Today I want to talk about a break in. Not a robbery but the Kingdom of God breaking into the secular kingdom of this earth.
One good example of this breaking in is found in the story of Saint Lawrence who was a deacon living in Rome in the third century. Perhaps you have seen a painting of Saint Lawrence in your home on your church calendar for the month of August. One day, the king said to himself: “Since Lawrence is serving at the altar, he must have access to gold chalices and silver candlesticks.” So, he told Lawrence, “I command you to bring me all the treasures of the church.”
Three days later St. Lawrence came to the palace with several dozen people. He brought forward people who were sick and people who were hungry and people who were homeless. Lawrence said to the king. “This is the treasure of the church. Jesus is living in these people; so, this is the treasure of the church. Jesus is our highest treasure…… and these people are his sacred vessels now and always.”
This caused the king to be very upset and he ordered his soldiers to kill Saint Lawrence. Saint Lawrence wanted the spiritual kingdom to break into Rome’s secular kingdom and the king would have none of that! The spiritual kingdom is breaking into the secular world in today’s Gospel.
The story begins with 3 ordinary people standing on top of an ordinary mountain. Peter, James and John are ordinary fishermen standing on Mount Tabor. And then the heavenly kingdom breaks into their lives. How do we know that it is a heavenly kingdom? First of all, we have two saints who have died and gone to heaven. Namely, Moses and Elijah. Secondly, we have Jesus wearing a heavenly garment, a cloak that is as white as light. And his face is shining like the sun. And then we have the voice of our heavenly Father speaking from a bright cloud. Without a doubt the Kingdom of Heaven was breaking into the Kingdom of Earth.
At the end of the story Jesus, James, John and Peter head down the mountain to help the Kingdom of God break into the Kingdom of Earth.
So what is the content of this heavenly Kingdom? Jesus is ushering in the Kingdom of God. What does it consist of? His kingdom contains forgiveness, healing and peacemaking. His kingdom penetrates into a world that contains retaliation, domination and resentment.
Let’s begin with forgiveness. From the life of Christ, as recorded in the four gospels, we learn that the Kingdom of God contains forgiveness. Jesus talked about forgiveness every day of his public ministry. Every day, including the last day, when he asked his Heavenly Father to forgive those who had nailed him to the cross. Before he died, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” We are the modern-day disciples, and we are called to carry on his ministry of forgiveness. I would like to offer an example of forgiveness.
Elsa Joseph was born about 100 years ago in Germany. She was Jewish and she raised her two daughters to be strong in their faith. In the 1940s both of her daughters were killed by the Nazis; but Elsa herself was able to survive the concentration camps. After the war Elsa returned to her career of giving violin concerts. Her tour schedule took her all over Europe and the Middle East.
One night she found herself giving a concert in Germany, the homeland of the people who had killed her daughters. Before picking up her violin, she went to the microphone and told her story, a story that cried out to heaven for vengeance. But she did not seek revenge. Instead, she spoke about her willingness to forgive. She spoke about her desire to be reconciled with those who had killed her daughters. She said, “I pray for them every day.” She also said, “I don’t understand why I don’t hate them. I guess the grace of God has penetrated into my heart and given me a forgiving heart.” Those were her exact words. “God has given me a forgiving heart. The Kingdom of God has broken into her life and given her a forgiving heart.
The second scenario of the Kingdom breaking into our world is healing. In the life of Christ and in our lives healing comes breaking into human lives. Jesus brought healing to the lame and the blind and the sick and the lepers and the broken-hearted. So how do we function as ministers of healing? By visiting people who are lonely. Loneliness is painful. I always say, “When you visit someone who is lonely you are cutting their pain in half.”
And then there is peacemaking. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” And he tried to make peace by having everyone at the same table. In Luke’s gospel we read that Jesus had meals with sinners and tax collectors and Pharisees and lepers and the rich and the poor all at the same table. He tried to include everyone in His circle of friendship. That was his method of peacemaking.
In other words, he stayed in relationship with everyone. That is how he brought the Kingdom of God into the kingdom of the world. He brought the Kingdom of Peacemaking into the kingdom of polarization. And now he calls us to stay in relationship with everyone. He calls us to include everyone in our circle of friendship.
My conclusion is very short. Jesus has told us that His spiritual kingdom is breaking into the secular world. And we can facilitate this “break in” by forgiving others, by reaching out to those who are isolated and by serving as peacemakers in our world today.