Citizenship in the Kin-dom of God

The First United Presbyterian Church of Loveland

"Citizenship in the Kin-dom of God"
Rev. Amy Morgan
July 7, 2019

This past week, we had the opportunity as a nation to celebrate and reflect upon our citizenship in the United States of America. We celebrated values like liberty, independence, and unity. Today, we’ll reflect upon and celebrate our citizenship in the Kin-dom of God. In the time of Jesus, and throughout the history of Christianity, those striving for the fulfillment of God’s reign on earth have often found themselves at odds with worldly powers and governments, even and especially the nations in which they hold earthly citizenship. Today, we will hear from Christians whose voices have spoken truth to power, who have proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ and revealed where their citizenship in God’s kin-dom is in conflict with the values of their nation. We will hear from theologians of color, including Jesus himself. The readings I’ve chosen, both from scripture and from these theologians, are not intended to endorse any political parties, candidates, issues or positions. They should, however, help us to reflect on our values as Christians today. They should reveal where our current national values are in conflict with our citizenship in God’s kin-dom. And they may illuminate our understandings of current political parties, candidates, issues or positions. They may not influence all of us in the same way. They may lead each of us to different conclusions. The work of the Holy Spirit is wild. But I hope and pray that as we listen and sing today, with open minds and open hearts, the Spirit will inspire each of us to live more faithfully as citizens of the kin-dom of God.

First Reading
Matthew 20:1-15
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why are you standing here idle all day?' 7 They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard.' 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, 'Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.' 9 When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' 13 But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?'

“The Kin-dom of Christ”
Ada María Isasi-Díaz has been called the mother of mujerista theology, a theology that seeks to recognize and dismantle the social and religious structures that oppress Latina women and to radically change these oppressive structures to liberate not only themselves but their communities and societies. Isasi-Diaz’s influence on mainline theology is heard in this article written by Rev. Melissa Florer-Bixler for Sojourners magazine in November of 2018:

“Lamps and debt. A friend in the night, and a sower of seeds. Wine, nets, pearls, weeds, and treasure. What is the kingdom of God like? It is like leaven and it is like two sons, like bridesmaids and sheep, like workers and judges.

In the 37 times that Jesus describes the reign of God in the Gospels, not once is the kingdom of God like a kingdom of earth. Thirty-seven times Jesus reshapes the imaginations of his followers. Thirty-seven times Jesus tells them a story to help them remake the only world they know…

Ada María Isasi-Díaz was visiting her friend, a Franciscan nun name Georgene Wilson, when she heard the word for the first time: kin-dom rather than kingdom. I imagine that as she sat with this word, turning it over in her mind, something clicked about her own life. For Latinas, she would go on to write, kin-dom offered a description of liberation that was “self-determining” within an interconnected community, seeing God’s movement emerge from la familia, from the family God makes.

Kin-dom became the language she used to describe God’s libertad, the liberation of God at work among people, the good news for those who suffer at the hands of kings. Isasi-Díaz dedicated her life to the work of mujerista theology, where the center of theological study is borne from the experience of Latinas. She wrote that, for Latinas, this liberation emerges from opening up space where love invites us into kinship, invites us to join others at a table that grows…

Isasi-Díaz writes in the book Solidarity: "From a Christian perspective the goal of solidarity is to participate in the ongoing process of liberation through which we Christians become a significantly positive force in the unfolding of the kin-dom of God.” Liberation is now, our “preferred future” worked out among us, our common commitments, our community spilling out into dismantling structures that bind and oppress.

Second Reading
Luke 6:20-23
20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“God of the Oppressed”
James Cone is known as the founder of black liberation theology. An ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Cone was a professor of systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. His ground-breaking and highly acclaimed work focuses on suffering, oppression, and ultimately, redemption. The following is an excerpt from his 1975 book, “God of the Oppressed.”

“The Christian community, therefore, is that community that freely becomes oppressed, because they know that Jesus himself has defined humanity's liberation in the context of what happens to the little ones. Christians join the cause of the oppressed in the fight for justice not because of some philosophical principle of "the Good" or because of a religious feeling of sympathy for people in prison. Sympathy does not change the structures of injustice. The authentic identity of Christians with the poor is found in the claim which the Jesus-encounter lays upon their own life-style, a claim that connects the word "Christian" with the liberation of the poor. Christians fight not for humanity in general but for themselves and out of their love for concrete human beings.”

Third Reading
Philippians 3:15-21
15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained. 17 Brothers and sisters join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

“A Theology of Liberation”
Liberation theology emphasizes God’s preferential option for the poor and oppressed and proclaims liberation from social, political, economic, and spiritual oppression as an anticipation of God’s ultimate salvation for all of humanity. Liberation theology was originally developed by Latin American Roman Catholic priests, many of whom gave their lives in pursuing this vision of God’s kin-dom. Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, is a Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest regarded as one of the principal founders of liberation theology in Latin America. Gutiérrez’s groundbreaking work, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation, explains his notion of Christian poverty as an act of loving solidarity with the poor as well as a liberatory protest against poverty. What follows is an excerpt from that work.

“Although the Kingdom must not be confused with the establishment of a just society, this does not mean that it is indifferent to this society. Nor does it mean that this just society constitutes a 'necessary condition' for the arrival of the Kingdom nor that they are closely linked, nor that they converge. More profoundly, the announcement of the Kingdom reveals to society itself the aspiration for a just society and leads it to discover unsuspected dimensions and unexplored paths. The Kingdom is realized in a society of fellowship and justice; and, in turn, this realization opens up the promise and hope of complete communion of all persons with God. The political is grafted into the eternal.

This does not detract from the Gospel news; rather it enriches the political sphere. Moreover, the life and death of Jesus are not less evangelical because of their political connotations. His testimony and his message acquire this political dimension precisely because of the radicalness of their salvific character: to preach the universal love of the Father is inevitably to go against all injustice, privilege, oppression, or narrow nationalism."

Fourth Reading
Revelation 21:2-4; 22:1-2
2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.


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