Forgiveness-the Hard Part Matthew 6:7-21 Luke 11: 2-4

Luke 11: 4 Forgive our sins, as we forgive everyone who has done wrong to us. CEV
And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. NRSV
Straight from the bulletin: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. //Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Forgive me, God. That’s easy to say. Usually easy to accept. Christians take forgiveness of their own sins, their own errors, very seriously. We celebrate Holy Communion not only to remember Jesus sacrifice for us, but also to be reassured that His death still means something to us believers, that we can leave the table free of the burden of our own foolishness, our own meanness, our own mistakes, our own weaknesses.
Forgive us our sins. Easy.
As we forgive those who sin against us. Not so easy. An afterthought. An afterthought to tack on to the end of our big prize, forgiven sins. Easy to overlook.
And the wording: as we forgive. Not IF we forgive. Not WHEN we forgive.
AS we forgive. The wording of the prayer makes it sound like we automatically forgive those who hurt us in anyway, just like God automatically forgives us.
My stubborn, sinful self struggles with forgiving others.
Forgiveness operates on several levels. Questions I ask myself include:
How awful is the sin that is committed against me?
Has that sin against me caused me permanent damage or suffering?
Why do I remember the sin?
Does my unwillingness to forgive have something to do with my original feelings toward the person?
Was the sin committed with the knowledge or approval of others?
Does anybody else remember what happened?
Why do I keep remembering what that person did to me?
Am I exaggerating?
Am I still embarrassed?
Does the memory of this sin keep me from doing things or going places that I enjoy?
I can give you specific answers to everyone of those questions. I can call up specific sins against me complete with time, place, and what I was wearing.
AS I forgive others. Who have hurt me. Who have embarrassed me.
Amazingly, forgiving others is not only good spiritual advice. It is good social advice and good medical advice.
The Mayo Clinic Newsletter lists benefits of forgiveness. They have nothing to do with getting into heaven. In fact they have everything to do with delaying that journey to the Pearly Gates.
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness can lead to:
Healthier relationships
Improved mental health
Less anxiety, stress and hostility
Lower blood pressure
Fewer symptoms of depression
A stronger immune system
Improved heart health
Improved self-esteem
How do you forgive someone?
Start with prayer. Start with being honest about why you are still bearing that grudge. Why is it important to you to hang on to that hurt?
Why do you keep pulling the scab off that wound? What pleasure does it give you to keep the wound open?
I often ask myself if the other person realizes if or how much they hurt me. And I wonder what in their lives made them feel comfortable hurting me.
Let me give you an example from fifth grade. One girl made fun of me all the time. She made fun of my clothes. She made fun of everything I did. All the other girls backed her. I was pretty miserable. Maggie and I were both in 4-H—the Lake Lassies. Back in those days, the most excruciating part of 4-H was The Better Groomed Girl Contest. It was held once a year, usually in the basement of High Prairie Methodist Church. The instructions were to wear one of our school dresses, and follow all the grooming rules we had learned through demonstrations presented during our meetings. Clean fingernails, ironed clothes, etc. We stood in a line in front of the judge while she examined us. Then we turned our backs and she examined our back sides.
Of course, we all cheated and wore our church dresses. The year I am thinking of was the year of the green suit. My mom, an excellent seamsteress, had made me a three-piece apple green suit—green skirt and jacket with a green polka dot blouse. The jacket was lined to match the blouse. Now I’d been through enough of these Miss America for Farmers that I knew what the judges, who seemed ancient and snippy, wanted. So with my green suit, I wore white anklets and saddle shoes. Even at age 10, I knew it was a fashion faux pax. But the judge loved it and presto! chango! I was the Better Groomed Girl of 19fifty-something.
But here’s the thing. I saw the backside of Maggie’s dress, too. It was, first of all, not ironed well. And the button at the top of the dress was fine, but the next two button holes were fastened with safety pins. There was no way that Maggie would ever be a Better Groomed Girl. The best dress she had was held together by safety pins. So if Maggie made fun of me, it was because she was hurting because she did not have as much as me, and it hurt her so much that she had to hurt me. So, in retrospect, it is easy for me to forgive Maggie.
The Mayo Clinic article says that forgiveness is a process. It requires CHANGING. Who here likes to change? Changing underwear is important, but after that, who really enjoys change? Change is stressful. Change can be very hard work, ergo, forgiveness can be very hard work.
