Weekly Seeds: Kindom
Sunday, June 18, 2023
Third Sunday after Pentecost | Year A
Sovereign God, fill us with compassion, engage us in the work of healing, and send us to witness to your name. Amen.
35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
10 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. 9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
All readings for this Sunday:
Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7) and Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 • Exodus 19:2-8a and Psalm 100 • Romans 5:1-8 • Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)
What is the kindom of God?
How do we participate in the kindom?
What is the harvest that needs to tending and care in this age?
What signs of the kindom do you observe in your faith community or in the world?
Where and how does the kindom still need to be realized?
By Cheryl A. Lindsay
One of my college professors loved the opening scene in the movie Patton. I can’t remember which course it was, but I went to business school not a military academy so it was a little surprising to have one of our classes start with a clip of that introductory scene. It is visually powerful. A larger than life American flag fills the shot. You hear the clicking of his boots before you see Patton move in view as he seems to walk up from the floor beneath the flag in what seems to be an auditorium. He salutes as the camera jumps to close ups of his uniform, regalia, and even person. He starts his message in his brusque, clipped voice, “Be seated. I want you to remember that no [one] won a war by dying for his country….” In the next five minutes, he delivers a rhetorical masterpiece (whatever you may think of the message) to reframe any hint of aversion to war from his audience of soldiers and to encourage them to enjoin the battle with vigor, enthusiasm, and pride. Patton is a war movie, and the general–and the filmmaker–want us to know that people love war.
The term “kindom” has been adopted in many Christian communities as an alternative to the word “kingdom.” In part, the substitution reduces the patriarchal language found in biblical witness and Christian tradition. “Dom” retains the centrality of the sovereignty of God in the realm that has no end. The “kin” emphasizes the primacy of relationship and beloved community in the reign of the Holy One on earth as it is in heaven. It also reduces the framework of violence often found in discussions of the coming and realization of God’s realm and replaces it with the language of family, connection, and love.
This passage in Matthew, however, sounds like Jesus is a commanding officer sending his troops off to war. Unlike the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus paints a picture of how the kindom is observable in theological, attitudinal, and ethical terms, here Jesus instructs his disciples on actions and behaviors they will need to take in order to realize the kindom in tangible and immediate ways. Of course, action is ethical, a principle consistently discerned throughout Matthew’s account.
The ethics of this gospel is not an ethics of principles to be implemented, but an ethics of response to the presence of God and Christ in my/our history. It is the promise “God with us” that is fulfilled not only in the birth narrative, but also in all of chapter 2—including the death of the innocents—in the middle of the Gospel (chapter 18), and in victorious and permanent form in the last speech (chapter 28). The death of Jesus means victory for the little ones, to whom the Lord, God and Jesus, gives full hope, by being present in the midst of the community.
Global Biblical Commentary
For Matthew, the reign of God is a promise and hope rooted in reality and substance. It’s not hypothetical or theoretical. Jesus proclaims the kindom in word and deed. His teaching, as noted in the Sermon on the Mount, presents the possibilities of the kindom. The demonstrations, particularly found in the ministry of the healing miracles, confirm his teaching.
There follows a transitional summary. “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness” (9:35). This is almost verbatim from 4:23 and shows that this section is a literary unit. Jesus’ authority as a teacher is established in chapters 5–7 with the Sermon on the Mount. His authority as a healer is demonstrated in the healings in chapters 8–9.
Anna Case Winters
This part of the gospel begins the transition from the ministry of Jesus to the expansive ministry in which Jesus empowers, equips, and commissions disciples. The Son of David has many distinctions as a leader from his ancestor. Unlike David, who achieved stature as a singular leader who transferred his authority to one heir, Jesus would delegate his power to increase the kindom through multiplication and magnification. The Chosen One will translate to a multitude of disciples. That work begins in earnest here.
