Of all of the many statements in the Bible that are attributed to Jesus, it is a line from this Gospel passage from the lectionary for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, that is one of my all-time favorites. And it is the line where he says, “It is God's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
I love that line so much that a few years ago, I seriously considered getting that tattooed in Aramaic on my arm. Because I wanted to be reminded every day of that.
Now, thankfully, Gregg talked me out of it.
But since then I have made it my calling, my mission, my purpose, if you will, to remind myself and to remind others often:
It is God's good pleasure to give YOU the kingdom!
I really believe that we could transform the world if more people knew that! And they really believed that.
God wants you to have the kingdom – that would give God so much pleasure!
So what is the kingdom? Where is it?
Well, Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven, more than 100 times in the gospels. In fact, he talked about this topic more than any other topic – the kingdom of heaven.
And yet, most Christians today still don't know what it is. If you ask most Christians today about the kingdom of heaven, they’ll point up to the clouds, ‘Well, the kingdom of heaven is up there. That's where I'm going to go when I die.’
That's not what Jesus said about the kingdom of heaven.
He never said it was up in the clouds.
And he never said it was a place you go to when you die.
He said, The kingdom of heaven is , and now.
So where is it? Well, throughout the Gospels, he gave us clue after clue after clue about the directions to the kingdom of heaven. If you read the gospels, you'll see he said things like, ‘Tthe kingdom of heaven is like yeast in bread.’ Another time he said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed in the ground.’ Another time he said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a pearl in its shell.’ And another time he said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.’
So there are clues. What what do these things all have in common? Well, they're all things that are hidden, things of great value that are hidden.
So for example, let's look at the yeast. A yeast is microscopic. But within that is the power to make bread rise. The mustard seed, Jesus said, is the tiniest of all the seeds. And yet within it, it has the power to become the greatest of all shrubs. And then the pearl in the shell and the treasure in the field are things of great value that are hidden, and must be found, must be discovered.
Now after all of those examples, if you still don't get it, Jesus says in Luke's gospel, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”
That's where it is. That's where it's hidden. Within you, within YOU, is this place, this heaven, a place of peace, joy, love, and bliss. And you can enter into it at any time.
So why are so many people not dwelling there? Why are so many people living outside the kingdom? They've got their minds set on worldly things, worldly affairs, worldly matters, worldly pleasures. Why are so many people living outside the kingdom, not from the place of peace, love and joy, but from the place of fear and worry and separation?
So how do we live in the kingdom? How do we do that? Well, Jesus in today's Gospel reading gave us some instructions. He said, ‘Do not worry, little flock,’ meaning trust in God, do not worry. Second, he said, ‘Give alms.’ Give to the poor give to others. And then he said to give up your possessions, to give up those things, those thoughts, that are possessing and controlling you.
When we do these things, we're living from a kingdom consciousness, not a worldly consciousness, a kingdom, consciousness.
And then Jesus said, ‘Get ready! For the Son of Man is coming.’
Now, this is also very confusing for many modern-day Christians. Many modern-day Christians think this means that when the world comes to an end, Jesus is coming back. So get ready, because he could come at any time.
But think, Jesus is saying this in front of a group of people. He's saying, ‘Get ready for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’ Now, if he was talking about himself, that wouldn't make sense. He's saying to them get ready, because the Son of Man is coming, but he's already there. He's already there, talking to them. The Son of Man is not Jesus, the Son of Man is the Christ. Jesus is speaking not from his human self, but from his divine self.
I've explained to you before the Christ existed billions of years before Jesus of Nazareth was even born. The Christ is the power, the presence, the light and the life of God. Jesus discovered that that light, that power that presence, that Christ was within him. And after he made that discovery, he made it his mission to show other people the way to that same discovery within themselves.
That's why he said, ‘You are the light of the world, and the kingdom of heaven is within you.’ That's what he was trying to get us to understand, that he wasn't the sole exception, he was the example for us.
So the Kingdom of Heaven has nothing to do with the next life. It has to do with this life. It has to do with making way, getting ready for the coming of the Christ, the Son of Man within us, so that we can resurrect that light and bring it to the world.
The Kingdom of Heaven, here on Earth. Do you understand?
Now, when I shared this the last time, someone from our church came to me very upset. And he said, Pastor Sal, so you're saying that I don't go to heaven when I die. So what happens? I was really hoping I was going to see my loved ones when I die. So that's not going to happen?
No, that's not what I'm saying.
Our faith tells us that we are eternal, our souls and spirits go on after this earthly incarnation. And our faith tells us that we're returning home. We get a glimpse of what the kingdom of heaven is like – that peace, love, and joy we experience in prayer and meditation. When our bodies die, our souls and spirits return to that place. And we live from that place of bliss, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, actually, there's no time in the spiritual realm. We're just constantly living from that place. Now. I don't know what it looks like. And any pastor who tells you they know what heaven is like – they don't.
Now there are people, as we know, who have had near-death experiences. And those people who have had near-death experiences have gotten a glimpse of what it was like. They talk about that intense light that they're drawn to, and that feeling of great peace and love and bliss that they've never experienced before.
A few years ago, a few of us went to Grand Rapids. I know Pam and Pete were there, and Margaret. We went to hear a woman, her name is Anita Moorjani. She had a near death experience, and she wrote about it. And she has a book that's called, What if this is heaven?
What if this is heaven?
What if when you die and you meet God, God says to you, ‘So how did you like your years in heaven?’ And you say, “Heaven? I thought that was Earth!”
Now the Adam and Eve story is a metaphorical way of explaining this. Adam and Eve, were given the kingdom, this beautiful garden of Eden, this paradise. They had everything they wanted. It was beautiful! But they made a choice to dwell outside the garden. And what happened? They suffered. They were miserable.
My friends, you have a choice. You've been given free will. You can choose to dwell within the kingdom. Or you can choose to dwell without it. It's your choice. Do you want to be miserable? Or do you want to be at peace? You get to choose. You have been given the keys to the kingdom. Use them.
And one of those keys is prayer and meditation. In prayer and meditation, we shut the door to the world. We go within to that kingdom of heaven within us, that place of peace, love, joy, and bliss, and we connect with that light that is within us. That's what we're doing. So I hope you will find time each and every day this week to be still and know, to connect with that light, to enter into that kingdom of heaven because it is here and now. It is at hand. It is within you. And it is God's good pleasure to give it to you. May you be open and ready to receive it.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration and Guidance
Rev. Thomas Shepherd
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, “It is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” What is the kingdom? It's not a physical place, but rather a dimension of consciousness. On a metaphysical level, we might understand the kingdom of God to be, in a sense, the source of the Source. It is the place of absolute Truth, absolute Love, and absolute Power from which everything else expresses. The kingdom of heaven is a dimension of consciousness that represents the next step in our own collective and individual spiritual unfoldment. It is, Jesus assures us, within us—and it is at hand. It exists as our own potential. As we recognize, embrace, and express the Christ Presence of God that is our true identity, our faith, and the choices that emerge from that faith, create a world that more perfectly expresses spiritual Truth. As we stop believing in and choosing from thoughts of fear and negative feelings, we experience the kingdom of heaven in ourselves and share it with others. This possibility is “at hand”—it does not happen after death, and it is not a pre-existing place to which we must find our way. It is the true potential of each of our lives. Jesus achieved a full realization of the kingdom of heaven in his own mortal life—and even the challenges and pain of his final days could not shake him from its state of perfect Oneness and perfect Peace. He calls us to do the same—to express our own Christ energy so that we, too, can experience the kingdom—and by sharing it, make it our full and complete experience here on Earth.
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