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Bible Study Guide for Sunday July 26, 2020

July 23, 2020

● Genesis 29:15-28

● Psalm 128

● Romans 8:26-39

● Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

The kingdom of heaven is so many different things! We can find our heads spinning when we read these disparate similes. We may ask “What IS the kingdom of heaven precisely?” Jesus, however, delights in puzzling us. If we step back and ask ourselves what these images have in common, we will find that they are all active and full of energy. The kingdom of heaven is like a seed growing, bread rising, and treasure being discovered. The kingdom of heaven is NOT like a rock patiently enduring the storm until it passes.

There is, however, a sense in these images that the kingdom exists at some point in the future. Walter Rauschenbusch, a key theologian of the Social Gospel movement, perhaps puts it best when he writes “The kingdom of God is always but coming.” The kingdom is here, but paradoxically not here. In his Christianity and the Social Crisis, Rauschenbusch urges his fellow Christians to work to move the world closer to the kingdom, rather than complacently waiting for the kingdom to descend on us. His words and tireless advocacy for the poor and against inequality would inspire many who fought for social change in the 20th century, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Desmond Tutu.

Even if the kingdom of heaven seems like a vague horizon, God is always at work. In Genesis, Laban tricks Jacob into 14 years of work. Jacob (himself no stranger to deception) later tricks Laban and finally leave Laban’s household. We may admire Jacob’s patience, cleverness, and love of Rachel, but it can be difficult to see where God is at work in Jacob’s and Laban’s schemes, particularly with poor Leah caught in the middle. Ultimately, however, God will position Jacob to be one of the patriarchs of Israel, God’s chosen people, and the people from whom God’s beloved Son, Jesus, will be born on Earth.

We may live in a broken world, but the kingdom of heaven is at work, and we are part of it. Even as we struggle to build the kingdom, we are, as Paul puts it, “more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Hopeful expectation of the kingdom of heaven is not an excuse God has given us so that we can tolerate the injustices of the world around us. Nor is it a weapon to paralyze those who strive to make God’s world real today. Instead, it is a gift to liberate us. Hope for the kingdom allows us the make the best of where we find ourselves and enables us to do the long hard work of righteousness.

● Are there particular stories (Biblical, people you've known or heard of, fictional, etc.) that you draw strength and endurance from? Where do you see God in these stories?

● Has there been a time where you thought you were being patient, but you were actually being complacent? What is the difference between striving for the kingdom and passively waiting for it to arrive?


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