Sermon Script for September 27th
1 May God’s love and peace be with you. Do you know where is the kingdom of God? Does anyone know where is the kingdom of God? Do you think we are getting closer to the kingdom of God? Where is the promised land? Does anyone know? There was a song that children used to sing when I was a small boy. It was this: 우리의 소원은 통일, 꿈에도 소원은 통일, 정성을 다해서 통일, 통일을 이루자. It means: we dream of the reunification of two Koreas. I think of the reconciliation among us even in my dreams. Let’s work together, let’s work for peace. When I was young, I used to hear this song in public advertisements on TV and radio. And I learned and sang this song at school. But, this song is no longer sung. Even this song is no longer sung by children. I don’t think children learn this song at school today. I have never heard of this song at least for the last ten years. One of the reasons is people don’t think it is possible. People don’t think the reunitifcation is possible. To be honest, people don’t think it is economically beneficial. About ten years ago, the reason that children sang this song was not because the reunification would bring on economic benefits. It was just because we are one family. Now people don’t say that we have to be reunited. People don’t say that we are one family.
Where is the kingdom of God? Are we getting closer to the kingdom of God? Mr. Barak Obama became the president of this country in 2009, the first African-American president of this country. Many people thought that the United States of America was opening a new era. But today, we are surprised hearing the experience of African-Americans. Two weeks ago, we have lost an admired judge, Ruth Bader Ginsburgh. I heard many people are in sorrow because of her passing. And we know that her vacancy has become another reason of conflict and political clash. Where is the kingdom of God? Is reconciliation possible among people? To make the world better, one of the things that we do is to develop technology. I do believe that technicians are admirable people. They are co-creating the world with our God. They are creators. Thanks to technology, now we see more. We see further. Now we go faster. We go farther. So, we can save a lot of time because of technology. I heard a scholar saying how many relatives we meet a week is directly related with the degree of hapiness. It means the more relatives you see, the more likely you say, “I am happy.” Then you know what? Before agriculture revolution started, people only had to work less than 4 hours a day. They spent the rest of the time with their family. We set an alarm to wake up in the morning, which no animal in the world other than human beings does. That makes us think about the meaning of progress.
Where is the kingdom of God? Is it just cliché that we use in church? Are we getting closer to the kingdom of God? From time to time we feel disappointed with the world and politics. Sometimes, we are disappointed with humanity in general. So, sometimes, we don’t want to watch the news programs anymore. We become pessimistic about what my voting right can do. When we were a child, we used to have a bigger dream. We sang the reunification of two Koreas. We learned about the Civil Rights Movement. We imagined exploring the universe. But, as time goes on, we sing not very often. Are we going forward? What do you think?
2 We have read the book of Exodus in September. Today is the last Sunday that we read Exodus. In God’s grace, they eventually finished the 40 years of the journey. In God’s grace, after the 40 years of the living in the wilderness, they arrived at their destination. They must be so happy. It was such a historical moment. They celebrated the moment with the entire assembly for days and weeks. But, I would like to ask you a question. Do you think the land where they eventually arrived was a good land? They did arrive at a land. But was it good land? I would say that almost all of the historical adversities that they had was related with the geopolitical situation of their place. Let’s think about this. There was Egypt below their land. There was Assyria above their land. There was Babylon on their right. And there is the sea on their left. Few centuries later, Persia will appear in history. And few centuries later, the Greek and Roman empire will apear in history and conquer them. So they were not able to decide their future by themselves. They were always at the mercy of other strong nations. So, they had to choose which side they have to stand between Egypt and Assyria, Assyria and Babylon, Babylon and Persia. Water was very scarce in their land. Especially during summer, it was extremely dry. So, they had to make cisterns. To make cisterns, they had to carve solid rocks. They didn’t dig the ground. They carved solid rocks. I cannot even imagine how many years it had taken to make a water tank by carving rocks. After they made a huge hole in a rock, they covered the surface with plaster. Otherwise, water will seep out. Neverthless, they often had cracks on the bottom. Then the precious water disappeared out of the tank. When they arrived in this land, they saw how harsh it was. So, they had to ask, why is this land the promised land? What makes this land the promised land?
