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Sermon Friday Morning (Riki Neufelt)

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Author: Riki Neufelt
Source: Merk 2018
Source language: German

Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25: 31-46

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

With these words - and around these words, one of my first sermons from about 10 years ago, at a time when I was really a young adult ...

 

I had been invited to give the sermon in Volendam, a German-speaking colony in Paraguay, on a youth evangelization evening - and as much as I would like to have canceled - I found no good reason to do so.

 

So I thought, or at least felt - that I should preach about what Jesus had said from the beginning and was so obviously close to his heart. I wanted to preach about what Jesus literally could not keep to himself - and nothing better came to mind than to preach about these first words - as we read in Matthew 4: " Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand "

 

And when I say: - "nothing better came to my mind", then I would also say that tragically, not much else came to my mind! This was one of the shortest sermons I have ever held. Not because I could pinpoint the message so cleverly - but because I experienced the worst blockage of all time.

 

I did not know what to say to those young people about the kingdom of God - which would make them give their lives to Jesus. To confide in Jesus.

I was sweating so much that I asked many people to pray for me, and quite a few were under the impression - this would be the most ingenious sermon, because the Spirit would fulfill me in the just right moment. In order to protect myself, I tried to tell people - "the sermon is not so important. Singing and fellowship is beautiful too! "Somehow I did not convince them well because everyone had great expectations of what God would do and say through me.

If God did something big, then I did not notice. If the ghost grabbed me that evening, then clearly I did not feel it. My message was a full 5 minutes - where they gave me 40 minutes!

 

Today - 10 years later I am even more fascinated by this message of Christ: " Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand "

In Bible texts and songs, in life accounts and personal experiences, I have discovered more and more of this kingdom of God - which is really so close!

- "The Kingdom of God is Justice and Peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit"

- Look for this kingdom!

- From the beginning of the story through Jesus Christ to the ultimate revelation, God is making this kingdom more and more visible!

And how does that happen? How is God's closeness experienced and his power given?

According to Isiah 58, this does not happen primarily in prayer in fasting and singing - even though these are beautiful and central practices of Christian life.

But Isiah is telling to shout something out of your throat - not to keep a clear message to yourself. It says:

 

"Unleash the shackles of injustice, break the yoke and abolish every kind of oppression, give freedom to the abused"

 

"Load hungry people to your table, pick up the homeless, dress those who walk half naked and ashamed through your lanes."

 

"HELP THOSE IN YOUR PEOPLE WHO NEED YOUR HELP"

 

"Swipe slander out of your midst and stop pointing contemptuously with your finger"

 

Without much theologizing, one recognizes in this call a clear mission to a compassionate life-style. And it's not just an invitation, in the sense of: "Oh, yes, you should actually do that as a good Christian"

On the contrary, it was already known by Isaiah that Jesus, much later in one of his last great teachings, according to Matthew 25, underlined once again very emphatically:

 

"I assure you - what you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did that for me"

 

Jesus - you were hungry, in need, alien, imprisoned and we should have done you good? When was it? We cannot remember meeting you!

 

"I assure you - what you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did that for me"

 

Isn’t this the key point? The righteous have NOT reckoned that their love works would pay them a special salary.

 

When it comes to the judgment of God - when it comes to the radiance of the kingdom of God in His righteousness - then it happens where love was practiced for love's sake! It is about mercy being practiced because mercy leads to life.

 

It's about sharing the things that are fundamental to life!

 

Food, clothing, belonging - that we realize that we are all part of each other! We as humanity are part of each other! We do not get what we need to live in the independence of each other by acquiring or tearing it by any means whatsoever. No - we get what we need to live by listening to and following the Lord’s law of charity. Isaiah proclaimed loudly, "If you break the shackles of injustice, free the abused, stop contemptuously with your fingers, show the homeless, and feed the hungry ... IF - THEN! Then your light will shine like the dawn. Then your wounds will heal quickly. Then God will give an answer when being called. Then he will be near and lead you. Then he will give you the necessary strength. Then God will be the source of your joy. Are not these the basic wishes of mankind? Knowing we are guided and sheltered, nourished and endowed with the necessary strength and joy? Being able to live and walk in the knowledge - God is near! God's words in Isaiah and God's words in Jesus Christ ultimately confirm the same. That the glory and goodness of the kingdom of God is there, where mercy is practiced. It is in these places where the kingdom of God is visible. And when we pray: your kingdom come - then we do not even have to straighten ourselves out to heaven above us. For we may trust that the Kingdom of God is near to us. Visible in the next as well as invisible in the mystery of God's glory Power and love, from which both Jesus and we can always create new!

 

If that isn’t good news…..?

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