Living in the Kingdom
Micah 6:1-8. Matthew 5: 1-12.
Last week we looked at the Kingdom of God.
That it was a heart thing, that we had a choice between living with a heart of fear, or living with a heart of hope.
And whatever we let live in our heart would dominate.
God was offering us a heart that was a heart of hope.
But that got me thinking of some of the attitudes that we could encourage in our heart.
And the two main attitudes that we can have are reflected in our two readings today.
Because what we believe affects what we do.
So lets look at belief number one.
I love this reading in the Old Testament.
This is a fed up God.
Not only a fed up God, a fed up parent God.
Let me tell you about last weekend.
Last weekend James, my son, went off to Amsterdam for a weekend holiday.
He asked if I could drive him to the airport and it was only when I nearly turned off to Edinburgh that he bothered to tell me the plane was leaving from Glasgow.
While he was away his mum sent him texts asking if he had arrived safely, if he was having a good time, when he was coming home.
She never got one text back.
Trust me, if he had run out of money the texts would have been flying, but as things were fine then nothing from him.
And while he was away his mum completely redecorated his room…and I changed the light bulb.
All that was done for him.
And in return, in return all his mum asked was if he could bring his washing down.
And all she got was how tired he was, how busy he was.
When I listened to his mum that night in bed…it was this Old Testament passage.
‘How come I am a burden? Doesn’t he know all that I have done for him? It’s not that I am asking a lot out of this relationship?’
I find it strangely reassuring that God understands what we go through as parents because he has gone through it a million times more.
What is not so reassuring is that so often we act the way a teenager acts towards God.
There is an expectation that little is asked of us from our side.
And what little we give is grudging.
God gives us this world.
God gives us our health.
God gives his own son on a cross to show his levels of commitment.
And we grudgingly complain when the offering plate is going round.
When the minister talks of a quiet time in the morning or at night and using the bible study notes we wonder if we can fit it in.
And when we fit it in we wonder just how little time we need to spend on it.
I may be wrong in this, there is no scientific proof of it…
But I would guess that most people spend more time on computer games than quiet time with God. Even folk like yourselves…with your tablets, playing solitaire or scrabble.
Or that most people would spend more money on holidays than they do giving to the church. In fact it may even be that most people would spend more money on one of their holidays in the year than they would the whole of their yearly offerings.
And what is worse, at some point in the year they may question if they really need to spend that amount of money in the offering, but they would never question spending a bit more on the holiday.
And the reason I would say that, is that I think the attitude that God is condemning in the Old Testament, is the attitude that many of us have in our hearts when it comes to our relationship with God…an attitude of ‘How little do we need to do?’
Because the truth is that often we think of our commitment to God, our commitment to his kingdom, his community, as a burden.
It is just one more thing that we need to fit in in all the other things that we need to fit in.
We have our work to do, we have the shopping to do, maybe exercise classes, maybe organisations we go to, and then there is family responsibilities, maybe looking after children or grandchildren or parents.
And after all of that, then God wants his cut of our time, and we just don’t have the time.
Maybe later on, maybe when things get quieter.
Then we can spend a really long time and really work at our relationship with God.
And it is no good God telling us all the things he has done for us in the past…because we are just too busy just now.
So we write a cheque for the offering, but it gives us no joy.
We come to church for an hour, but we are still distracted throughout the service.
The worst thing about this attitude, is that we don’t even get any benefits from it.
You would think that if we put God to the side then that would mean that we have more time to sort out our life…but it doesn’t seem to work that way.
I had a really interesting conversation with a couple recently where they said, ‘We really didn’t bother all that much with church. Didn’t see the point.’
And you would think that meant they had their whole life and concentration to spend on getting their life sorted out. And they would have a wonderful life.
But they didn’t.
He spent the whole conversation making wee digs at his wife. If she said, ‘There he is blaming me again.’ once she said it ten times.
They have a son that never talks to them…and they don’t know what to do about it, or seem to have the inclination to do something about it.
They really didn’t seem all that content with their life.
So not spending time with God in their lives didn’t seem to give them more time for each other.
The attitude that is being condemned in the Old testament is that God is just the add on. Just another thing that we have to fit into our life. And it doesn’t seem to work, either for God or for us.
Where as, Jesus in the New Testament is talking about the Kingdom of God.
Something that is always there.
Something that surrounds us.
Something that is the centre of our life.
The first thing we think about rather than the last thing we do.
And this attitude is very different.
It doesn’t sound all that great from the description of the people that Jesus talks about.
They are the downtrodden, the mourning, the poor, the persecuted.
Who wants to be like that?
And we can get the idea reading this passage is that that is what our life will become.
But that’s not the point that Jesus is making.
The point that Jesus is making, is that when God is the centre of our life, then no matter what we face, God is in the middle of it with us.
Instead of being angry at God because he wants us to go to church when we are mourning and can’t he wait until we have got through this turmoil..we see that God is giving us the strength and the hope to help us through our mourning.
Instead of being annoyed at living with guilt and shame of knowing we are switching off our conscience…we can see that God gives us the resilience to do the right thing.
Instead of being ashamed of our faith when we are out with others, we can see that we have nothing to fear, and lots to be joyful about, in our faith. Most of the time people are curious about faith, at worst indifferent, but rarely antagonistic.
Let me be blunt.
I believe it is because God is the centre of my life that I am still married.
The number of times I have been busy with other things, and just not spent the time being in the relationship that I should have.
Not deliberately. But maybe things have been solid in the marriage, so I can leave it to the side and work on this other part of my life that is struggling.
And every time it is God, in times of quiet with him, that has been nudging and cajoling and often kicking me up the backside telling me to sort myself out.
It is so easy to get distracted, and when we get distracted then things pass us by that shouldn’t.
But God never gets distracted, and when he sees something going wrong in our lives, he wants to help us sort it out.
But that’s the problem.
Too often we just want the easy life, the comfortable life.
God wants the best life for us, the most fulfilled life for us.
Our ambition may be to watch every episode of Coronation Street.
God’s ambition is that we be the best spouse, or parent, or neighbour, or friend, or aunt, or uncle or human being that we can be.
He doesn’t want to be the person that we go to after we have finished looking after our grandchildren or our parents.
He wants to be the person who helps us and encourages us when we are looking after the grandchildren and the parents.
He doesn’t want to be the person we go to after a hard day at work when we are tired and frustrated.
He wants to be the person who gives us the strength we need when we are at work.
He doesn’t want to be the person we avoid when we are on holiday because we are on holiday.
He wants to be the person who shows us the joys around us when we are on holiday, and when we are at home.
If God is just an add on, a kind of insurance policy, then you might as well give up on him…because the relationship will always be second best, always be a burden. And the truth is that when you need God the most, you won’t even think of asking him for help.
Because in the crisis you will turn to the one person you truly think can help you… yourself. And when it all falls down you will cry out…’Why me?’
But Jesus offers us a different relationship, where God is always the centre. The strength, the hope, the joy, the assurance. And when troubles comes, it will just be natural to seek God, because you always seek God. And you know that you’ll get through it, no matter how bad things get, because God has always helped you get through it in the past.
And if you have that relationship, you will truly have a life that is blessed.