Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church  

“Not Far from the Kingdom of God”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 4 November 2012 by the Rev. John LeMond. The scripture readings that day were Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Hebrews 9:11-14 and Mark 12:28-34.

One of the essential elements of religion

Is a set of rules

What we should do and what we should not do

For Christians these rules are quite ancient

Going all the way back to the first books of Judaism

These rules provide guidelines for how to live our lives

There are hundreds of rules, or commandments, in Scripture

Covering everything from farming to marriage to business.

We often think of Judaism, out of which Christianity was born

As a religion of rules and commandments

Rules so difficult to follow that they seemed like a yoke, a heavy bar, on one’s back

So there has always been the need of a summary of these rules

Something that encompasses all of the rules of the religion

In a simple, straightforward way.

And here we have that summary in the reading from the Hebrew Scriptures this morning:

The writer of Deuteronomy says:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

There we have it

Follow this rule…follow this commandment

So that…what?

So that… your days may be long.

So that… life may go well with you,

So that… you may multiply greatly

In a land flowing with milk and honey.

Follow this rule…and you will live a good life.

It sounds so simple.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might

And you will live a good life.

In fact, it not only sounds simple, it sounds simplistic.

It sounds naïve, unsophisticated.

We do not live as wanderers 4,000 years ago

We live in the very complex world of today

Can a rule that old really provide guidance…

For people who live in a modern, even a post-modern, world?

A world in which many people either deny,

Or seriously doubt, the existence of God?

And a related question is this:

What will happen if we choose not to follow this rule of God?

What will happen if we choose to deny even the existence of God?

Well, the answer seems simple

If we choose not to follow this rule of God

To love God with all our heart, soul and might

It would seem that we will not live a good life

The days of our life will not be long

We will not multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey.

The same questions come up in the passage from

One of the scribes asked Jesus: "Which commandment is the first of all?"

Jesus answered, "The first is,

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'

And the second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

There is no other commandment greater than these."

Jesus has expanded on the original rule from Deuteronomy, adding “mind” to the rule

And he has added a second commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.

This part was not original to Jesus, but he chose to attach it to the love of God

Indicating that the two were clearly related.

But, in general, it is the same rule that we find in the passage from Deuteronomy.

Love God…and in loving God…love your neighbor.

But the two questions remain:

What will happen, Jesus, if I do love God and love my neighbor?

The answer is the same

All of Jesus’ listeners knew the passage from Deuteronomy by heart

They knew what Scripture said about loving God with heart, soul and might

Long life, good life, full life.

And the second question:

What will happen to those who do not love God and neighbor?

Again, the answer seems simple

No long life, no good life, no full life.

But here we have to stop and reevaluate our answer

Because neither of the Scripture passages actually says answers the question in this way

Nowhere does it say what will happen to those who do not follow God’s commandment

Nowhere does it say what will happen to those who do not even believe in God

From our own experience we know that there are people in the world

Who are very happy…who live long, happy lives

Who multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey

And who do not acknowledge God’s existence.

Is this fair?

This is a question that has worried believers for ages

What is the good of believing?

What is the good of following all of God’s commandments?

What is the good of being good?

When unbelievers seem to prosper?

As Christians, we often have an answer for this situation

The Christian answer often is: the reward, and the punishment, will come in the after life

Those who believe and follow God’s rules will enter heaven

And those who do not believe in this life

Will enter a hellish existence in the after life

That seems to take care of it.

That allows us to endure a difficult life,

When we, and not they, will be rewarded on the other side.

That seems fair…to us.

But notice that in neither of these passages

Is there a mention of salvation as a reward

In neither of the passages is there a mention

Of either heaven or hell.

In neither of these passages, in fact, is there a mention

Of what will happen to those who do not follow God’s rules,

To those who do not even believe in God.

There is no mention of retribution or vengeance…or even justice

Is that fair?

Fairness is something that we associate with rules and laws and commandments

Follow the rule and you’re safe

Break the rule and you will be punished

That is fair, that is just

We know the rule, we follow the rule,

We want to be rewarded

And we want others to be punished

This is fair, this is just

For many that is the essence of religion

The essence indeed of Christianity:

Fairness, justice, reward and punishment.

But the Scripture passages that were read today,

While seeming to talk about rules and commandments,

Take us in a different direction.

The letter to the Hebrews says this:

One has come into the world

One we call the Christ

Who has made it possible

 For all of creation

To be reunited with God…eternally.

God has come to us and has loved us

These passages are less about what we should or ought to do,

And more about the all-encompassing love of God for creation.

What is the motto of Kowloon Union Church?

“Where All Are One”

This is a revolutionary idea.

Listen!...the Lord is God, the Lord is one

And that Lord is in love with creation.

The book of Deuteronomy tells us:


Love the Lord your God as God loves you

With all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

The Gospel of Mark tells us:


Love the Lord your God as God loves you…

With all your heart, and with all your soul,

And with all your mind, and with all your strength.


Love your neighbor as God loves your neighbor…

With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

And what?

And you will not be far from the kingdom of God.

The essence of Christianity is not, after all,

About rules and commandments and laws

It is about an all-encompassing love.

The essence of Christianity is not, after all,

About what I must do or about what others should do

It is about what God has done and is doing.

The essence of our faith is not, after all,

About either reward or punishment, fairness or justice

It is about living near to the kingdom of God,

Every day, every moment.

And being invited to enter fully into that kingdom

Through love of God, love of our neighbor, and love of ourselves.

Which commandment is the first of all?

The first commandment, for all creation, is this:

God is love.


# posted by Heddy Ha : Tuesday, November 06, 2012


May 2004|July 2004|September 2004|November 2004|December 2004|April 2005|July 2005|August 2005|September 2005|October 2006|November 2006|December 2006|January 2007|February 2007|March 2007|April 2007|May 2007|July 2007|August 2007|September 2007|October 2007|November 2007|December 2007|January 2008|February 2008|March 2008|April 2008|May 2008|June 2008|July 2008|August 2008|September 2008|October 2008|November 2008|December 2008|January 2009|February 2009|March 2009|April 2009|May 2009|June 2009|July 2009|August 2009|September 2009|October 2009|November 2009|December 2009|January 2010|February 2010|March 2010|April 2010|May 2010|June 2010|July 2010|September 2010|October 2010|November 2010|December 2010|January 2011|February 2011|April 2011|May 2011|June 2011|July 2011|October 2011|November 2011|December 2011|January 2012|February 2012|March 2012|August 2012|September 2012|November 2012|December 2012|January 2013|February 2013|March 2013|April 2013|May 2013|June 2013|September 2013|October 2013|November 2013|December 2013|February 2014|March 2014|April 2014|May 2014|June 2014|July 2014|August 2014|September 2014|October 2014|November 2014|December 2014|January 2015|February 2015|March 2015|April 2015|July 2015|August 2015|October 2015|November 2015|December 2015|January 2016|February 2016|March 2016|April 2016|May 2016|June 2016|July 2016|August 2016|September 2016|October 2016|November 2016|December 2016|January 2017|February 2017|March 2017|April 2017|May 2017|June 2017|July 2017|August 2017|September 2017|October 2017|November 2017|December 2017|January 2018|February 2018|March 2018|April 2018|June 2018|July 2018|August 2018|September 2018|October 2018|November 2018|December 2018|January 2019|February 2019|March 2019|May 2019|June 2019|July 2019|August 2019|
Archived sermons by the Barksdales

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?