Once again, the Creator engages the creature in the creative act. The kindom is possible because of Jesus. At the same time, Jesus invites his followers into discipleship rather than fandom. He treats them as apprentices and sends them off to try their best at emulating his ministry. Accepting his mission will be costly, like soldiers going to war. But, unlike Patton’s army, Jesus’ disciples aren’t taught to hate their enemy; they’re entreated to liberate them. “Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.” (Mt. 10:1)
It’s only one sentence, preceded by the actions of Jesus and followed by the instructions of Jesus. That one sentence tells the story of what the disciples are charged to do and how the kindom is realized. It’s not through overcoming the enemy with power and might; it’s through helping the enemy overcome with compassion and love. Jesus, once again, proves to be countercultural:
Miracle stories were common in the Hellenistic world. That miracles can happen was a part of the mental furniture of that context. What is distinctive about Jesus is not that he works miracles but the meanings attached to the miracles he works and the salvific orientation of the miracles. “Unlike writings of the Hellenistic world generally … the canonical Gospels contain no stories in which miraculous power is used punitively against human beings.” The miracles are always saving/healing acts that demonstrate the mercy and compassion of God as Jesus teaches and enacts it.
This is the kindom of God. Mercy and compassion dominate where power and might could prevail. The reign of God invites friendship over submission and entreats their forces to retreat rather than destroy. No spoils of victory are taken, rather everything, even the simple comforts, is given up in service of living without the trappings of this world while in pursuit of the divine realm and desired order. In the kindom, enemies are freed, healed, and loved; and the agents of the kindom are commanded, not to fight to the end, but to endure.
May God’s kindom come.
Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent
The 33rd General Synod adopted a Resolution to Recognize the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). As part of its implementation, Sermon and Weekly Seeds offers Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent related to the season or overall theme for additional consideration in sermon preparation and for individual and congregational study.
But my greatest dismay and my deepest anguish are precipitated by the involvement of the church in the present crisis. My greatest fears are for the organized church in America. I look out on so many Christians and see so little power. The church’s main guilt is not her failure to practice what she preaches. Her guilt I believe is her failure to preach. For preaching involves dramatic confrontation, radical encounter, and urgent proclamation. Preaching (the kerygma) is an assault on every bastion of human pride with the sovereign demands of the gospel. Preaching is confronting culture with Christ.
I say that the church is failing to preach because she is inextricably bound up in the fabric of the state. There exists a dangerous accommodation, and a peaceful coexistence that renders the prophetic voice speechless. Whenever church and state embrace, the church is not free to preach the gospel. And I do not speak of that theoretical or even mechanical separation of church and state which the founders wrote into the Constitution. We have that separation and it should remain. I am not bothered about the possible weakening of that arrangement. I’m troubled by a kind of spiritual union of church and state, a union where both pat one another on the back. I’m troubled about a buddy-buddy relationship, where the church is blind to the sins of the state. I’m troubled about an unholy fellowship of light and darkness.
In a word, there is no clear distinction between the American position and the church’s position on the burning issues of the day. We have a definite duty to pray for those in authority, but we also have a duty to preach to them. Though we reside here and are subject to the laws of the state, our citizenship is in Heaven and we’re under orders from on high. The church should know full well that whenever she ceases to be the critical conscience of society, her sword is made dull and her voice is made silent.
The church should know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ and Caesar have always been incompatible and will always be so. One of the things which led to the demise of the Jewish church was the coalition between Rome and Jerusalem. The Protestant Reformation was made necessary by the church’s capitulation to culture.
—William Augustus Jones, Jr., God in the Ghetto: A Prophetic Word Revisited
For further reflection:
“If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.” ― Frederick Buechner
“The kingdom is nearby, adjacent to our own reality, present, yet veiled in the boundaries we avoid, and in the margins we protect ourselves from. So there is no riddle. The eschatological reality is here, yet we feel the urge to evade it, and the lure to ignore it.” ― Vitor Westhelle
“The kingdom of God is a metaphor of transformation into more creative, more conscious, more caring, loving and fulfilling life with the fellow beings.” ― Amit Ray
A preaching commentary on this text (with works cited) is at https://www.ucc.org/what-we-believe/worship/sermon-seeds/.
The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology (email@example.com), also serves a local church pastor and worship scholar-practitioner with a particular interest in the proclamation of the word in gathered communities. You’re invited to share your reflections on this text in the comments below this post on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SermonSeeds.
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