Advent 3 - Your Kingdom Come

Author: 
Revd. Heather
Date: 
Sunday, December 15, 2019 - 9:30am

Isaiah 35

Matthew 11:2-11

 

In our Gospel reading today, John sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is ‘the one who is to come’ or ‘should we expect someone else’? It’s a rather surprising question coming from Jesus’s cousin John, who at Jesus’ baptism (recorded in Matthew Chapter 3) was declaring that Jesus was the one greater than him; he was there at Jesus’s baptism witnessing to the Holy Spirit descending as a dove, saying to Jesus ‘my son, my beloved with whom I am well pleased.’ So why has this doubt appeared?

 

Commentators are split as to whether John himself doubted whether Jesus was ‘the one’ or whether it was his followers who doubted… either way, what has led to this questioning of whether Jesus really IS the Messiah?

 

There was a lot of expectation around that the Messiah, the one who came, would be a political leader, a king, who would triumph with the armies and bring salvation to Israel. Yet by now, John is beginning to realise that this is not the way Jesus’ ministry is heading. John has ended up in prison and he and his followers are confused! They feel the need to double check, are you really the Messiah? 

 

And Jesus doesn’t give them a straightforward ‘yes’ as an answer. Jesus responds referring back to the miracles that has recently performed and in doing so quotes the prophet Isaiah: ‘the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and good news is proclaimed to the poor.’ A prophecy that tells of the reverberations that will be experienced, benefited, by those who are saved. 

 

Jesus’ response is spelling out to John what Messianic ministry looks like. Jesus is the Messiah because He is God and he is making God known in the world, through many acts of love and healing, particularly for those who are the most vulnerable. And it is not from a typical position of power within governance that Jesus makes God’s love known, it is not forced upon society, but rather offered in individual encounters, that can reveal the transforming love of God. Messianic ministry is about bringing in the Kingdom of God, and with this salvation and healing will come.

 

When John’s disciples came to Jesus they had their expectations all wrong. They were confused because they had thought Jesus would conform to their expectations. Instead, as ever, Jesus is turning their expectations upside down and showing a power that is rooted in the ground, in acts of love. He is living out his mother Mary’s words of the Magnicat – exalting the lowly.

 

There may have been times in our lives when we relate to John the Baptist and his followers, when we’re baffled because our expectations of Jesus have not been met. We may have come to Jesus in prayer, with a hope, or even an expectation that Jesus will act in a certain way. And we find ourselves surprised, disappointed, puzzled, when God does not act as we would wish. Like John the Baptist we may discover that we’re looking for the wrong thing. We’re looking for Jesus to conform to our expectations, rather than looking to allow Jesus to conform us to His expectations. 

 

Jesus’ Kingdom doesn’t conform to our expectations. It does not map on to earthly kingdoms or nations, and this is important to remember in a week that with a General election has rightly seen so much attention focused on earthly governance. Whether we are pleased with the outcome of the election or fearful for what the future may hold, Jesus’s kingdom crosses our human boundaries, our human divides, and calls us to allow ourselves to be shaped, to be conformed by God’s love and power, to seek to transform society through acts of love and service.

 

Each week, and perhaps even each day, we pray in the Lord’s prayer ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done’ inviting God to shape our lives to fit His Kingdom, and as we do we open ourselves up to be drawn into God’s love, and to share in the work of God, of revealing God’s Kingdom on earth. 

 

 

And of course the Lord’s prayer is a corporate prayer, a prayer that we pray together, addressing God, ourFather. And so it is together, that we are invited to reflect on those words, ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.’ How is it that we as a community seek to join in with building God’s kingdom here on earth? 

 

There are of course many ways in which we go out from this place to live out God’s love. For example, after the services today, we will be going to Oakfields residential community to take Holy Communion and lead carol singing. We’re also supporting the Children’s society with our retiring collection, as well as continuing to collect for the Foodbank and the toy appeal this month. 

 

And while this is all good, it is also important that we keep our discernment of how we live as a community active. As our opening hymn this morning reminds us, ‘God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year.’ God’s vision within us is not static but constantly evolving, through each of us, and so in the New Year, in February, we are going to gather together for a vision day as a church community. We are all invited, indeed encouraged, to pray together and to seek to discern how God is calling us to be as a community here at St Mary’s and how we are called to join with God’s mission in this area, living out God’s Kingdom values – of transforming society through acts of love and service. 

 

So please keep praying. Keep praying God’s Kingdom come, and keep your hearts and minds open to being guided and conformed by God’s vision for this place. Amen.