CREATING GOD’S COMMUNITY
April 17, 2005
I saw a person on a bicycle with a sign on his “T” shirt: “Don’t follow me, I’m lost!” Many are lost because they do not know where they are going.
Any organization, church, business, project, or movement must have what is known as “A Mission Statement.” What is the purpose for which we are organized? If we don’t know what our purpose of mission is, we are indeed lost!
This is also true about our lives; “What is the mission, purpose, goal of our lives?” As the saying goes, “If you don’t have a purpose, you’re bound to hit it.” So I ask you: “What is the mission of your life?” “What are you living for?” What is the purpose and goal of your life?”
I would like to suggest for you and me this mission statement: The same mission as Jesus: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.” In other words, “Create God’s community.”
I. GOD’S COMMUNITY IS OUR ULTIMATE GOAL IN THE FUTURE
It is not a matter of the Kingdom of God becoming a reality in our world in our time, but it means to live in hope and anticipation of the future of God’s community. The meaning of faith is the reaching out to welcome the future of God’s Kingdom. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) It means continuing Jesus’ ministry in the world as we have a foretaste of the final fulfillment. Jesus’ messages were always about the Kingdom of God, and he lived with the assurance and conviction that the ultimate goal and future is the Kingdom of God. Jesus died without realizing the Kingdom, but it was his ultimate hope and goal of the future of God’s Kingdom. You and I will die without the realization of the Kingdom of God, but the hope of the ultimate community of God is the good news that death will not have the last word. We believe that God is Love and God and Love will ultimately rule the universe. Martin Luther King best describes this when he declared: “I have seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But it doesn’t matter now. We as a people will get to the promise land. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
The mission of the Christian, the Church, the people of God, those who have responded to the creative transformation of God’s love, live for the future of the Kingdom—the Kingdom of Love, of justice, and righteousness. It is the faith of the future of God that determines the mission and nature of the church. I believe that we Christians exist from the future of God and not just the past. I cannot prove the future of the Kingdom of God: only the reality of the Kingdom will confirm this mission and message of the Kingdom. This is the meaning of faith in God’s love and ultimate rule.
Last Sunday (April 9, 2005) after our Ordination Council met to examine a candidate for ordination, I received a call from the son of one of my dearest friends who shared with me that his father was in a critical state in the hospital. I was tired, but I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that my friend and his family needed me just now. So I went to the hospital and met with the family and my dear friend who was unconscious and fighting for his life. After praying and talking with the family, I was led to share these thoughts:
No one wants to see a loved-one die, but who knows how he feels regarding death and dying. Who knows, he may want to die, as he is blind, he has been ill for a long time, he is in a care home and suffering each day. He may be thinking he would not want to be a burden to you or live as an invalid the rest of his life. If he should die, it is really harder for us, than it is for him. We do not want to have him leave us, but faith in God’s love has taken the sting out of death; for in dying we are consumed by God’s love and nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death. Sooner or later, we must all die, but we have the victory, the peace, and the assurance that all is well. We read in the Bible: “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” (I Corinthians 15:24-27
I cannot prove it, but faith in God as Love, affirms it.
II. GOD’S COMMUNITY IS ALSO IN THE PRESENT
Jesus opened his public ministry by saying, “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” God’s community is here now. The future has a claim upon the present. Wherever God is present and at work, the Kingdom of God is at hand! The Kingdom of God relates to our finite present even as Jesus taught in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; Blessed are those who mourn; for they shall be comforted . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:1-10) We are taught to pray: “Thy will be done on earth (now) as it is in heaven.” Let me illustrate: We are moving to Southern California. In anticipation of our future home we are now busy getting rid of our accumulations. The fact that we are moving into a smaller place determines our present actions. Our future determines our present actions. Seeking first the future Kingdom of God determines what we should be doing now.
The future ultimate goal of God’s community urges us now to seek the kind of community we anticipate for the future: a future of world peace, for a community of love, of justice, of harmony and joy. God’s community is at hand as we apply the righteousness and love of the Kingdom of God here and now. We work and live toward the unifying power of the future.
One reason for the inter-faith movement is because God’s kingdom is a community of oneness, harmony, unity, and friendship in our pluralistic world. Beyond doctrine, dogma, tradition, religious heritage is the community of love, God’s community.
Seeking the Kingdom of God in the present, I make my future hopes and aspirations the involvement in my present. The rainbow in the clouds of beautiful colors blending together as God’s covenant with Noah is symbolic of the harmony of the races and ethnicity for today. As we make our mission and goal the Kingdom of God, we transform the present with the righteousness of the future kingdom. The kingdom of God is at hand!
III. SEEKING FIRST GOD’S COMMUNITY IS THE REALITY OF OUR FAITH
Jesus saw God’s love as the Kingdom of God and his own life, ministry and death revolved around this single mission. What we see in Jesus is God’s loving concern for us and our world. We see in Jesus God’s creative transforming love through forgiveness and grace that opens the way to a new life—the life of God’s community. We see the power of the future overcoming the present and past in reconciling us to the God of love and participating in God’s righteous community. God’s love is the ultimate motive of God’s creative activity that we see incarnate in Jesus. “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Salvation is communion with the God of love and seeking first the Kingdom of God. To believe in God’s love and forgiveness is not complete without becoming a co-laborer with God in seeking first the Kingdom of God. This is very critical in many of our popular concepts of our Western cultural Christianity that eagerly believes and accepts the forgiveness and grace of God but fails to seek first the Kingdom of God. One of the deep behavior traits of the Japanese is that of obligation and reciprocation. Sometimes it is overdone, however, in the traditional Japanese culture there is a deep underlying sense of obligation and reciprocation. If someone is kind or gracious to you, you have a deep sense responsibility to reciprocate. John writes: “We love because he first loved us.” (I John 4:19) Responding to the love of God requires loving others and continuing that love in seeking the kingdom of God. For the Japanese to receive love and not to reciprocate or feel the responsibility to love is an embarrassment and considered sinful. Seiichi Yagi, one of my mentors in Christian theology, a Japanese theologian writes, “The essence of the human dilemma is the self-centered, alienated self characterized by what he calls egoism” For Yagi, “authentic human existence is manifest in love.” He goes on to say, “Love is given to humanity from the transcendent, that “the work of God is the ground of love” and that the formation of “the community of love” is the will of God. Having responded to the love of God and experiencing communion with God our call is to seek the Kingdom of God or God’s community. In seeking first the Kingdom of God we are co-creators with God, continuing God’s creative purpose transforming chaos into creation. This is to seek first the Kingdom of God that reveals the authenticity of our faith. This is our mission, the purpose of our lives, and the ministry of the Church: to seek first the Kingdom of God.
Our personal and Christian mission is ultimately creating God’s community—seeking first the Kingdom of God. But “faith without works is dead.” We are admonished to “be doers of the word and not hearers only” Abraham, the father of faith, “Looked forward to the city which has foundation: whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews. 11:10). We read in the Book of Hebrew of all the saints that “died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar” (v. 13) Moses led the people to the Promised Land, but he himself never entered the Promised Land. Jesus never actually realized the Kingdom of God, but he died with faith in the God of love that will ultimately reign.
And so with us: We seek the Kingdom of God, as we “look forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”