Afterthoughts

by Rick Diamond

The word we talked about in worship on Sunday is malkhuta. It's the Aramaic -- the language Jesus and his followers spoke in everyday life -- for the Hebrew word malkhut. It means "Kingdom." So, when Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus used this word. Malkhuta.

Malkhuta is in some ways more properly translated "queendom" than "kingdom," in that it is a feminine form of this idea of the world in which God is sovereign, and God is leading, and human beings -- and all of creation -- are in harmony with God's desires and vision. The role of feminine energy is to receive. The creation receives God's breath and comes to life. The barren woman, over and over in scripture, receives the miracle of God, and bears children. The unlikely person receives God's power, and miracles occur. The young woman Mary is told God will place a miraculous child within her, and she accepts this role. And life emerges. Miracles occur when, as Jesus says, we open the door and let God in. God is the bridegroom; people who are listening to God are the bride. And that union produces fruit, children, beauty, miracle, resurrection.

This kind of Kingdom isn't a political one. It's not the kind of Kingdom that is enforced with armies, and money, and rules, and the power that comes from coercion or fear. Rather, it's an embodiment -- literally, it's seen in the physical, the bodies and actions and words of people - of the order and path that come from listening to, and obedience to, and acting from the strength of God.

If we try to build this on our own, we'll run out of gas in a hurry. The history of the kings in the Jewish scriptures make it clear that no earthly human kingdom, regime, empire, nation, or administration can fully live out malkhuta. But when we ask God for help, it flows from God, into us and through us.

Human beings tend to build boxes and walls and rules and doctrines. But the malkhuta, the way of life that Jesus talks about, doesn't have strong boundaries on its edges that enforce who's in and who's out, or what's acceptable and what's not. Instead, this way of life flows and moves around a strong center. For Jesus, that strong center is Love. It is the Love that serves. "If you want to be the greatest, you will be a servant," Jesus said, even as he was telling his followers - then, and now - "I will give myself as a gift. I will be arrested. I will be executed. The world will think it has destroyed me and my message of God's Love, of the other kind of life that is possible. But I refuse for this message to be destroyed. It cannot be destroyed. It rises again, over and over, forever."

We are a part of that Kingdom, that way of life, that path.

Listen to the Service

Today's Program

Gathering Our Spirit to God's Spirit

The painted and beribboned glass cylinder is still in the center of the room and filled with branches extending out the top; branches are also hanging from the ceiling around the room. Chair setup needs to be such that children can parade in with palm branches before going to children’s time.

  • “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” by Five For Fighting plays
  • A Journeyer steps up to light the lamp and another rings the bell 
  • David (E) and Leslie (L) make announcements
  • A Journeyer comes to the microphone for Reading 1  

Reader 1:  From Eugene Peterson’s introduction to the Book of 1 Kings in The Message 

The story of our ancestors, the Hebrew kings, began in the Books of Samuel. This story makes it clear that it was not God’s idea that the Hebrews have a king, but since they insisted, he let them have their way. But God never abdicated his sovereignty to any of the Hebrew kings; the idea was that they would represent his sovereignty, not that he would designate his sovereignty to them.

But it never worked very well. After five hundred years and something over forty kings, there was not much to show for it. Even the bright spots -- David and Hezekiah and Josiah -- were not very bright. Human beings, no matter how well intentioned or gifted, don’t seem to be able to represent God’s rule anywhere close to satisfactorily. The Books of Kings, in that light, are a relentless exposition of failure -- relentless five-hundred-year documentation proving that the Hebrew demand for God to “have a king” was about the worst thing they could have asked for.

Worshiping with Our Children

  • Our children parade in with palm branches
  • A Journeyer leads our children in talking about how much fun parades are and that often parades are held to celebrate and honor people who have done wonderful things. Not everybody can march or be honored in a parade, but we can all serve and help others knowing that it is our way to help Jesus love the world. 

From Our Spirit to God's Spirit

  • David welcomes, has us breathe…
  • David explains the series 
  • Renee/Dave leads us in singing a song
  • Two Journeyers come to the microphone for Readings 2 and 3

Reader 2:  1 Kings 1:43-45 (The Message)

But Jonathan answered, "Hardly! Our master King David has just made Solomon king! And the king has surrounded him with Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, with the Kerethites and Pelethites; and they've mounted Solomon on the royal mule. Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon and the parade is headed up this way singing -- a great fanfare! The city is rocking! That's what you're hearing.

Reader 2 continued:  John 12:12-15 (The Message)

The next day the huge crowd that had arrived for the Feast heard that Jesus was entering Jerusalem. They broke off palm branches and went out to meet him. And they cheered: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in God's name! Yes! The King of Israel!

Jesus got a young donkey and rode it, just as the Scripture has it: No fear, Daughter Zion: See how your king comes, riding a donkey's colt. 

Reader 3:  Matthew 20:17-23 (The Message)

Jesus, now well on the way up to Jerusalem, took the Twelve off to the side of the road and said, "Listen to me carefully. We are on our way up to Jerusalem. When we get there, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the religious leaders and scholars. They will sentence him to death. They will then hand him over to the Romans for mockery and torture and crucifixion. On the third day he will be raised up alive." 

It was about that time that the mother of the Zebedee brothers came with her two sons and knelt before Jesus with a request. "What do you want?" Jesus asked. She said, "Give your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honor in your kingdom, one at your right hand, one at your left hand." Jesus responded, "You have no idea what you're asking." And he said to James and John, "Are you capable of drinking the cup that I'm about to drink?" They said, "Sure, why not?" Jesus said, "Come to think of it, you are going to drink my cup. But as to awarding places of honor, that's not my business. My Father is taking care of that." 

  • David leads a community discussion on what we want a savior/king to do for us
  • Another Journeyer comes to the microphone for Reading 4 and leads an offertory prayer

Reader 4:  Matthew 20:24-28 (The Message)

When the ten others heard about this (the request of James’ and John’s mother), they lost their tempers, thoroughly disgusted with the two brothers. So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served -- and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage."

Giving -- To Help God Do God's Work in This World  

  • Dave Madden sings Derek Webb’s “King and a Kingdom” as the ushers pass the offering baskets and return them to the foot of the cross

Telling The Story and Our Story

  • Vintage 21 video plays
  • Rick talks
  • Rick instructs the ushers to hand each Journeyer a palm leaf as a reminder that we are to be servants in and to the world

Go Out to Serve with Mercy and Grace

  • David leads the community in a closing prayer

God, we are just like those folks in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, waving palms, putting our kids on our shoulders, desperately hoping to get a glimpse of the ONE who will know how to ease our pain, soothe our wounds, provide for our lack and scare the bad guys away from the yard. We wish we had more faith, we wish we understood more, we long to be able to trust our lives to a compassionate God rather than a powerful king. Help us to trade our palm branches for a willingness to use the palms we already have: our hands. Help us to love the world, to serve the world, to follow you, to be a part of your kingdom. AMEN

God spoke to Abram, and Abram was listening. He heard God tell him to pack up his family, dwellings, possessions and livestock and begin a journey that would start by leaving behind his lifelong home, many of his extended family, his business, and his country. God did not provide a trip itinerary, a GPS signal or a Google map. He simply said, “You go. I’ll let you know when you get to the right spot. And remember, the journey is as important as the destination. My part of the bargain is this: your faithfulness will manifest itself in the formation of a powerful community of people who both bless the world and will be blessed.” So Abram started packing…

  • David dismisses
  • “Superman” plays again as folks depart

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