3 Jesus must have the same question, “where is the kingdom of God?” Let’s think about the reality where Jesus lived. Jesus actually lived in a kingdom of God in a different meaning. Here is the reason. When Julius Ceasar died, he was deified by his people. So, if you lived in the first century Rome, and if you asked people, “who is God?” Then people will answer, “Julius Ceasar is God”. After Julius Ceasar died, his adopted son, Augustus naturally became the son of God. So, if you lived in the first century Rome and asked people, “who is the son of God” then people will answer, Augustus is the son of God. So, Jesus lived in a kingdom of God. Amid this world, Jesus must ask, “where is the kingdom of God?” I believe in the middle of the journey, Jesus had found the answer. And his answer was revolutionary. To those who asked, “when would the kingdom of God come?”, Jesus answered, “The kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is amone you.” I take it in this way. The kingdom of God is not something that we can find in somewhere in the world. This is not something that somebody else can make for you. But this is something that we can live out in love. The kingdom of God is something that we can live out in unity. Where is it? It is right here and right now. Do you know what happened before Jesus gave this teaching? Jesus took care of people with leprosy.
A couple of weeks ago, on my Facebook, I saw a group of Korean pastors were making a prayer group. And they were saying that they are praying for the reunification of two Koreas. Do you know what was my first reaction? I snorted. I sniffed. Why? Because I thought it is not possible. But I read a sentence there. And the sentence made me repent. It said the unity is something that we can live out right here. By taking care of North Korean detectors, living out reconciliation every day, and dreaming of an impossible dream, we can make it happen right here. For those who want to live out love, for those who want to live out peace, the kingdom of God is already a reality.
4 When the people of God arrived at the new land, they were given a new task. It was to live out the kingdom of God. It was to live out the promised future. It was to change the harsh land into a promised land by God’s help. In ancient times, there were famous kingdoms.They had strong armies. They had very strong walls. So, they were able to protect their people. Outsiders wanted to belong to their kingdoms. Outsiders wanted to live inside of their walls. Then, the king showed up before them and said, “Do you want my protection? Then let us made a covenant between you and me. Do you want my protection? Then half your wealth is mine. Do you want my protection? Then your children are mine. Do you want my wall? Then your children will be my slaves. Do you want my army? Then half of your livestock will be mine.” It was the contract that the weak had to make with the strong. Then what did the Lord require of the people? Today’s scripture is the contract that God and God’s people made. God said, “Do you want to live in the kingdom of God? Then, you shall not worship money. You shall not worship prosperity or power. But you have to worship the giver of life. Then your life will be abundant. Do you want to live in the kingdom of God? Then you shall work hard. But you shall take a rest at least once a week, so that you may not loose your humanity. Do you want to live in the promised land? Then you shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You want to live in my kingdom? Then you have to take care of the week and the poor as I took care of you when you were week and poor. My siblings in Christ, this was the true meaning of living in the promised land. The possibility of living out the kingdom of God is still open to us today.
5 About ten years ago, I was studying Christian Ethics at a graduate school in Korea. During the week days, I studied at school. And during the weekend, I worked at a small convenience store. The store was open 24/7, and I worked from 11 PM to 6 AM. Working at the convenience store, I was able to learn so many things. I learned that how many people are working while I was sleeping. But, in the mean time, I was very sad and struggling. Because what I am learning was what kind of roles Christians are supposed to do in the contemporary society. But the space that was allowed to me was only 40 square feet. What I was supposed to do was to give changes to the customers and hand over cigaretts. Don’t you feel the disparity between what you can do in your daily lives and the kingdom of God? But I would like to encourage you to remember this. That this the reason why we are here as a community. That is the reason why we are here as a church. As a faith community, we practice love. As a faith community, we sing love together. As a faith community, we support ministries. Where is the kingdom of God today? The kindom of God is among us as we speak love. The kingdom of God is among us as we speak peace. The kingdom of God is among us as we speak justice. And let us witness to the kingdom of God. And let us expand the kingdom of God from right here.
I would like to conclude today’ sermon with an English word. It is idiot. The origin of idiot is a greek word, idiotes. Idiotes meant those who are only interested in their private matters. Today, our God encourages us and empowers us to live out peace and justice. Do not be discouraged by the world. Be inspired by the love of Jesus. If we walk with God step by step, then in the power of the holy spirit, we will be able to expand the kingdom of God from North Ferrisburgh United Methodist Church to the entire world. Amen.