It is Saturday morning and I am preparing for my first “normal” Sunday as the Senior Pastor of Citywide Baptist church.
As I was reflecting on what my first sermon should be about, I realised that it needed to come back to what has been the central question of my life since Leeanne and I were married: What does it mean to seek first the Kingdom of God?
Regular readers of Faith Reflections will know that Leeanne and I had Matthew 6:33 engraved on our wedding rings after deciding that we wanted that truth of that verse to be our point of orientation for the rest of our lives.
Only 11 months ago, as I was ordained in Canada, Leeanne gave me a plaque with the verse on it, kind of as a re-affirmation that we are still on the same journey we started in 1994. As I sit here on our bed tapping away on the keyboard, the plaque adorns the wall opposite our bed, as a daily reminder.
Eugene Peterson (the author of The Message and a bunch of other books I appreciate) believes that every preacher who has been at the task of preaching for a while, really has only one sermon. He believes that each Sunday they just find a different way of delivering the same message, because that message is the core story of their lives.
I think I understand what he means. The wrestle for faith, the wrestle to seek God’s will above my own, the wrestle to seek first the Kingdom of God, has been the defining question of my life. I started Faith Reflections as a way of expressing the wrestle, and every time I get up to preach I am basically covering the same ground.
My dream for Citywide Baptist church is that we would be a bunch of people on the journey to put Jesus first in every area of our lives, and because we are doing that, we are learning to love each other, love our neighbours and change the world.
This Sunday I will quote Jaques Ellul who wrote:
Christians were never meant to be normal. We’ve always been holy troublemakers, we’ve always been creators of uncertainty, agents of a dimension that’s incompatible with the status quo; we do not accept the world as it is, but we insist on the world becoming the way that God wants it to be. And the Kingdom of God is different from the patterns of this world.
That’s the kind of church I want to be part of.
I know though, that seeking first the Kingdom of God is very much a journey and not a destination. I found helpful the way that Dallas Willard pointed out that living a lifestyle of continually seeking, always searching and seeking to discern God’s heart and will, was the key to Kingdom shaped living. He writes:
Seeking is the key to understanding how to enter into the kingdom of God and live there. One of the problems that many Christians today have i that, since they are Christians, they have found it and they stop seeking. But seeking is the way we live.
What I appreciate about that insight is the realisation that a follower of Jesus can’t afford to have it all together. We can’t think we have arrived and finally have all the answers… we have got to continually be seeking what God is up to and not allow ourselves to get stuck in business as usual… because God will never fit our neatly constructed boxes.
If we are not continually seeking and learning and changing, we are not actually followers of Jesus, and we are certainly not seeking first the Kingdom of God.
I am excited by the possibility of helping shape a church that is shaped by Jesus’s instruction in Matthew 6:33. I know though, that a church like this is a much more complicated, messy and changing thing than a church that has neat and tidy boxes within which to order its life.