Forgiveness is a commitment to a personalized process of change. To move from suffering to forgiveness, you might:
Recognize the value of forgiveness and how it can improve your life
Identify what needs healing and who needs to be forgiven and for what
Consider joining a support group or seeing a counselor
Acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you and how they affect your behavior, and work to release them
Choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life
One of the most important, but perhaps neglected effects of not forgiving, of remaining bitter, is that you are putting yourself under the control of the person who hurt you. As long as you blame that person for your hurt, you are letting that person hurt you. When you forgive the person, you release yourself from that power that s/he has held over you all these years.
I say years, because that is how long grudges can last. Sometimes we forget the hurts of the past, but sometimes we carry them like permanent backpacks, slowing us down, causing us aches and pains.
The purpose of Jesus’ ministry on earth was to bring peace. Peace is not possible where hate prevails, where bitterness lingers, where grudges cling to our hearts.
So this petition is not about each of us individually. This petition is about peace. In fact, if every person on earth were able to forgive every misdeed, every purposeful invasion, we would have the Miss America dream of World Peace.
But it’s not that way.
Now, I want to say something about not forgiving.
Thursday I attended a workshop: the title was “Start by Believing.” It was aimed at clergy who help people with serious problems. Specifically, we learned about how to help people who are victims of abuse and rape and other violent crimes. The two speakers were from Family Resources of the Quad-Cities and talked to us in great detail about how to listen and, more importantly, how to keep our mouths shut. They helped us to understand what happens to the brain when a person is assaulted. We learned what NOT to say as well as what to say. I learned so much and I would love to share more information with you sometime. All of us know people who have been put in danger by people that are supposed to protect them.
Pastor Elaine Olson presented us with the religious side of helping people.
She made three points about forgiveness:
1. Forgiveness does not mean you can forget, nor does forgiveness mean that you’re saying the behavior was acceptable.
2. Forgiveness can come only when the victim has experienced justice, grace and healing.
3. Forgiveness means giving up your right for revenge. That means no plans to get even, no fantasizing about how you’ll embarrasse that person.
Some victims are never able to forgive. They are so hurt, so broken, so confused, that they are trapped in the crime. My wise daughter, Miriam reminds me, that if you can’t forgive, God can.
Forgiving is not about extracting an apology from the person who hurt us. It does not involve a meeting with an arbiter. You don’t have to ever see the person again or ever speak to them, although sometimes that is part of the healing process. In fact, I can give you an example. My best friend and I fought over a boy our senior year in high school. I was mean to her. I made fun of her. Forty-five years later, we reconnected on Facebook and now when she makes the long trip from Pennsylvania, she and I always try to get together.
But please remember: forgiveness is not about the other person; it is about you and that change in attitude. It does not change the action, nor the memory.
When we pray The Lord’s Prayer, we are promising God that when we receive forgiveness, we are willing to extend that same mercy, that same largess to those who hurt us, to those who annoy us, to those who scare us, to those who disagree with us.
In these fractious times, I do try to forgive those whose ideas seem so foreign, so heartless, so mean, so self-serving to me. Some of you have shared with me how hard it is to feel comfortable around those whom you’ve always counted as friends. We are living in a culture right now that wants us to love only ourselves and to hate everyone who is different. That is, first of all, not what Jesus would encourage. Second, it stifles us, stunts us, makes us plain unhappy.
Next time you pray this prayer, pay special attention to the last part of this fifth petition of our favorite prayer. Pay attention to the part about forgiveness, and realize that to not forgive other’s sins is a sin in itself. Forgive us—-and remember, you’re telling God that you appreciate the forgiveness you receive each time you pray AND that you will do the same. Amen.
“Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.” ― Corrie ten Boom
“But if you forgive someone for something they did to you, it doesn’t mean you agree with what they did or believe it was right. Forgiving that person means you have chosen not to dwell on the matter anymore; you have moved on with your life.” ― Idowu Koyenikan, Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability

