KiNDRED | Dealing with Jericho Roads | Aaron Williams
This week's sermon study guide is pulled from the UPC 2017 Lent Study: "KiNDRED - The Multi-ethnic Family of God"
THE JOY OF DIFFERENCE | NOTICE
“(Having) the eyes of your hearts enlightened,
(I pray) that you may know what is the hope to which God has called you,
what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.” Ephesians 1:18 b
“As representatives of the kingdom of God made up of people from every tribe, ethnic group and nationality, we are called to demonstrate the power of the gospel to reconcile diverse people into one new humanity.”
Brenda Salter McNeil & Rick Richardson, The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change, page 39
God, in Your wisdom and creativity, You created us, Your daughters and sons, to be a beautifully diverse, multi-ethnic family which bears Your image throughout all creation. Help us gain a clearer vision of You, Lord, through that diversity. Open our eyes to Your deep love for all peoples, and open our hearts to Your mission of reconciling the entire world to You and each other. Amen.
REFLECT: Discuss last week’s Personal Challenge.
WATCH: Kindred Video - https://vimeo.com/204609978
READ: Revelation 5:9-10
Last week, we saw that God deeply loves all people groups and is on a mission to bring the entire human family back into restored relationship with God and each other. God calls His people into this mission, starting with Abraham (Genesis 12:3), who is told that his offspring will number more than the grains of sand, and that he and those successive generations are blessed to be a blessing to all the world. However, generations later, Jonah rejects God’s call to bless the Ninevites by fleeing in the opposite direction. Next week, we will return to the Book of Jonah and discover it’s not so easy for Jonah to out-run God, who loves him deeply and continues to pursue him.
This week, we will consider how the arc of God’s redemptive love for all people is demonstrated in Jesus Christ, God’s Beloved Son. In God’s incarnation, Jesus was born into the tribe of Judah as Joseph and Mary’s son, taught to speak the Hebrew tongue, was raised as a Nazarene Jew in Galilee, and lived as
a citizen of the nation of Israel. Jesus came to earth to experience His humanity as most people have experienced it since Adam and Eve: Within a family, with concentric circles of connection forming outward to Jesus’ community, His state, and His nation. In each of those circles, then as now, there were tensions, factions, separation, and heartbreak. Jesus noticed it all and calls us to notice as well.
Yet, Jesus had a much larger, much grander vision of family. In words and actions, we notice Jesus consistently breaking the boundaries of culture and treating the “outsider” as family, a concept that the disciples were somehow slow to grasp. Before His ascension, the disciples still asked Jesus when He would restore the Kingdom of God to Israel. It appears they were still looking at their particular ethnocentric circles and not seeing His “big picture” Kingdom at all.
So, Jesus again explained His multi-ethnic vision to them saying, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8b). Here, Jesus has chosen to start with the smallest concentric circle—their current community—and then tells His followers that these circles will grow and eventually encompass the whole earth.
The theme of God’s boundary-breaking love continues in Acts and in the Letters. In Acts 10 and 11, Peter and then the rest of the apostles come to a startling revelation: in God, there is no partiality—all are beloved by Him, whether they be Gentile or Jew. The Apostle Paul says in Colossians and Galatians that there are no distinctions—no Greek or Jew, no slave or free, no male or female. God sees us all equally. Paul also tells the Ephesians that although the Gentile and the Jew had been separated, Christ has now “made the two groups one, and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” making “one humanity out of the two...” (Ephesians 2:11-16).
Then, in the book of Revelation, we are shown a glimpse of the joyful grand finale of God’s redemptive plan whereby all peoples will be reconciled to Him. We learn that the heavenly beings in the throne
room constantly praise Jesus, singing to Him day and night. They sing a glorious new song to Jesus, who is worthy because He was slain for us and by His blood, He ransomed us. We are now a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) made up of saints from every tribe and language and people and nation who, together, will serve our God forever.
This is a picture of the Christian Church as it should be—and will be one day—His Kingdom come! However, the Church today is very different from that ideal. We are divided by the very same “walls of hostility” as the rest of the world, walls comprised of bias based on race, ethnicity, nationality, language, socioeconomic status, and political orientation.
However, Jesus has given us hope that, through His grace and forgiveness and the empowering courage of the Holy Spirit, we might become His agents of reconciliation and social justice in His Church and in His world. Because He has already broken down the walls that divide us through His death on the cross, we are called to notice and address the walls of human bias that remain standing and make every effort to eradicate them. We can be as He envisions us: One, unified, multi-ethnic family, all of us Kindred of the King.
DISCUSS Choose from some of the following questions:
1. Think of someone you know of a different ethnicity than yours. What is one thing you appreciate about that individual? What have you learned from him or her? How has knowing that person changed how you see yourself, Jesus, or the world?
2. What is your understanding of how ethnic difference has led to ethnic inequality? How does that inequality lead to conflict?
3. Have you ever experienced walls of bias in your life? How do you think people of different ethnicities feel as they are faced with this on a daily basis?
4. In Revelation, we see Jesus’ plan to gather a new human family from every tribe and nation will someday be fulfilled. What do you think your role might be in helping fulfill Jesus’ plan?
5. How does this vision of the coming Kingdom of God shape your understanding of the mission of Jesus in bringing about reconciliation between tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations both within the Church and in the world?
NOTICE. . . True human reconciliation begins by seeing others through the eyes of Jesus and noticing His deep love for them. Think of someone whose perspectives or life experiences are different than yours. This week, practice putting yourself in their shoes by imagining their life experiences, hopes, fears, and dreams. Then, practice pleading with God on their behalf, out of God’s deep love for them. Notice what effect praying for this person has on you and what additional actions the Holy Spirit may lead you to take toward reconciliation.
King Jesus, You laid down your life for us and, in doing so, You gathered us into Your Kingdom, reconciled to You and each other. Unify us as one family, and help us see You more clearly through our diversity. Show us what it means to be Your royal priesthood, and send us out as agents of reconciliation and mercy, caring for others as You have asked of us and loving our brothers and sisters as ourselves. Amen.