In Search of the Kingdom of God – Finding Balance
Genesis 1:26-2:4; Matthew 5:13-17
- Prelude – “Ar Hyd Y Nos,” Welsh hymn; setting by David P. Dahl; Terry Reitz, organ, bells
- Welcome – Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 92 – “For the Beauty of the Earth,” by Folliot S. Pierpoint;
Jerry Wright, hymn leader; Donna Grubbs, piano; Terry Reitz; keyboard; Pauline Olsen, organ
- Prayer Time – Deacon Kathleen Charters
- Special Music – “What Do I Know of Holy,” by Allison Rogers and Jennifer Simmons; Janice Parks, piano, vocal
- Scripture Genesis 1:26-2:4; Matthew 5:13-17; Barbara Hughes
- Sermon: “Gotta Want It,” Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 396 – “O Jesus, I Have Promised,” by John E. Bode; Jerry Wright, hymn leader; Donna Grubbs, piano; Terry Reitz; keyboard; Pauline Olsen, organ
- Postlude – “Toccota No. 9 – Diademata,” arr. by Joel Raney; Terry Reitz, organ
I’m a coach. I’ve been a coach for most of my adult life. I’ve coached as a volunteer; girls softball at multiple levels (our youngest daughter was a gifted softball player). I coached and taught tennis. For a brief time, I coached basketball. On the other hand, I was paid to coach football, track and field, cross country, and tennis. I love to coach. I love to watch unsure students become confident athletes. I love watching the progression throughout a season. I love sports psychology and almost went into that as a career.
I think part of the reason I love coaching so much is that one of my initial mentors in coaching was Dr. Joe Newton. Joe was arguably the top high school track and field coach in the nation. He was the only high school coach in history to be asked to coach a US Olympic Team. Joe was a legend in motivation, sport psychology, and systematic goal setting for athletes. One of his mantras was “You’ve got to want it to get it.” I had the privilege of sharing the dais with him in a number of speaking events across the country. We shared dinner once in a while. And, this will tell you a bit about Joe’s heart, given that two of my children were aspiring athletes, he wrote each of them a personal note of encouragement with a little instruction thrown in. Joe would say, and he said it often, that track and field was the foundation for every other sport. Every athlete, no matter the sport, should do track and field.
I share that simply because I believe part of my role here at Trinity, part of my role as a pastor, is to coach. I see little difference between what I did with athletes and what I seek to do with a church. Every discipline in track and field requires knowledge. Every discipline requires goal setting. Every discipline requires evaluation. Every discipline requires practice. Finally, every discipline requires certain mental capabilities in order for the athlete to succeed. And, by the way, succeeding doesn’t necessarily mean winning. For most athletes, it means accomplishing goals and then setting new ones. For track athletes, we called them PB’s or personal best. I believe the same can be said of our spiritual lives. Our spiritual lives require quality coaching, but as Joe said so often, you gotta want it to get it. But what is it that we want?
I think most of us see our spiritual lives as kind of an add-on to our regular lives. Many of us just aren’t sure if our spiritual lives can add much to our regular, normal, everyday lives. So to see soul growth as a discipline is a bit strange; maybe even a bit overwhelming or scary. It doesn’t need to be, nor should it be. Here’s what I mean. If you come to church, or watch a church service online; if you do Bible study, or even read scripture; if you pray, even small prayers, you are a spiritual athlete. You’ve chosen, at least to some extent, to exercise your soul. My job as your spiritual coach is to help you move to the next level of spiritual growth.
But again, here’s the deal, you gotta want it to get it. Between now and Easter I hope to spend time examining what it means to live a life of faith; by that, I mean an ever-deepening life of faith. And like track and field, the scriptures we’ll be examining are the foundation for every other aspect of the development of our faith. They help us identify the disciplines, the tools, the goal setting, and so much more. We call them, The Beatitudes.
Jesus described something he called “the kingdom of God.” It was a different kind of reality, but an available reality none-the-less. It’s the realized version of what God’s initial intentions were when it came to Creation. It’s the balance we hear about in the story of the Garden of Eden. It’s where everything makes sense; everything works together for the greater good of all. It is a place of love, or as Paul would describe it, love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. It’s a practiced state of being, developed as walking with Christ becomes, not just a priority, but THE priority – the whole idea of “you gotta want it to get it.” It is both personal and corporate, meaning it’s not just something that happens inside each of us, it is what potentially sets the church apart from other elements in the world. This is the place we seek it – our team to use the metaphor. It’s here we seek to find it, practice it, set goals, practice some more, teach it, share it, and live it.
To be a part of a church is to be a part of a team where we’re all in this together.
In as much as “kingdom” language is less familiar to us on this side of the pond, there really isn’t a word that describes it better. It goes beyond country, political party, monarchy, or anything else like those. It becomes something that has the potential to encompass all of God’s creation and how we become a more significant part of it. Within the reality of the kingdom, everything makes sense, everything is balanced, everything falls into place. There is an order and, out of that, a feeling of peace; a very real peace that passes understanding. And when we struggle, and we will all struggle, the reminder that we’re all in this together has to become a part of the fabric that is the church.
Given the events of last Wednesday, the storming of the Capitol Building, and the Governor’s Residence, and other pieces of our democracy, I feel as though more than any other time in recent history, this is something we simply need to explore – soul discipline. But more than explore it, we need to get better at living it out, one with another. We need to become defined by it. In other words, our lives as individuals and our life as a church need to be accurate reflections of Jesus, and what he sought and seeks to offer. And what he offers is a somewhat miraculous list that allows each element to come to light.
What you heard this morning was the result, the goal, the outcome of what practicing these elements can do. They help us become that which preserves and flavors his presence in our world. They help us become a beacon of hope in the darkness that can surround us. Just before the scripture for this morning, Jesus lists nine elements that are expected. Each is a discipline in and of itself, and the combination is the culmination of what we can be. They are listed in order as one builds upon the previous. They expand within us as we explore them, and they become the leaven that helps us grow as disciples.
They are difficult. They are challenging. They are designed to be defining. They require practice. They require commitment, like any discipline, practice, failure, and success. They require a surrounding team that can help us along, support us, encourage us, even push us. They require coaches to point the way; who can help us set goals, and who will celebrate with us when we accomplish those goals.
The process of getting into spiritual shape can be painful. It means giving up some things in order to attain others. It means taking the time that we may not feel we have. It means allowing ourselves to be coached so that we can become better at what we seek to be. Joe says it so simply, and yet it is so profound, “you gotta want it to get it” So, do you want to find those elements Paul described? You know, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I’m not sure I know anyone who wouldn’t want those things. God wants them for us. Let me close with this.
I’ve finally realized that it’s not the water that sets this place apart. It’s not the water that creates an environment that is more healthy, or even more health-focused than anywhere I’ve ever lived. It’s that we can more readily see and experience God’s creation here than almost anywhere else. You look at the mountains, the Strait, the bay, the rivers, the trees, the wildlife, and yes, even the lavender. This is a very special, very unique place that allows us to be that much closer to the balance God seeks in all of us. You’ll hear more about that in the next few weeks. But for now, let’s move into a place, if you’re not already there, where you gotta want it…let’s want soul growth…knowing we’ll get it…and we’ll get it together. Let’s pray…