“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim–letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.”
― C.R. Strahan

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
― Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.” ― Oprah Winfrey

The Power of Bread Matthew 6:7-21 Luke 12: 16-31

16 So Jesus told them this story:
A rich man’s farm produced a big crop, 17 and he said to himself, “What can I do? I don’t have a place large enough to store everything.”
18 Later, he said, “Now I know what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I can store all my grain and other goods. 19 Then I’ll say to myself, ‘You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.’”
20 But God said to him, “You fool! Tonight you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up?”
21 “This is what happens to people who store up everything for themselves, but are poor in the sight of God.”
22 Jesus said to his disciples:
I tell you not to worry about your life! Don’t worry about having something to eat or wear. 23 Life is more than food or clothing. 24 Look at the crows! They don’t plant or harvest, and they don’t have storehouses or barns. But God takes care of them. You are much more important than any birds. 25 Can worry make you live longer? 26 If you don’t have power over small things, why worry about everything else?
27 Look how the wild flowers grow! They don’t work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn’t as well clothed as one of these flowers. 28 God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. Won’t he do even more for you? You have such little faith!
29 Don’t keep worrying about having something to eat or drink. 30 Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father knows what you need. 31 But put God’s work first, and these things will be yours as well.
What if we didn’t receive our daily bread? What does having a full tummy allow us to do? When I have a full tummy, first of all, I am able to sleep well. After I have slept well, I have the energy to do the dishes, make a grocery list, weed my flower beds, chase after my grandsons, read a book, go out with my friends, attend meetings….if I’m well-fed and well-rested, I can accomplish a lot.

I never worry about my daily bread. I have a refrigerator full, a freezer full, and a cupboard full of food. That is not the case for everyone.

There is a term for people who often go hungry. It is “food insecure.” If you can’t buy enough healthy food for your family with the money you have, you are food insecure. The most common characteristics of food insecurity include having to buy cheap, filling, unhealthy food, which can cause increased hospitalizations, poor health, iron deficiency, developmental risk and behavior problems, primarily aggression, anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder.

In 2016, an estimated 1 in 8 Americans were food insecure, equating to 42 million Americans including 13 million children.
Dixon–247= 31 who are hungry most of the time.
Toronto—124=16 who are hungry most of the time.
Lost Nation—446= 55 who are hungry most of the time.
Eldridge—6,162=770 who are hungry most of the time.

Teachers are often the first to notice that some children do not always get their daily bread. When that information becomes available in the community, it is often the churches who step up and provide summer lunches to children when they have no school lunch available to them.

Why do children need a full tummy? Kids who don’t have enough to eat are less likely to be social and participate in activities, both in school and out. Additionally, children who are hungry lack focus, which can result in poor academic performance.
And what about adults who are hungry? Are they any less immune to the effects of hunger? How does hunger affect relationships, both at home and in the workplace?

When we complain about the bad behavior we see among children, it may be that they simply don’t have enough to eat. That’s how important daily bread is. In Jesus’ times, nobody knew the detailed consequences of lack of nutrition, but nobody wanted to go hungry and food for one’s family was always a priority. So “give us today our daily bread” was obviously important enough to include in this short prayer.

Again, the possessive pronoun is “our”—OUR daily bread. When we pray for OUR daily bread, we are praying for sustenance not only for our immediate family, but for all the children in God’s family.

Martin Luther makes a good point in his Small Catchism:
Give us today our daily bread.
What does this mean?
God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all people, though sinful, but we ask in this prayer that he will help us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanks.
Luther says we do not have to ask for daily bread, but by praying this petition, we are reminded of where our food comes from and we are prompted to give thanks for our food, instead of taking it for granted.
Bim and I grew up in families that prayed before each meal. His family prayer is “Heavenly Father, bless this food, to thy glory and thy good. Amen.” My parents taught us to say, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let these gifts to us be blest. Amen.” Hence we both grew up acknowledging from where our food comes. Likewise, our children grew up praying before meals. And our grandson learned a prayer at preschool to the tune of the Superman theme song. “Thank you, God, for giving us food! Thank you, God, for giving us food! For the friends we meet, for the food we eat, Thank you, God!” For the Christian home, whether it is just two people or a table-full, that meal time prayer is critical to our connection to God, because it awakens our gratitude and directs it to where it belongs: to God.
Luther continues:
What is meant by “daily bread”?
Daily bread includes everything needed for this life, such as food and clothing, home and property, work and income, a devoted family, an orderly community, good government, favorable weather, peace and health, a good name, and true friends and neighbors.
Daily bread is central to our existence. It is the result of other gifts from God. Listen to Martin Luther’s reasoning:

