PASTOR TUURA

“ Thy Kingdom Come-
The Bride has made Herself Ready
By Rev. Tom Tuura
Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church


2022 Theme: "Thy Kingdom Come"

Broadly speaking “kings” and “kingdoms” are probably at the top of worldwide headlines.   There are other issues too but politics and the rise and fall of leaders, presidents and prime ministers are all around us.   Do you agree?  Headlines can be pretty depressing.  But the Christian has another better hope.

 

As we reflect on the second petition in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come” our 2022 theme, we probably don’t think too much about what it means.  Luther’s meaning is this, God’s kingdom will come indeed of itself, but we pray in this petition that it may come among us also.  In his day, the Pope yielded as much power as the princes and kings but the Reformers viewed the Pope as an anti-christ instead.  They too held out a better hope of another, better Kingdom.

 

Jesus specifically preached about the kingdom of God or heaven.  He spoke about it as both a near, arriving, and future entity.  Matt 3:2 “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  Jesus and the Apostles were clear that the kingdom of God, or heaven was distinct from human kings and kingdoms.  The word is used in the New Testament some 150 times, and most of them are referring to God’s kingdom as opposed to man’s.  He states in answer to a question from the disciples, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, (verily, verily) I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven…” Matt 18:1-4

And he then says this, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  Matt 19:24.

There’s an interesting discussion in Luke’s Gospel, “Now He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Luke 17:20,21.

 

We learn in Colossians and from Paul’s teaching in general, that it is also distinct from something called the realm of darkness.  And throughout the Bible, we also know the kingdom of God is future and eternal.

More on that later.

 

In the AFLC’s Fundamental Principles, it states that the congregation is the right form of the kingdom of God on earth.  In light of all the Scripture above quoted, and the hundreds elsewhere in the Bible, that’s a big statement.  The kingdom of God is the church.  The word literally is a compound word meaning, The “called” and gathered, with the word “out”  the church is the called out.  In the AFLC sense, it is the local church.

 

 Another picture given to us about the church is that of the body of Christ.  This is a point emphasized by Paul in his writings.  In his letter to the church in Corinth, he talks about the parts of the body, such as hands, and feet, etc.

 

We’ve commented about what the church, i.e. kingdom of God looks like today, 20 centuries removed from when Jesus called his listeners to repent for the kingdom of God is near.  Last month, I discussed the distinctions between denominational and non-denominational churches we see in our communities and street corners.  We commented on the various “models” of church function such as the seeker, or attractional, the missional and institutional models.

 

Today I’d like to add another term to consider, evangelical.  In its basic sense as a verb it means one who brings good news, ‘evangelize’.  I suppose the missional church model would be said to reflect strongly, the task of ‘evangelizing’ their world.

 

This movement is not the same as the mere word.  The term evangelical has been used for centuries.  What does it mean?  That greatly depends upon who is at the keyboard.   Many churches over the last 500 years on both sides of the Atlantic have the term evangelical in their name.  Several Lutheran church bodies have the term in their title.

 

I’d like the evangelical movement to be known at least for the following things.  First the defense of the Word of God against the assaults of the schools of naturalism, evolution, and atheism. 

And the other blessed contribution, would be the preaching of the Gospel in and through awakening and revival. Third, the spread of the modern world-wide missions movement.  Also, someone said, “of central interest is the connection to orthodoxy within the protestant framework primarily, as evangelicalism is connected almost entirely within the protestant movement.”

Evangelism and missions have recently become highly controversial, and even offensive because of their premise: namely that some people are lost and need to be saved.  As someone said, “evangelism of yesteryear--a message people agree with but are resisting…today-- it is a danger to be repudiated and isolated.”  Or, as is so often done, rename it with a new derogatory term-- colonizing.  So it is of no surprise that the evangelical movement itself is to be canceled.

But evangelicalism itself is under scrutiny.  Note the slight change—the ‘ism’.   Evangelicalism—unfortunately has become a meaningless term.  And what a big target to shoot at.  It has become a derisive club and excuse to beat on an ideology.

