I have to admit two things. First, I adapted this title from a book called “The Uncontrolling Love of God” — I love that idea! Second, my spell checker doesn’t like the word “uncontrolling.” That’s just a bit of trivia in case you notice that and think it’s a typo. Believe me, I tried it with only one “l.” Still the spell checker questions it.
Oh well, spell checkers are too controlling.
For this Advent Season, we are thinking about the characters in the story of Jesus’ birth and reflecting on how certain features of their lives repeat again in our own time. This week we use the powerful political leaders as our starting point.
If we were living in the first century, most likely our lives would be controlled by the Roman Empire and Caesar Augustus. His famous Pax Romana, The Peace of Rome, may be a bit misleading. Though the city itself was free from invasion for about 200 years, this freedom was made possible by the 150,000 legionnaires patrolling the borders and of course eventually conquering most of the known world. Power and control were the keys to success.
Herod the Great was the king of Judea during Caesar’s reign. Herod’s kingdom was safe for him as long as he paid tribute to Caesar and kept the citizens in order. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus traveled to Bethlehem of Judea during this time to register in the census and pay their taxes.
When Jesus began preaching, he spoke of a kingdom too. But not a kingdom of this world. During his trial before Pilate, Jesus said that if he were trying to set up kingdom like the ones of this world (this Roman world), “then my servants would fight.” What kind of strange kingdom is this, with no weapons and no fighting?
Every week in DiscipleChurch we pray the Lord’s Prayer which includes the words “your kingdom come, your will be done . . .” The words that follow that phrase are:
- Daily provisions (food, shelter, clothing, health care),
- Forgiveness for ourselves and our enemies (aren’t they the ones who trespass against us?),
- And deliverance from evil — which very well could include the things done to us and by us
If those are the concerns of God’s kingdom, we have nothing short of a rearrangement of life.
Especially when we keep in mind that all the pronouns in the prayer are plural and we are asking for those things for everyone — not just ourselves.
Well the truth is, we’ve all seen many things in our lives that point to the realities of that kingdom of God. We’ve seen people who sacrifice for others, who bless others in countless ways, and who make the world better simply by their presence. The kingdom of God does not get its power from coercion and control. Its power is in the thousands upon thousands of lovely people doing loving things.
See you Sunday I hope.
“. . . Christ plays in ten thousand places
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his”
— Gerald Manley Hopkins