Commentary on the Petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, from Martin Luther’s Large Catechism.
“For though we have received of God all good things in abundance we are not able to retain any of them or use them in security and happiness, if He did not give us a permanent and peaceful government. For where there are dissension, strife, and war, there the daily bread is already taken away, or at least checked.”

That means that receiving our daily bread is dependent not only on our own financial resources and the local grocery stores. We receive our daily bread because farmers grow food, farm workers harvest the food, factory workers process and package the food and truck drivers transport the food. Protecting every step of the way are laws and rules that insure the safety of our food. And don’t forget the bankers, who finance the farms and factories and trucks.

None of the tractors or factories or workers invented themselves. Everything comes from God’s creation. Thus our daily bread is the result of an orderly society that sees the benefit of providing for each other. You might argue that all those jobs are filled because people just what more money, but what is that money spent on? First of all, it is spent on daily bread.

While at first asking for bread may seem like a small thing, it is a very large thing indeed. As Luther pointed out, we need a permanent and peaceful government to secure our daily bread. Likewise, the partaking of daily bread—and butter, and vegetables, and meat, and dessert, gives each of us the energy to do more than stand upright. God gives us enough energy and enough resources to spread the kingdom that we pray for in the third petition.

One more point: we are praying for our daily bread. Not a week’s worth, not a warehouse full. We are trusting God to provide our food one day at a time. I can’t do that. I have to have a refrigerator and a freezer and a cupboard filled with food. And yet how many people pray for one day’s worth? How many children depend on one cafeteria meal at a time, dreading the snow-day that means no hot lunch? How many people pray that the food allotment from the local food pantry will last for thirty days, when they are once again allowed to shop for a few bags full of groceries?

This sermon has two purposes: One is to help us focus on our own gratitude for our own daily bread. The other is to focus on building the kingdom, one meal at a time, one sack lunch at a time, one box of macaroni and cheese at a time, one can of soup at a time.

May our own secure cupboards help us to fill the empty cupboards and the empty tummies of our community as we build God’s kingdom on earth. Amen.