It appears though that few really connect the movement to certain academics who really come closest to being leaders of this process or rather project.  We can’t forget godly pastors, and other leaders who stood against the tides of the day.  These evangelical heavyweights were fighting the other societal battles, and issues that spread through our country and the world.  These battles began as a trickle, and quickly grew to a flood.

What ever it is.  Some associate it as a quasi political movement, i.e. the “moral majority”.  Some associate it with certain supposed leaders such as the Reverend Jerry Fallwell, or Jim Baker.  I realize that most movements are really defined, and named, by their opponents in a derogatory fashion.  Others associate Evangelicalism with popular media, books, and radio programs.  Notwithstanding the names above also happened to be powerful voices in several areas of the evangelical media.  

Gradually over the last 30 years, as I watched, it became less associated with the godly men and women who were leaders, scholars, pastors,  and missionaries, but rather celebrities, musicians, best selling authors, or even the average “Joe” evangelical on the street.  

Speaking of media, the rise of the new phenomenon of “Christian” media, contemporary Christian music, 24/7 Christian radio stations and the programming that drives it, exploded beginning the ‘80’s.  

According to Kevin P. Donovan, Christian Post Reporter in a 2009 article, “Contemporary Christian radio continued to grow in 2008, adding 28 stations over the past year and more than doubling its numbers from a decade ago...The radio format is the second most popular music format following Country radio, according to Inside Radio and M Street Corp Publications...Among all radio formats (31 in total), Contemporary Christian radio ranks No. 4, trailing News/Talk, Country, and Religion”

Now this Christian media industry feeds an appetite of books, music, videos, even political views—all kinds of products for “consumption” by an “evangelicalized” sizable consumer market.  Not all the content is checked for accuracy, by any “Wittenburg”, Geneva, or even Dallas for authenticity, or conformity to any standard.  Then all these products become sources to quote by opponents.  All they need to be is a best selling evangelical author, musician, or celebrity, and they are quoted as representing the whole.  It doesn’t matter what their slant, or far-fetched opinion is or whether it conforms to the hard-won, doctrine or academic work of the past and present leadership.  It now represents evangelicalism and is fair game.

Then there’s the association with scandals that have taken place in and around those who have proclaimed and been voices in association with this movement.  And, you guessed it, many, or most of the high profile scandals involved that of the celebrity elements.

Writers of all sorts have been vocal in their criticism of the group. Associating all of evangelicalism with political involvement or even scandals is easy picking low hanging fruit.  One would expect this from the ideological opponents, but not from allies.   Yes, allies within the church have, or are critical.  But I would ask them, are you criticizing the original movement, or the mischaracterization and exaggerated, scrutinized and magnified misdeeds of the fringes?  I guess that’s a question we all should ask.

This is a post Christian culture.  It is fashionable to trash this group.  This is how it’s done.  Make the basis of criticism, not on recognized leadership, authors and academy past and present, but randomized sampling of the lowest common denominator including the most impressionable and least committed.  Or base the criticism based on the celebrity culture associated with it and the outspoken self proclaimed leaders from the fringe.

The kingdom of God is eternal. That is where we started, and now where we end.  Yes it is eternal, it is eschatalogical—meaning, it is the bright light of the Gospel and salvation in the future.  It is something that in Christ, by repentance and faith we are a part of, hope for, and also anticipate.  That is why we cannot loose heart.  The kingdoms and realms of men on this earth, are doomed to fail, and will collapse.  We are watching the fulfillment of Matthew 24:7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”

 

There is an even more beautiful picture given to us in the New Testament, the church is the bride of Christ.  Not only is the church the right form of the Kingdom of God, not only is it the body of Christ on this earth, but it is beautifully pictured as His bride.  “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”  (Rev 19:6,7).

That’s my view from the Blackberry Patch Pulpit

Pastor Tom