brown grass under white clouds during daytime

Kingdom Promises

(I preached this sermon on April 22, 2012 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown, NJ. It was the beginning sermon in a series addressing major themes of the Bible. The themes here are Revelation, Salvation, Reconciliation, and the Kingdom of God.)

Before the colonialists imposed national boundaries, the kings of Laos and Vietnam reached an agreement on taxation in the border areas. Those who ate short-grain rice, built their houses on stilts, and decorated them with Indian-style serpents were considered Laotians. On the other hand, those who ate long-grain rice, built their houses on the ground, and decorated them with Chinese-style dragons were considered Vietnamese. The exact location of a person’s home was not what determined his or her nationality. Instead, how a person lived determined the kingdom to which he or she belonged.

God has been telling us for thousands of years, in many ways, who he is and that his Kingdom is not a place with boundaries, but rather one defined by how we live in relationship with Him and with one another. Today we are going to look at several passages from the Old and New Testaments that give us insight into God’s promises of Kingdom life through the Biblical principles of Revelation, Salvation, and Reconciliation that bring us to life as citizens of the Kingdom of God.

We start with Genesis 9:8-17. This comes at the end of the story of Noah and the Flood. I’ve always been a bit perplexed that we treat the Flood as a children’s story. You need only walk out into the hall and see our mural of the Ark to find that perspective. But if you think about the story as it actually unfolded it is a recitation of terror and devastation. Think of the Thailand or Japanese tsunamis multiplied hundreds of times over. This was an event unprecedented. God took his creation and unleashed it from its moorings, upending the path that he had intended for it.

So this passage comes at the end of this terrible tear in the relationship of God and his creation. Genesis 9:8-17 reads:

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:  I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”  So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

Several things are remarkable here. This is a one-way deal. God asks nothing of mankind. God knows that nothing has changed about human nature. But he commits to reach out to us as we are and where we are. In asking nothing of us, God says that He understands us and accepts us. The revelation of God’s plan is in this covenant: God commits to a relationship with us within our existence. He will not expect us to meet Him, but will meet us here and now.

God promises that from that point forward he will not use the forces of nature other than as they were created. The cosmos will remain as ordered. Evil remains, however, as does suffering and everything else that is part of the human condition. God reveals that He will do the work of restoration of humanity and all creation to the Kingdom that he intended. And he points to the rainbow as the seal of His promise. God has committed to doing the work to reconcile himself with his creation, and has acknowledged that by the nature of humanity, mankind will never be able to bridge the gulf. The revelation in the Covenant is the loving nature of God’s plan for us rather than the harsh God of judgment that seemingly begins the story.

To prove that he will reconcile us to Him through His love God went to great extremes. He committed to allow nothing to stand in the way of building an intimate relationship with us. Indeed, He went so far as to become like us; not just tell us what life with Him in His Kingdom means, but to show us. John 3:16 tells us:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This is so familiar that we too often miss how completely and radical God’s love is. But listen carefully to this promise. Unlike the pagan gods who humans determined required sacrifice and so often of the cruelest sort, the one God of eternity, the one God of all that has been and all that will be, loves us so much that He places all of that aside and invests Himself in the human Jesus. He does so to show us that all of the ways and rules and laws that we have invented do not describe the Kingdom. He does so to show us that believing in Christ is the way to life in God’s Kingdom. Jesus is His promise of Salvation and the gate to the Kingdom of God.

In the covenant God made after the Flood, He committed to reach us where we are. Yet, we continued in evil.  We continued to establish elaborate rules and laws that deluded us that we could rid ourselves of evil and qualify for life in God’s Kingdom through our own will and our own good work. Believing that we can lift ourselves to be with God is the essence of sin. We never could and never can. It is the separation from God that we can never bridge. But God’s covenant to us was that He would not rely on us to close that gap. God accomplished the work of His covenant through Jesus. When Jesus cried from the cross, “It is finished,” he spoke not only about his life, but also about the work of God’s covenant. In Jesus, God fulfilled His covenant. In Jesus, God established the path to Salvation. In Jesus, God reconciled Himself to humanity.

The nature of the Reconciliation that God intended between Him and humanity is best reflected in our Epistle lesson. 2 Corinthians 5:16-19 states:

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

God makes clear here that He contemplates that His act of reconciliation through Christ is not just bringing us into the Kingdom even though we sin, but rather bringing us to Him as a new creation. He does so not by just accepting that we sin, but by bringing us into His presence with our sin blotted away as if we never sinned, because we are in Jesus Christ. We are reconciled and come into God’s Kingdom because we have been covered with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. Our sinful nature will be no more. We have been reconciled and re-created into the citizens of the Kingdom through Christ’s transformational love.

In Mark 1:14-15, Jesus states the core promise of the Kingdom:

          After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he                 said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

The Good News of God is simply that Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God to us. In proclaiming that the time has come to bring the Kingdom near, Jesus is saying that he has brought Kingdom life with him. The Good News is so simple that the rational human mind just has a hard time accepting it. Turn your life to Jesus Christ, believe in him, and enter into life in the Kingdom of God.

