Lent Sermon Series: SUBTEXTS (2/21/16): “The Economy of the Kingdom”
February 21, 2016 at 1:26 pm Categories: Sermons
Level 4: Common Ground–Acquaintanceship This level describes the typical sphere of our social engagement, where we encounter one another through screens, whether the screens of social media or figurative screens of the facades we create. This level of encounter is simply based on proximity, but there is no personal depth of conversation. Nonetheless, this is an important ground to appreciate, since conversational evangelism moves with people in dialogue and respects their limits. This is where we begin listening and attending to the Spirit’s guidance, rather than charging ahead toward “Uncommon Ground”
Level 3: Uniting/Dividing Ground–Membership At this level we find people of like skin color, like political ideology, like socio-economic class, like opinions, etc. But these groups can only exist as an”us” so long as there is a “them.” They are inherently divisive and create ‘others’ who easily become enemies.While participating in groups on this level is unavoidable, and not necessarily bad, it should not determine the depth of our relationship, and will inevitably produces hostility, pride, and self-righteousness, often undetected. We should be aware of our participation in such groups and continually seek to ‘break new ground’ with people for the sake of the Gospel.
Level 2: Sharing Ground–Friendship This level describes the sphere of vulnerability, life-on-life, honest engagement and self-disclosure. There is a tendency for older generations to avoid this level (in preference for level 3) and for younger generations to wallow in it. There is nothing inherently good about this level, and it can often simply become a self-absorbed ring of hopelessness and angst. However, for a Christian this is the sphere we must continually try to steer our relationships toward for the possibility of sharing our testimony. If we don’t have a testimony to share (How has God changed me? When was the last time he changed me? What is he working on in me now? How is he encouraging me, healing me, convicting me, etc.?), then it would be a good idea to confide in someone who shows evidence of the fruit of the Spirit and be honest with them. Ultimately, we want to be intentional about bringing the name of Christ into moments in time by sharing our testimony, with an ultimately direction toward prayer and the Gospel.
Level 4: Uncommon Ground–Fellowship This is the level of genuine encounter. Truly loving a person ultimately seeks to bring them into an encounter with the living God. This doesn’t mean being a weirdo or pushy or whatever. It simply means that people need Jesus and Jesus wants to give himself to people. For unbelievers, we are just here introducing strangers. For fellow believers, we are gathering in Christ’s name to grow in our faith, seek God together, and to enjoy the fellowship afforded to the family of God. In so doing, we are also becoming equipped for our engagement with unbelievers.
From the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30.
- The first principle of the economy of the kingdom is that it is sustained by–in contrast to every other human economy–unlimited resources, i.e., ultimately the Holy Spirit (25:14). This reverses the flow of everything in the kingdom, because the more one empties oneself, the more one receives. Thus, the economy of the kingdom is simply an everlasting gift exchange, of people emptying themselves and ever increasing their capacity to receive.
- When you participate in an economy with unlimited resources, there are unlimited possibilities. The parable introduces us to a Master who is constantly giving, pouring out. The only difference among the servants appears to be their capacity to receive (25:15).
- If you want more of God, you have to give more of God away. Just as a body of water nurtures life by giving itself away (bodies of water that don’t become something like a Dead Sea), so too do Christians nurture life to the degree that they will give life away. We increase our reception of the Spirit as we empty ourselves to others.
- The only risk in the economy of the kingdom is the risk of not doing anything–the “risk of inertia” or “opportunity cost” (25:24-30). Since the way one receives the Spirit (or increases the Spirit) is by decreases oneself, giving away, then the only investment risk in the kingdom is to try to ‘possess’ the Spirit. One cannot contain the Spirit and it remain the Spirit anymore than one can contain the wind and it remain wind.
- Go around and identify relationships in your world and locate them on one of the levels (printing and using pen/pencil might be helpful). Become aware of the depth of your relationships with others. Talk to each other about your findings. Where do most of your relationships inhabit?
- Talk with one another about attempts, failed or successful, at steering relationships or conversations toward the center. What are the obstacles? What has been helpful, encouraging, or discouraging for that matter?
- Talk about people who may have steered a relationship or conversation(s) with you toward the center (whether you realized it at the time or not). How have some of your relationships moved toward or away from the center?
- Take a moment and identify one person each of you in the group want to make an effort at deepening a relationship with in the coming weeks. Pray together for those relationships.