Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Hebrews 12:28
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe

A kingdom that cannot be shaken; that sounds good if it’s a good kingdom. And I suppose Australia is a good enough country and I’m glad it hasn’t been shaken to its core yet, that we haven’t felt civil war or insurgencies like those overseas. No IRA bombing places, no military dictators slaughtering disagreeing citizens, no plagues and no famines, well at least not yet, though it is getting dusty. So thank God that we live in a relatively peaceful and stable state. But we know that the things of this world are like wood, good until they rot; it’s been 80yrs since Australia’s borders were threatened, but if we lived where our Lutheran ancestors were from we would have seen a lot of rot, a lot of shaking in these last 80yrs. The kingdoms, governments and societies of this world are all fragile in the grand scheme of things; and not just them but also our own lives, work, relationships, health, these are fragile too. Anywhere we look we can see struggling, but what will survive in the end? Where should you place your hope, focus your efforts, look to for reliable and unshakable help?

            Might I propose the one who has already been destroyed, but lives to tell the tale? Through Baptism we are joined into Christ Jesus, into His death, resurrection and ascension; you are now reconciled with God the creator of all, joined to Him by the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus. And if everything that’s made is gonna be shook, be taken away, the thing that will remain is the maker. God, Father Son and Spirit, His Kingdom and His Word will never pass away (Matthew 24:35; 16:18); but all evil, sin, death, and the rotten things in this world will be destroyed (John 3:21; Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8). Now God’s unshakable word has promised you that those who believe in Jesus and are baptised into His name will be saved, that you are part of His eternal kingdom; at the end when this world is shaken out like an old rug, changed and purged with fire (1 Corinthians 12:10-15) you will be raised from death and renewed or changed in a moment to be like Christ (1 Corinthians 15:52), free from sin death and the devil, as God told John in the Revelation (21:1f), free to live in the new unshakable, incorruptible heavens and earth, with the holy city, Jerusalem out of heaven, God’s Kingdom no longer hidden or secret, but shining like a beacon to the renewed creation. That is what awaits, the removal of things that are made and the reveal of the unshakable Kingdom of God.

            But what does that mean for us in the here and now, days come days go, We’ve just got our son home and working out what on earth we do with him, yet I know this grand vision of the end of all things, but it doesn’t feel that close. Then again, what does Jesus say at the start of His ministry? ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God in here; repent and believe the good news’ (Mark 1:15). The kingdom of God is not just at the end it is here right now, and you are part of it, being protected and sustained by your King, you have this wonderful privilege even though you might not see it, might not touch those pearly gates. In your own life you experience the mercy of God, the small mercies of finding your lost wallet or a good park, to the far greater ones of His forgiveness, peace and joy when you are reconciled to other Christians, to God Himself. And in this reading from Hebrews God is telling you the significance of this time now, to be gathered in Jesus name, having Him present with us and serving us and speaking His Words to us in what we call this Divine service. Unlike the fiery, dark, hidden, yet touchable mount Sinai, you have come to the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, together with angels, the saints who have gone before as we say in the communion liturgy, joining their songs, and with God the judge of all who has pardoned you, and Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant of forgiveness and freedom, and finally when you do seek something to hold, to grasp, Christ’s blood that cleanses and speaks forgiveness rather than the vengeance of Abel.

            God, the consuming fire, has already brought you into His everlasting and holy kingdom, you have this wonderful gift right now, even if you don’t see it clearly. You, together with all Christians past and present experience a foretaste of what is to come, you hear again and again God’s sure promises of forgiveness, peace, love, joy and life everlasting and even experience a bit this side of eternity; so why reject this and be distracted by the fleeting goals of this life? To find comfort is chocolate rather than Christ, to seek pleasure in fantasy rather than God’s real gifts, to refuse His hand in the good things of this life and to try to build your own power and authority, rather than using well the power and authority He has given you to serve His kingdom, to recognise Him in all you do, to care for those in need, to support and encourage those in power to do what is right, to love those He has placed around you, to love those of the kingdom your brothers and sisters, and to respect and hold up His good, life-giving word in your life, practising what He preached and encouraging each other to do the same, to pray, to devote time, to serve and to guide. You are members of Christ’s kingdom, of our heavenly Father’s family, you are saved, are being made new and will taste again His forgiveness and love in the body and blood He offers you today. So let us be thankful that we are receiving an unshakable kingdom and so serve God acceptably with reverence and awe.

            And the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now to the revelation of His kingdom. Amen.

Joseph Graham.