Sunday, June 9, 2024

Ask, Seek, Knock: The Verbs of the Kingdom of God

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount has a certain flow to it.  The previous section talked about judging others, failing to see what is wrong in our own lives and seeking to tell others what is wrong in theirs.  Jesus warns us to not expect the profane to appreciate or value the sacred--they will destroy what you brought to them and then turn on you.

Then Jesus moves into this portion in Matthew 7:7-12: 

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

Jesus is giving us the Constitution of the Kingdom of God in the Sermon on the Mount.  How do we live in this new Kingdom, whose values seems so diametrically opposed to how we think and how we act? 

Think of our Constitution. Picture yourself living in the colonies in 1776.  It's one thing to say that the monarchy is not a government that honors the God-given rights that are ours; what the king gives, the king can take away.  We, listening to the Fathers debate on the failures of Parliament and the king, might have given a hearty, "Hear! Hear!"  But we would have that niggling feeling that if we don't have a king, then what do we do? 

After the Declaration of Independence was sent to Britain and we fought in the war that resulted, we faced the daunting business of running this new Republic.   We all remember the Articles of Confederation didn't quite make for a smooth-running government and its ability to handle the nascent nation's issues; hence, our Fathers wrote the Constitution and it as guided us ever since.  It explores what the government can and cannot do, and what we as citizens can do when our rights are threatened. 

The Sermon on the Mount is, in effect, the Constitution of the Kingdom of God.  The people, sitting on the hillside that day when Jesus began to speak, probably were wondering if Jesus was just another rabbi with some nice ideas that they would enjoy and then would go home to face the same life, the same problems. 

Jesus was advocating a new way of living:  in a Kingdom that looked nothing like the world, with none of its values and promises.  Whatever the world said was OK, the Kingdom said the opposite. Whatever the Kingdom said was the way to live, the world would scorn and revile those who thought this way.  

In other words, the Kingdom of God was God invading the world with a new way of living, offering it  to the prisoners who were under the sway of evil and to put on notice to the evildoers that their days were numbered. 

That's why the Kingdom is so simple:  It repudiated what the religious leaders in Jesus' day had allowed for minimal piety in themselves but demanded utter compliance to those who were already burdened by life's demands, and offered a new and living way because it was based on the new and living Way--Jesus Himself. 

So, "How do we live in this Kingdom You are advocating, Rabbi Jesus?"  is an excellent question.

The answer is simple. 




Be active in the pursuit of God, not just doing rote rituals that you tick off your "to do" list and you move on. 

Good fathers give to their children what is essential for the children to thrive; why wouldn't God?  But here's the key element: Ponder how Jesus categorized the relationship between God and us: Parent and child--the most loving and endearing of relationships. This relationship is deeply woven into the fabric of creation: from human babies and their parents, to animals caring for their young, that kind of love is beautiful, sustaining and inspiring.

Love is the foundation of the Kingdom.  

The Kingdom of God could not be built on anything else.  

In asking, seeking and knocking, ask yourself this:  Is what I am going to do for someone the same thing I would like to have done to me?

If I would like someone to open a door for me when my arms are loaded sown with groceries, wouldn't someone else want the same?

I would not like to be yelled at for having failed at something, why would I turn around and yell at someone for their failure? 

When I am praying, am I looking out for the best in my request, or am I being selfish and not thinking about what the Father believes is the best for me? 
The Kingdom of God is sustained on love: for ourselves and for our neighbors. If God wants the best for us, then He wants the best for my neighbors, too.  They are His children, too.  

Jesus took the Law and the Prophets and remolded them into the Law of Love. 

The Kingdom of God is this love in action, when His children operate by love alone.

The Kingdom of God isn't easy, but if we ask, seek, and knock, God will answer our pleas for guidance and wisdom.

He will also supply the love we lack, by giving us His Holy Spirit.  His Spirit is the only way we can live out the principles that Jesus has laid out for us. 

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