We live in a world where we encounter competing Kingdoms every single day.
Dallas Willard defines kingdom as the realm where one’s will is done. So we have our own kingdoms we are trying to exert, we encounter the kingdoms of others, and there are institutional kingdoms of corporate business, church, and government.
Jesus comes to reveal the ultimate kingdom. The true source of power. The kingdom who uses its power in service of others. The true source of meaning. The kingdom who gives purpose and direction to the good and the bad in life. The kingdom which will be proved to be the way the world was made, should be, and one day will be again.
This means the other kingdoms will clash with Jesus’ kingdom. The differing kingdoms will clash and a choice will have to be made. Jesus is confronted with a clash of multiple kingdoms this week. The empire of Rome, the prevailing religious establishment of the Pharisees, the kingdom of God.
Yet sometimes, we encounter a much more subtle conflict. Often we find that we confuse the different kingdoms. We assume my will is God’s will. We assume our empire some how represents God. We assume how we do church is more important than the Kingdom.
And often, we don’t recognize how these narratives slip into our consciousness until we are confronted with a choice between kingdoms.
This week we want to challenge the places we have confused kingdoms. We want to look at the subtle ways we have enmeshed competing kingdoms into the kingdom of God. We want to look at the ways we take really good and helpful servants of the kingdom of God, and make them the ultimate sources of power and meaning.
We hope you will join us.
Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
“Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply amazed them, and they went away.
This is what the Lord says to Cyrus, his anointed one,
whose right hand he will empower.
Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear.
Their fortress gates will be opened,
never to shut again.
This is what the Lord says:
“I will go before you, Cyrus,
and level the mountains
I will smash down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—
I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.
“And why have I called you for this work?
Why did I call you by name when you did not know me?
It is for the sake of Jacob my servant,
Israel my chosen one.
I am the Lord;
there is no other God.
I have equipped you for battle,
though you don’t even know me,
so all the world from east to west
will know there is no other God.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I create the light and make the darkness.
I send good times and bad times.
I, the Lord, am the one who does these things.
Sing a new song to the Lord!
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Sing to the Lord; praise his name.
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
He is to be feared above all gods.
The gods of other nations are mere idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
strength and beauty fill his sanctuary.
O nations of the world, recognize the Lord;
recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before him.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy.
We are writing to the church in Thessalonica, to you who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
May God give you grace and peace.
We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you. So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia.
And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.
God, open our eyes and our hearts this week.
Give us the honesty to see where we have made things which are not you our source of life and fulfillment.
Give us the courage to let go of our idols.
Help us to see where we have made even good things more than they should be.
Help us to be people of your kingdom and to not give into to the competing kingdoms in our lives.
Give us grace, forgiveness, and courage as we explore these questions.