The Kingdom

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
10 Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven. Contemporary English Version.
I used to think that “thy kingdom come” meant that we wanted Jesus to hurry up and return to gather us all up to take us to heaven. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to see the “Second Coming” as it is sometimes called. I was intimidated by the idea that I would be judged and the ledger would send me to eternal burning. On the other hand, as I’ve mentioned before, if I did go the other direction, being in church for eternity sounded like a prescription for insanity. I assumed heaven would be an extended church service. I know better now. Or at least I know not to presume anything about heaven’s real estate or activity schedule.
I know better also about what is meant by “your kingdom come.” I know now that we are not to be sitting on our hands waiting for the kingdom to come. We are, each one of us, supposed to be making earth more like the heavenly kingdom, with the same rule, the same results as the perfection we expect in heaven. We are supposed to make the kingdom happen right now, right here, in our own neighborhoods, and maybe, if we are brave enough, in our own nation.
What is a kingdom? I think of myths and Disney movies when I think of kingdom. I love stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I find the Kingdoms of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella and Snow White enchanting.
Kingdoms bring to mind kings, of course, and queens and princes and princesses. When I was little, my mom subscribed to Lady’s Home Journal or McCalls, and when there was an article about Queen Elizabeth II, I avidly read every word.
What did I like about kingdoms? The pretty dresses, the jewelry, the dances, the handsome, happily-ever-after princes, the servants, the horses—what is there not to like about a kingdom? To be a princess meant that one would always have everything needed and wanted. To be a princess meant that one would be adored and popular. To be a princess meant that one could give orders! I would have made a great princess!
Out of 59 English translations, the word “kingdom is used in 56.” “Reign” and “holy nation” are used in two translations. The Message translates the phrase as “Set the world right.”
The kingdom we pray for each day is a very different kind of kingdom.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is asked by the Jewish scholars to reveal when the kingdom of God would arrive (Luke 17). Jesus gives them a different perspective. The kingdom cannot be observed like an earthly kingdom, with a hierarchy of rulers. In fact, the kingdom of God is not so much a place as it is an event. The kingdom of God is not borders and bureaucrats; the kingdom of God is an experience. We are active participants in the kingdom. If you worked at Buckingham Palace, you might work as a curator, a flagman, a correspondence manager, a butler, a gravel cleaner, a social media liaison, or even a clock maintenance specialist.
We, on the other hand, are the staff of the kingdom of God. Our work is far more varied and demanding because we are responsible for the very presence of the kingdom. Without us, without our actions and words, the kingdom would shrink.
But, the good news: we are not on our own. The Lord’s prayer makes it clear that we need to ask for help. The Contemporary English Version translation says it best:
10 Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven.
The fact that we need to pray every petition in the prayer indicates that all of God’s people do not automatically receive food or forgiveness or the benefits of the kingdom. That is because, even though God created a world so rich that all people could thrive, the fact that we have to ask indicates that God’s will is not being done on earth. That makes our efforts to establish the kingdom all the more important. The kingdom to which we Christians aspire, that is, heaven, is secondary to establishing the kingdom on earth.
How can we tell if we are building the kingdom?
Jesus describe, in six parables, in John 13, what the kingdom is like:
A farmer went out to scatter seed in a field. 4 While the farmer was scattering the seed, some of it fell along the road and was eaten by birds. 5 Other seeds fell on thin, rocky ground and quickly started growing because the soil wasn’t very deep. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and dried up, because they did not have enough roots. 7 Some other seeds fell where thorn bushes grew up and choked the plants. 8 But a few seeds did fall on good ground where the plants produced a hundred or sixty or thirty times as much as was scattered.
9 If you have ears, pay attention!18 Now listen to the meaning of the story about the farmer:19 The seeds that fell along the road are the people who hear the message about the kingdom, but don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches the message from their hearts. 20 The seeds that fell on rocky ground are the people who gladly hear the message and accept it right away. 21 But they don’t have deep roots, and they don’t last very long. As soon as life gets hard or the message gets them in trouble, they give up.
26 When the plants came up and began to ripen, the farmer’s servants could see the weeds. 27 The servants came and asked, “Sir, didn’t you scatter good seed in your field? Where did these weeds come from?”28 “An enemy did this,” he replied.His servants then asked, “Do you want us to go out and pull up the weeds?”29 “No!” he answered. “You might also pull up the wheat. 30 Leave the weeds alone until harvest time. Then I’ll tell my workers to gather the weeds and tie them up and burn them. But I’ll have them store the wheat in my barn.”
36 After Jesus left the crowd and went inside, his disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the story about the weeds in the wheat field.”37 Jesus answered:The one who scattered the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seeds are the people who belong to the kingdom. The weed seeds are those who belong to the evil one, 39 and the one who scattered them is the devil. The harvest is the end of time, and angels are the ones who bring in the harvest.40 Weeds are gathered and burned. That’s how it will be at the end of time. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everyone who does wrong or causes others to sin. 42 Then he will throw them into a flaming furnace, where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain. 43 But everyone who has done right will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. If you have ears, pay attention!
31 Jesus told them another story:2The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when a farmer plants a mustard seed in a field. 32 Although it is the smallest of all seeds, it grows larger than any garden plant and becomes a tree. Birds even come and nest on its branches.

33 Jesus also said:3The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when a woman mixes a little yeast into three big batches of flour. Finally, all the dough rises.

44 The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when someone finds a treasure hidden in a field and buries it again. A person like that is happy and goes and sells everything in order to buy that field.

