Be the change you want to see, remains a statement I both try to live by and understand. There is a lot of change I would like to see from politics, to justice, human rights, and more. There is always a need for change in the world. However, how it is we-you and I- effect that change is where I get caught up. I am just one person, and our global empires that continue to assert power over us are so much larger than just one, or even a group of people's efforts. Yet there are examples happening all around us, from Greta Thunberg, the 17 year old climate activist who’s making waves with her speeches, or Extinction Rebellion, who are holding whole cities to account by protest for the lack of attention to climate change. People and governments are noticing these efforts, and starting to speak out. Even inside the church, there are those who are working for greater inclusion of people, and indigenous self determination, among others. But we still aren't there yet, we still have some room to grow as a church and as a society. But how do we start? Well the movements of Greta, Extinction Rebellion, and moves for inclusion and self determination all started with a question: “Why is the world, this institution, like this… insert problem here…. and how can I effect some change or difference with my life?” How can I declare God's empire, in the midst of the scarcity of the world empire? I believe this morning we are given the answer. We effect change with our whole lives.
The Greek word at the heart of our translatory question this morning is “basileia,” meaning empire, kingdom, reign. But even within that translation, there are multiple interpretations. A reign is a period of time: The queen reigns for her life time, while a kingdom and empire can be a geographic area, that transcends time. And this morning, in the midst of this reign, empire, and the kingdom of God in our midst, we are called to repent, to re-orient ourselves to the position of the kingdom, a kingdom that transcends time and space. Remember, repentance is about re-orienting ourselves to God. When Herod executes John the Baptist, he clears the way for Jesus to take up the mantle of John’s ministry, and take another step closer to what it is his life here on earth was meant for- to reorient every single soul, in every corner of this world, into God’s kingdom through his salvific death on the cross. In doing this, Christ continued to open his life, through prayer, to the active presence of God in all aspects of his life- giving him the power he needed to declare God’s all encompassing baseilia, his kingdom, reign, empire, has indeed come near. A declaration which changed the world. Now we may be thinking, well of course it did, because it’s Jesus Christ who we are talking about, I’m not Jesus, so being this agent of the transformation is beyond my pay scale as a follower of Christ. It's actually not, we have the presence within us, not to be Jesus, but to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our world today. We just have to see it, and the way we see it is through prayer.
Being a people of action, as christians we are called to be active witnesses to the work of the gospel in the world. As we hear today, this work is both a geographical as well as spacial one in that we are to follow Christ into all areas of our world making disciples of all people to join the historical and contemporary witness of faith to which we belong. This, my friends, is the kingdom of God, christians working together for the betterment of all people, in all times, and in all places, a people who break down the walls of injustice and isolation and replace it with communities of hope, ability, possibility, and purpose. What holds us back though is often the worry of not knowing where to start, in a world so full of needs, and feeling alone while we fight against the norms that keep us closed in from the freedom of God’s vision for our lives. So how do we hear and follow God’s presence in our lives to seek the places where we are put to best use for the inbreaking kingdom? Well, we pray. We deepen our prayer with the psalms, an ancient book of hymns used in worship to express God’s presence in and amongst all aspects of our lives, from the very heights of joy, to the very depths of pain and suffering. The psalms give us an important window into God's presence in and among every part of who we are, and in my own life it reminds me how I can’t keep any part of my life away from God or God's purposes for it because God is already so deeply at work within everything I am. This means, that as we re-orientate ourselves towards God’s kingdom, we are deepening our awareness of God’s all encompassing presence in our lives, since everything we are and are becoming is of God’s divine purpose and providence. What praying with the psalms gives us as christisans is a reminder of God's presence among us, within us, and before us, leading us into a deeper relationship with him so that we can effect the change we want to see in the world in which we live. All we have to do is listen, within ourselves, for the voice which is already speaking to us in prayer.
God has called you and I, to follow him, in the depths of our humanity, by growing more profoundly aware of his presence in everything we are and are becoming, to use our re-orientated gifts for the building of his kingdom here on earth. For some that means ordination, to be set aside to walk with God’s people in prayer and teaching, for others, that means marriage, or being a parent. For others that is a single life. For others that is as a lawyer, teacher, nurse, CEO, student, or unemployed. These are our vocations. God has called all of us to live a vocation, a way of life, in order to serve the Gospel of freedom in our world- a gospel which is brought to its wholeness through the lens of our prayer with the psalms in our everyday. God is calling you and I today, to be his agents of transformation in our world, to reorient our lives into the service of his present reign and kingdom with every aspect of our lives. How will you respond with your life, to God’s call to be his agent in our world this week?