But what is the Kingdom? As with the people of Laos and Vietnam, the kingdom to which we belong is defined by who we are and how we live with our King. Through Jesus, God intends a very personal relationship with us. It is a relationship of family. He intends to be present with us and live with us now as a father is with his children. But life with God in His Kingdom is not like life as we know it. The relationship is not governed by the ways of the world. As our reading from Second Corinthians emphasized, our Kingdom life cannot be defined from a worldly point of view. But Kingdom life occurs as life goes on in the world. Kingdom life is just apart from it. This is important. So often we think of life in the Kingdom as something that occurs after we die. But this is not what God says. He says be apart from the world and He will be with us, not be apart from the world and we will be with Him after we die. We have eternal life in Christ, but eternity starts now, not after we die. The Kingdom is not only near to claim through Christ, it is now to live in through Christ.

And so that brings us to Jeanne. Jeanne went to her mail box one day and there was only one letter. She picked it up and looked at it before opening, but then she looked at the envelope again. There was no stamp, no postmark, only her name and address. She read the letter:

        Dear Jeanne:

        I’m going to be in your neighborhood Saturday afternoon and I’d like to stop by for a visit.

        Love Always, Jesus

Her hands were shaking as she placed the letter on the table. “Why would the Lord want to visit me? I’m nobody special. I don’t have anything to offer.” With that thought, Jeanne remembered her empty kitchen cabinets. “Oh my goodness, I really don’t have anything to offer. I’ll have to run down to the store and buy something for dinner.” So off she went.

Jeanne did not have much money, but she felt good as she headed home, her meager offerings tucked under her arm. Jeanne had been so absorbed in her dinner plans, however, that she almost missed two figures huddled in the alley and calling out to her. She saw a man and a woman, both of them dressed in little more than rags. “Look lady, my wife and I have been living out here on the street, and, well, now it’s getting cold and we’re getting kinda hungry and, well, if you could help us we’d really appreciate it.” Jeanne looked at them both. They were dirty, they smelled bad and frankly, she was certain that they could get some kind of work if they really wanted to. “Sir, I’d like to help you, but I’m a poor woman myself. All I have is a few cold cuts and some bread, and I’m having an important guest for dinner tonight and I was planning on serving that to Him.”

The man put his arm around the woman’s shoulders, turned and headed back into the alley. As she watched them leave, Jeanne felt a familiar twinge in her heart. “Sir, wait!” The couple stopped and turned as she ran down the alley after them. “Look, why don’t you take this food. I’ll figure out something else to serve my guest.” She handed the man her grocery bag. “Thank you lady. Thank you very much!” “Yes, thank you!” It was the man’s wife, and Jeanne could see now that she was shivering. “You know, I’ve got another coat at home. Here, why don’t you take this one.” Jeanne unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it over the woman’s shoulders. Then smiling, she turned and walked back to the street…without her coat and with nothing to serve her guest.

Jeanne was chilled by the time she reached her front door, and worried too. The Lord was coming to visit and she didn’t have anything to offer Him. She fumbled through her purse for the door key. But as she did, she noticed another envelope in her mailbox. “That’s odd. The mailman doesn’t usually come twice in one day.” She took the envelope out of the box and opened it.

        Dear Jeanne:

        It was so good to see you again. Thank you for the lovely meal. And thank you, too, for the beautiful coat.

        Love Always Jesus

The air was still cold, but even without her coat, Jeanne no longer noticed. And Jeanne was living in the Kingdom. As she reached out to pass the food and the coat, she was in the presence of Christ and surrounded by the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is real and we see it around us every time we live life as God intends us to.  Each time you stretch out your hand to another in the name of Christ, as your hands close together the Kingdom goes from being near, to being now. Each time you put a spoon to a hungry mouth in the name of Christ, as the mouth fills the Kingdom goes from being near, to being now. Each time your lips proclaim the love of Christ to a waiting ear, the Kingdom goes from being near, to being now.

And when we surrender ourselves to Jesus instead of trying to do it on our own, he transforms us through the Holy Spirit into citizens of the Kingdom, and the Kingdom goes from being near, to being now. Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we ask that God’s Kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven. When Christ returns the Kingdom will come to earth completely and life on earth will be in perfect harmony with life in heaven. Just imagine how good it will be when all Creation is living life as God intends. Unfortunately, we are not there yet.

But God’s Kingdom Promise is for the here and now too. If you have accepted Christ in your life, then the Kingdom is now.  Just ask and allow Jesus to work more through the Holy Spirit to transform your life and you we see more of your life as a citizen of the Kingdom. If you have not, then the Kingdom of God awaits you. It is near. To make it now, you need only to ask Jesus into your life. For God so loves you, that he gave his only son for you, that if you believe in Christ Jesus God promises to blot out your sins and give you eternal life in His Kingdom. He is near. Claim him now.


(The story of Jeanne was adapted from an anonymous story found at Inspire21)


  1. Laura Stealey on June 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Beautiful Tom and so reassuring.

  2. Don Stephens on June 12, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Thanks, Tom! You’ve powerfully captured the essence of the Kingdom. It’s so simple we tend to miss it. I especially appreciate the idea that the Kingdom is reflected in the way we live, in what our “house” (in a very broad sense) looks like. Its not on google maps, is it? The students I have this week will be headed for Cambodia in three weeks time, and this would be a very fitting picture to set before them. The kingdom is revealed in the person of Christ and in the difference he makes in our house.

    Keep writing and preaching!

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Welcome, I'm Tom

I'm Tom Trezise a retired lawyer and corporate executive with over twenty years of experience as a Methodist lay preacher. Raised in Appalachia, I proudly call myself a hillbilly at heart. I'm the executive director of The Everyday Kingdom, a non-profit devoted to fostering a community that helps people find and experience the peace, purpose, and joy available from living every day in Christ’s kingdom.

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