one without talking about the other.  In his preaching and teaching the two are intimately intertwined.
The kingdom of God is like – a man who had two sons and the younger came to him and demanded half of the inheritance.
The kingdom of God is like – a vineyard owner who pays everyone the same, no matter how much or how little they had worked.
The kingdom of God is like – a master who gives his servants varying amounts of money and then judges them on how they have managed it.
I could go on, there are many, many more.
We have a tendency to want to spiritualize these stories, to make them about something other than money, to make them into something they are not.  We can’t do that.  The texts won’t allow it.  Jesus knew what he was saying and he said it very plainly.
The already but not yet kingdom of God has very important practical implications for how we treat our neighbor and how we treat our money.
In this Gospel lesson, Jesus makes it very clear that the coming kingdom is firmly rooted in the gospel of grace. The kingdom is not something we achieve or earn or build or create or prepare for through what we do.  The kingdom is pure, sweet, unmerited and undeserved grace.
“Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Yes, the kingdom is a gift; it’s free, no strings attached.
But, receiving the kingdom into our lives is costly.
The kingdom changes the way we live our lives, it changes the way we define the purpose of our lives, it changes the things we care about and worry about, it changes the way we treat our neighbor and yes, it changes the way we manage our money.
“Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear our, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Where is your treasure?  Where is your heart?  If it is not with Christ, where is it?  And why is it not with Christ? And if your heart is with Christ, why do you still cling to your stuff?  To your  money, your goods, your treasure?
Becoming a citizen of the kingdom of God frees us from our slavery to the here and now.
Becoming a citizen of the kingdom liberates us from our anxiety about worldly success.
Becoming a citizen of the kingdom releases us from bondage to our earthly treasure.
Becoming a citizen of the kingdom of god releases us to love God and neighbor with all our heart, mind, soul, strength and stuff.
In verse 35-38 of our text, Jesus tells a very interesting parable in which the master becomes the servant of the servants.  He is so pleased at their readiness, their preparation and attentiveness that he makes them all sit at table and serves them.
Who does that sound like?  Oh yes, Jesus in the upper room, taking off his belt, and kneeling upon the floor and washing the disciples’ feet.
Jesus there shows and tells his followers that kingdom of God is a kingdom of servants; people whose purpose in life is serving each other and the world.
The kingdom of God is not a place, or better, the kingdom of God is any place where people let go of their stuff, their pride, their willfulness, their sin; and grab on to God.
The kingdom of God is not a place; it is a trust in almighty God so strong, so secure, so trusting so filled with life and love and the laughter of faith that all else fades into nothingness.
How does one make sure one is ready when the kingdom comes?  By living each day as though the kingdom were already here.

Amen and amen.