A Perfect Storm

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The Rev. M. Jonah Kendall, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church
Durham, North Carolina
June 01, 2008
Available online at:
Texts: Matthew 7:21-27

I want to come straight at you today.  I want to be clear, and I want to be concise.  I’m not going to open with an illustration but rather get straight to the point.  And this is because our lesson from Genesis, with Noah’s ark – along with Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel about the house that could withstand the wind and rain – we are confronted with what I’d call the perfect storm.  By this I mean that these two lessons come together to make one clear point.

And here is what each says: living in preparation for things to come informs the way we live here and now.  Let me say that again.  Living in preparation for things to come informs the way we live here and now.  Anticipating the great flood, Noah is enabled to build an ark for his family and the creatures of the earth.  The wise man in Matthew’s gospel builds a house strong enough to withstand the storm he knows will eventually come.  Living in preparation for things to come informs the way we live here and now.

I think this is what Jesus was offering us through his vision of the Kingdom of God.  Christ outlined this place for us, not only so that we might gain a sense of peace from the promise of this thing to come – when the poor will be blessed, the sorrowful comforted, and the peacemakers called children of God.  But also to provide us with an ethic, something to guide the way we live here and now.  Christ doesn’t just say, “Love God and your neighbor as yourself.”  No, he gives us parables of the Kingdom in order to help us understand what that means, what God’s love looks like and what we are capable of.

Take the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Jesus offers us this to help us understand the love of God.  The Kingdom of God is marked by great forgiveness, where we will be welcomed home by God as the prodigal was by his father.  So too, are we, if we want to live abundantly with God – therefore, called to forgive here and now.

Another parable is the Good Samaritan.  This parable about a Samaritan helping a Jew on the side of the road (Jews and Samaritans shared nothing in common) tells us that God’s love is characterized by radical hospitality.  Therefore, we the people of the Kingdom are called to a radical love and hospitality as well.

Let me give you a contemporary example of this Kingdom ethic.  At this past year’s convention, Bishop Trevor, the Bishop of Botswana, was with us.  In his address he spoke about the tensions in the Anglican Communion by saying that if only Bishop Akinola of Nigeria would remember that he will be sharing a table with Gene Robinson at the eternal banquet in the Kingdom, things might be very different here and now.

He said it well, didn’t he?  Well, he is a bishop after all.  But that’s it.  That’s what I want to lift up today.  That’s what I think Christ was offering us in this tremendous vision he gave us called the Kingdom of God.  You see, it’s not just a promise for the hereafter, but a reality born into this world when in faith we open ourselves to it – a reality born in and through us.

And so the question is where you can apply the ethic of the Kingdom in your life?  Where is it that you need to open yourself to God’s vision of things?  I mean the time is always ripe, what with war, poverty, division; even more now with the environment, consumerism and growing individualism, the time is always ripe for the Kingdom.

In Christ’s name, Amen.

This sermon is part of a new series compiled by the NC Council of Churches in conjunction with our lectionary-based worship resource Acts of Faith.  We believe that issues of peace and justice can be expressed in the worship life of congregations, and we remain committed to providing accessible and relevant resources to make this a reality.  This sermon was used with the permission of the author, and the views expressed in it are solely the author’s. Please contact us if you are interested in submitting one of your sermons for consideration.

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