Second Day of Epiphany   13 comments

Above:  A Mosaic of Jesus from the Former Church of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Resisting the Kingdom of God

JANUARY 7, 2024


1 John 3:18-4:6 (New Jerusalem Bible):


our love must not be just words or mere talk,

but something active and genuine.

This is the proof that we belong to the truth,

and it will convince us in his presence,

even if our own feelings condemn us,

that God is greater than our feelings and knows all things.

My dear friends,

if our own feelings do not condemn us,

we can be fearless before God,

and whatever we ask

we shall receive from him,

because we keep his commandments

and do what is acceptable to him.

His commandment is this,

that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ

and that we should love one another

as he commanded us.

Whoever keeps his commandments

remains in God, and God in him.

And this is the proof that he remains in us:

the Spirit that he has given us.

My dear friends,

not every spirit is to be trusted,

but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,

for many false prophets are at large in the world.

This is the proof of the spirit of God;

any spirit which acknowledges Jesus Christ, come in human nature,

is from God,

and no spirit which fails to acknowledge Jesus

is from God;

it is the spirit of Antichrist,

whose coming you have heard of;

he is already at large in the world.

They are from the world,

and therefore the world inspires what they say,

and listens to them.

We are from God;

whoever recognizes God listens to us;

anyone who is not from God refuses to listen to us.

This is how we can distinguish

the spirit of truth from the the spirit of falsehood.

Psalm 2 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Why this uproar among the nations,

the impotent muttering of the peoples?

Kings of the earth take up their position,

princes plot together

against Yahweh and his anointed,

Now let us break their fetters!

Now let us throw off their bonds!

He who is enthroned in the heavens laughs,

Yahweh makes a mockery of them,

then in his anger rebukes them,

in his rage he strikes them with terror.

I myself have anointed my king

on Zion my holy mountain.

I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh:

He said to me,

You are my son,

today I have fathered you.

Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your birthright,

the whole wide world as your possession.

With an iron sceptre you will break them,

shatter them like so many pots.

So now, you kings, come to your senses,

you earthly rulers, learn your lesson!

In fear be submissive to Yahweh;

with trembling kiss his feet,

lest he be angry and your way come to nothing,

for his fury flares up in a moment.

How blessed are all who take refuge in him!

Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Hearing that John had been arrested he [Jesus] withdrew to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, beside the lake, on the borders of Zebulon and Naphtali.  This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

Land of Zebulon!  Land of Naphtali!

Way of the sea beyond Jordan.

Galilee of the nations!

The people that lived in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those who lived in a country of shadow dark as death

a light has dawned.

From then onwards Jesus began his proclamation with the message,

Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.

He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing all kinds of disease and illness among the people.  His fame spread throughout Syria, and those who were suffering from diseases and painful complaints of one kind or another, the possessed, epileptics, the paralyzed, were all brought to him, and he cured them.  Large crowds followed him coming from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea, and Transjordan.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Jesus, fully human and fully divine, ushered in the Kingdom of God, which is around us and inside of us.  Yet many of us do not see it.  The Kingdom of God was an apocalyptic vision of God’s rule on earth, as opposed to the Roman Empire.  Thus talk of the Kingdom of God was subversive until the early Church redefined the Kingdom as a spiritual reality.  But I prefer the subversive nature of the earlier understanding.

Authority figures resisted the Kingdom of God, crucifying Jesus and martyring many Christians.  They had great power, but God’s might was stronger and more impressive. Today the efforts continue, but God’s might remains stronger and more impressive.

Thomas Tallis, the great Sixteenth-Century English composer, wrote tunes for the church psalter of his time.  The Third Psalm Tune, which Ralph Vaughan Williams slowed down and transformed into a happier piece centuries later in the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, fit these words, which I prefer to the familiar version (“Why do the nations so furiously rage together”) from the Authorized (King James) Version:

Why fum’th in sight the Gentiles spite, in fury raging stout?

Why tak’th in hand the people fond, vain things to bring about?

The kings arise, the Lords devise in counsels met thereto,

Against the Lord with false accord, against his Christ they go.

Let us, they say, break their ray of all their bonds and cords:

We will renounce that they pronounce their lores as stately lords.

But God of might in heav’n so bright shall laugh them all to scorn:

The Lord on high shall them defy, they shall be once forlorn.

With iron rod as might God all rebels shalt thou bruise,

And break them all in pieces small, as sherds the potters use.

Be wise therefore ye kings the more, receive ye wisdom’s lore;

Ye judges strong of right and wrong, advise you now before.

The Lord in fear your service bear, with dread to him rejoice;

Let rages be, resist not ye, him serve with joyful voice.

The sun kiss ye, lest wroth he be, lose not the way of rest;

For when his ire is set on fire, who trust in him be blest.

In the 500s Justinian the Great, the Byzantine Emperor, ordered the construction of the beautiful Church of Hagia Sophia, or Holy Wisdom, at Constantinople.  Almost a thousand years later the conquering Ottoman Turks converted the building into a mosque.  And today it is a museum.  But it should be a church.

Despite all appearances to the contrary, God will win, in time.  We need to be patient.


Written on June 8, 2010


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