Pastor's Blog

Kingdom Confusion

 Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.  

These are the inaugural words of Jesus’ ministry as recounted by Matthew in his gospel, (Mt. 4:17, NIV). Mark’s account of the same event is similar but more detailed: The time has come, Jesus said, The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news, (Mk. 1:15, NIV). Throughout the gospels, the phrases, kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven are used interchangeably to speak of the breaking in of God’s rule, reign and work into human history through the coming of Jesus Christ.  

During the three years or so of Jesus’ public ministry, the kingdom of God was the primary topic of his teaching. Most of the parables that Jesus employed began with the familiar refrain, The kingdom of God is like, or similarly, The kingdom of heaven is like. At other times, Jesus used the phrase, To what shall I compare the kingdom, to begin another parable. 

Field of grass at sunset

See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?1 Thus says God, through the prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel, as a message of hope and exhortation during a time of discipline and destruction. As we begin the year 2022, after so many months of disruption, death and despair, can we bring ourselves to believe that God is in all of this, is with us, and is even up to something new and beautiful?

In the verse just before the one quoted above, God says, Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.2 We must learn from our individual and corporate histories, and tradition has its place. Yet, if we are going to perceive and participate in the new things of God, we must extricate ourselves from the anesthetizing effects of nostalgia, and free ourselves from the paralyzing bonds of past failures. God is with us and for us, and though He disciplines us as our loving heavenly Father, He is always calling us out of our sin, fear and complacency to new adventures in faith and faithfulness.

Group picture of the Youth with a Mission Team

In September of 1982, shortly after graduating from high school at the age of seventeen, my friend Jeff and I boarded a KLM flight bound for Holland. After being away from home for no more than a week or two at the most — at church camp or grandma’s house — I had now set out on a nine-and-a-half-month journey that would take me to Holland, France and Lebanon. My time with Youth with a Mission(YWAM) — an international discipleship and missions’ training organization — was one of the most challenging, exciting and life-changing seasons of my life. I often refer to this period of my youth as spiritual boot camp, as God used the teaching, ministry experiences and relationships to humble me, draw me closer to Jesus and to hone his call on my life.

Front of Central Congregational Church

Wow! What a wonderful, joyful first Sunday back after an almost fourteen-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic! For those of you that were able to join us on May 2nd, I am sure that you would agree with me that this will go down as one of the most memorable and meaningful Sunday services in the long history of Central Congregational Church.

That said, there was – and will be for at least a while – one key ingredient missing in our Sunday morning gathering: Fellowship Hour! One of the hallmarks of CCC for the past many years, at least, is the practice of most of the congregation gathering in the Fellowship Hall after service for up to an hour or more of, well, fellowship – and food, always fellowship with food. I am not sure exactly when Fellowship Hour will be reinstituted, but for most of us that are a regular part of the CCC family, Sunday mornings will not be complete until it is back.

Thy Kingdom Come

In our expression of the body of Christ called Central Congregational Church, we pray this prayer together each time we gather on Sunday morning; Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. But what does it actually mean to pray, Thy kingdom come, and are we really interested in God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven?

As the global coronavirus pandemic and national social unrest rage on, we have been plunged into a time of confusion and conflict like many of us have never seen in our lifetimes. The debate and angry rhetoric circling around issues related to both the pandemic and racial tension have exhausted and polarized us. Should we wear masks to protect ourselves and others from the virus, or in doing so do we surrender our rights as Americans? Is it appropriate to declare Black Lives Matter, or is that a capitulation to far left, extremist elements in our society? Do we champion a bygone era to which we call America back to greatness, or do we believe America has never been nor ever will be great until all vestiges of racism and discrimination are identified and torn down?