45 The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when a shop owner is looking for fine pearls. 46 After finding a very valuable one, the owner goes and sells everything in order to buy that pearl.

47 The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when a net is thrown into a lake and catches all kinds of fish. 48 When the net is full, it is dragged to the shore, and the fishermen sit down to separate the fish. They keep the good ones, but throw the bad ones away. 49 That’s how it will be at the end of time. Angels will come and separate the evil people from the ones who have done right. 50 Then those evil people will be thrown into a flaming furnace, where they will cry and grit their teeth in pain.

Matthew’s story knows that the world is not as it should be, that murderous power holds the throne, and that there is a real need (not just a pious inclination) to ask that God’s dominion come and that God’s will actually be done, for once.
The Message translates the phrase as “Set the world right.” That is our calling. We, by our prayers, our thoughts, our words, our actions are expected to “set the world right.” Make the world better than it is.
Perhaps I don’t need to remind you, but God is talking about the whole world, not just the safe sphere in which we live. God is calling us to set the world right for people who are being persecuted by their own governments, for families who are being separated, for workers who are being poisoned by their work environment.
Read the front page of the paper. The kingdom needs us. Listen to the television news. The kingdom needs us. Listen to the conversation at the table behind you at the restaurant. Listen to the conversation in the beauty parlor. Listen to the conversation in the break room at work. The kingdom needs us.
So, what have you done to further this kingdom this week? How have you made someone’s life easier, happier, healthier? How have you made sure someone feels safer, less frightened of the future?
And how has someone made the kingdom real to you? I will give you an embarrassing example from my own experience.
My favorite ride at the county fair has always been the Tilt-a-Whirl. It was thrilling, but not horrifying. It turns out that my daughter’s favorite ride is the Tilt-a-Whirl, too. Don’t you love when your kids follow in your footsteps? Miriam and I visited the Mississippi Valley Fair yesterday. We walked through the livestock barns and the 4-H exhibits, but our real goal was the Tilt-a-Whirl. We bought the tickets. I asked the ticket lady if there was an ambulance near by. Trying to be funny. We got in line. We climbed onto the ride. Miriam took a selfie of us. The machine started up. WE started spinning. After the first spin, I knew I was in trouble. First the nausea. Then the dizziness. I’m going to faint, I said to Miriam. She was laughing hysterically, enjoying the ride to its fullest. I was fading. I took the deepest breaths I could, trying to remember that I was supposed to be having fun. After several hours, or maybe minutes, the ride stopped. I was able to step out of the seat and walk down the steps without collapsing. We walked over to the air-conditioned 4-H building and I sat on a chair for awhile. We walked to the car. We drove down Locust Street, toward Miriam’s house. I figured as long as I could lie down for awhile, I’d be fine. But the further we went, the dizzier I got. I hate fainting. It scares me more than anything. I suggested to Miriam that we head to the nearest hospital. And that is where I discovered the kingdom of God.
Even though I had done a very silly thing, the nurses and doctor took me very seriously. Not a single person said, oh, you can just sleep this off. Not a single person asked, what in the world were you thinking? And my daughter never once rolled her eyes. My husband and son-in-law drove down to pick me up so that I didn’t have to drive home. Neither complained. That is the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God is a place, an event, an experience in which everyone feels safe and respected and cared for. The kingdom of God is a place where everyone feels like a child of God, like a prince or princess.
So, my challenge to you is to make yourself aware of the kingdom of God, both in your observations of those around you and in your own actions. When you have the opportunity, present the kingdom, establish the kingdom for those around you.
A kingdom is a kind of civilization. A kingdom has its own rules, its own characteristics. Civilization is the opposite of barbarism, the opposite of brutality, the opposite of rudeness, the opposite of vulgarity. The civility of our American culture has been attacked in the last few years. More and more, we are afraid to discuss issues with each other because we fear we will be attacked or mocked. The kingdom of God is the opposite of the fear and hostility we see in the faceless media, from Facebook to Fox.
Thy kingdom come. Come set up your heaven. Set the world right.
That is our prayer. May our prayer be answered by our own actions. Amen.