Saturday, January 26, 2013

Preaching the Kingdom of God

Preaching the Kingdom of God presents a unique challenge to the preacher.  This challenge arises not because the concept lacks clear and sufficient reference in Holy Scripture, but rather due to its understanding in the mind of the modern hearer, especially the American hearer who has no connection with a functioning royalty or monarchial rule.  Instead, the modern hearer may encounter the word “king” more in connection with its secondary definition, namely “one that holds a preeminent position; especially : a chief among competitors.”[1]  Thus, in hearing the word “king” the hearer might associate the word with an eating establishment (e.g.: Burger King) or a famous singer (e.g.: Elvis Presley, king of Rock of Roll; Michael Jackson, king of Pop), or the famous late 20th century civil right leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Then again, a younger hearer familiar with the film trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings, where they encounter kings in a surreal quasi-medieval setting similar to other fantasy literature, may have yet another concept quite different still.   All said the preacher is faced with a variety of potential perceptions in the minds of his hearers.  Older members will hold one image, younger another.  The challenge comes in finding a way to convey the biblical image accurately and in a way the hearer can understand and apply. This Lent I will be putting together a series of sermons entitled "Thy Kingdom Come," which will examine the variety of references to Jesus as king and his proclamation of the Kingdom of God/Heaven.  My interest in doing this comes partially from the fact that the Kingdom of God features so prominently in Holy Scripture. The Kingdom of God forms a central theme of Holy Scripture, especially in the gospels. “Everywhere the Kingdom of God is on [Jesus’] lips,” John Bright notes. Indeed, the “burden of Jesus’ preaching was to announce the Kingdom of God; that was the central thing with which he was concerned.[2]  Thus, it is not surprising that a preacher encounters this theme frequently in the appointed lections from Advent through Easter, and certainly elsewhere.  

So, how does the preacher most effectively proclaim Jesus as king and the arrival of the Kingdom of God in a culture that has such a different conception of these themes?  That will be a question I will wrestle with his Lent.... 

[2] John Bright, The Kingdom of God: The Biblical Concept and Its Meaning For the Church (New York: Abingdon Press, 1953), 17.

[1] Miriam-Webster online dictionary:

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