Gardendale Nazarene

to live completely for Christ...

Advent | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

Advent

Kingdom Reversal

Today, I would like to continue a thought from last week. I brought up an issue, that I believe is worth pursuing. The issue is this- When talking about the Kingdom of God, why is there usually a reversal of the current system?

Let me give you a few verses from Luke to illustrate (the first two are from last week’s devotional):

“He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:51-53 ESV)

“…he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.” (Luke 12:37b ESV)

“And he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.’” (Luke 22:25-27 ESV)

These are just three passages and there are countless passages throughout the Gospels. Why do these stories point us to a reversal of power structures? What does this have to do with the Kingdom of God?

Mennonite author, Donald Kraybill, calls this reversal “The Upside-down Kingdom.” He argues three main points for this upside-down nature of the Kingdom.

First, we live in a social word and society has an ever-changing topography. There are powerful who are high on the mountain and the weak who continually find themselves in the valleys. Jesus reminds us His Father does not see people in this light.

Second, we forget how much we are taught about the world. As children, we are quickly taught what we are to say and how we are to act. Hang around a child for very long and he or she will break a social rule- most of the time it is rather humorous. Then you will hear mom say, “You can’t say that.”

We assume the way things are is the way they ought to be.

All throughout the story of Jesus, He is breaking these rules.
Don’t heal on the Sabbath.
Don’t touch a leper.
Don’t eat with tax collectors or prostitutes.

The Kingdom of God doesn’t play by our accepted rules.

Third (I really love this one!), the Kingdom is full of surprises. Think about it. Many of us are so used to the stories in the Gospels, we have lost their sense of surprise.

The Samaritan is the good guy.
The Prodigal comes home to a party.
Jarius' daughter sits up.
The demoniac goes home to tell his story.
Four thousand people are fed with seven loaves and a few fish.

Okay, I know you get the point, but one more, please…
A virgin and her husband in a small cave that houses animals
The cry of a newborn

This is the upside-down kingdom. A Kingdom that has come to remind us that there is more to life than our social structures. A Kingdom that reminds us that there is a King and He has come to be Emmanuel, God with Us.

A surprise that can only be rivaled by an empty tomb on a Sunday morning.

Thanks be to God!

Advent Readiness

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!”

Luke 12:35-38 ESV

Advent is the season of preparation. This year we have been focusing on preparing for Christ, not just for Christmas. On the first Sunday of Advent, we looked at a similar passage to this one in Matthew’s gospel (24:36-44).

There are some significant things in this parable that apply to our preparation for Christ. Take a moment and reread the passage– this time look for the role reversal.

Did you see it? In New Testament society, your socio-economic role was defined. Masters acted one way and servants had specific jobs for those masters, i.e. helping them get dressed, preparing and serving their food. Now think through what Jesus just said, “The master will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.”

It is the master who dresses himself. It is the master who has the servants sit at the table while he cooks dinner…then he serves them!

Okay, I know some of you are thinking, “Pastor, I see what you are saying, but is this point really worth getting excited about?”

Yes! Don’t miss what the texts are telling us all through Advent– there is a significant tie between Advent and the second coming of Christ. We are called to prepare ourselves for the Messiah, just as the Old Testament prophets looked to the coming Messiah.

When we see this connection, we should get a little excited. How excited? I’m glad you asked! Excited enough to burst into song, because that’s exactly what Mary did!

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Luke 1:46-55 ESV

Is your God too Small?

One of my favorite writers tells a story about when he was a chaplain at a university in England. Every year, he would meet the new freshman and introduce himself. Many of the students would say upon hearing he was the chaplain, “You won’t see much of me, I don’t believe in god.”

He developed a standard answer to this statement. “Oh, that’s interesting; which god is it you don’t believe in?”

You see, most people think the term ‘god’ means the same thing. He writes, “…they would stumble out a few phrases about the god they said they did not believe in: a being who lived up the in the sky, looking down disapprovingly at the world, occasionally ‘intervening’ to do miracles, sending bad people to hell while allowing good people to share his heaven.”

To this answer, he would reply, “Well, I’m not surprised you don’t believe in that god. I don’t believe in that god either. I believe in the God I see revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.”

In John 14, we read about a conversation between Jesus and his apostles. “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.’” –John 14:8-10 ESV

I think we fall into the same trap that snared those college freshmen. Our picture of God is too small. When we boil down what we believe, it doesn’t sound that different than their spy-in-the-sky.

We are six days away from our celebration of Christ’s birth.
We are six days away from our celebration of the Word becoming flesh.
We are six days away from our celebration of our Savior’s arrival.

We are six days away from our celebration that the world will never be the same because of a child born in Bethlehem.

We are six days away from our celebration of our God sending His Son and in doing so, we get a glimpse into the very heart of God.

We are six days away from our celebration of a God who yearns for His people to be free from sin and alive in Him.

Merry Christmas from the Parrish home to your home. We pray that your celebration this Christmas is filled with the hope and wonder of a God who is too big to describe, yet is completely fulfilled in the cries of a child that holy morning.

Pastor John
blogEntryTopper