Intro: Summarize first 6 observations.
Title: All I Really Need to Know About Kingdom Living I Learned in Kindergarten
Read Title and Kindergartner piece.
Robert Fulghum – writer of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Robert Fulghum was born in 1937, and grew up in Waco, Texas. In his youth he worked as a ditch-digger, newspaper carrier, ranch hand, and singing cowboy. After college and a brief career with IBM, he returned to graduate school to complete a degree in theology. For 22 years he served as a Unitarian parish minister in the Pacific Northwest. During the same period he taught drawing, painting, and philosophy at the Lakeside School in Seattle. Fulghum is an accomplished painter and sculptor. He sings, and plays the guitar and mando-cello and was a founding member of the The Rock-Bottom Remainders–a rock and roll band of author-muscians.
* Share everything.
* Play fair.
* Don’t hit people.
* Put things back where you found them.
* Clean up your own mess.
* Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
* Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
* Wash your hands before you eat.
* Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
* Take a nap every afternoon.
* When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
* Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
Discussion Questions based on passages and piece:
Passages: Mark 10:13-16 (children), 12:28-34 (love), Luke 14:15-24 (banquet), John 2:1-11 (wedding)
1) Why do you think kindergarteners have an easier time entering the kingdom of God?
2) From these passages, what are 2 prominent features about the kingdom of God?
Part 3: Feasting, Unity, Joy, Love, Children
3 more observations about the kingdom of God.
First, you need to be childlike to enter the kingdom of God.
Second, the centrality of love in the kingdom of God.
Third, the kingdom of God is a place of feasting and joy.
This sounds so adult-like so I wanted to simplify the language and put it in language that a kindergartner can understand.
I think the first 2 points can be summed up with one principle learned in kindergarten.
Instead of making the observation that You Must Be Childlike to Enter the Kingdom of God + Centrality of Love, lets go with…
(don’t read) Principle 1: My Mommy and Daddy Love Me
Mark 10:13-16 speaks about the kingdom of God belonging to children.
Why is this the case? Did you ever wonder what about kids qualifies them for entry to the kingdom of God? Or what special insight about life that kids have that make them good candidates for the kingdom of God?
Children understand love — from the moment an infant is born, his whole posture toward life is LOVE ME.
Elijah. Totally helpless. Lips are puckered. Love me, feed me. They cry, love me, I am hungry, my diapers are soiled.
This is the first point – children know that my mommy and daddy love me and that’s all that matters in life. That without the love from my parents, I have no chance. Love is life. Life is love.
And if you understand that love is one prominent characteristic about the kingdom of God, then you are well on your way to entering the kingdom of God.
That is what Jesus says in Mark 12:28-34 that if you love God and love your neighbor, then you are not far from the kingdom of God. In other words, love is central to kingdom living.
Problem: Stop Pursuing Love
But there’s a problem. We know love is important and we live for love in our early years, but what happens? We eventually grow out of it.
One of the greatest thrills of being a dad is when I come home and Timothy was about 2 years old. I come home from work, I open the door and he stops whatever he was going and he comes running toward me, shouting ah-bah!
Now Timothy is 6 years old and I come home and he doesn’t even say hi. He is playing with his legos or something and I have to threaten him and say come over and give me a hug and kiss or I will deduct a “surprise.”
A few more years later, my boys won’t even let me hold their hands, I bet.
Teenager – zero physical contact. Teenagers say, I want to be my own man or woman. No one can tell me what to do. That’s when I will start practicing taekwondo again and become violent.
And so as adults, instead of love, we begin pursuing other things such as respect.
Why do we do this? Because we realize from an early age that this world is not a loving place. The kingdom of this world is all about proving that we are worthy of love. We are not loved unless we are pretty or athletic or charismatic or smart.
For Caltech students, you cannot be loved unless you can tell math jokes that only other Caltech students would laugh at. Just kidding.
That is why instead of pursuing the unconditional love of God and love others unconditionally, we end up pursuing cheaper substitutes like respect.
And if we are really honest with ourselves, we would admit that we are not really that respectable. We seem very civilized and respectable on the outside, but is that really an accurate picture of who we are?
If we could hook up your brain to a contraption that projected all of your unfiltered thoughts onto a big screen and it was showed during freshman orientation, how do you think you would feel?
I don’t think anyone here could show themselves around campus anymore. You’d probably transfer to another school.
We know we are not respectable and this reality of our true condition forces us to wear masks and people look at these masks and are fooled – wow, that person really is great, isn’t he?
The Bible says that we are sinners. That is why no one can say they are respectable. And that is why pursuing a life of respect is simply a false life. The only solution to our problem of our true condition is unconditional love and that is found in the cross of Christ when we admit, Lord, this is who I am, you know how messed up I am, I need you.
And in that moment of clarity, we realize that God’s unconditional love is all I need, just like an infant to his parents.
Practically, take a look at your life. Is love (loving God and loving others) the main pursuit of your life? Don’t pursue a false life of respect.
Second observation about the kingdom of God — instead of saying that the Kingdom is a Banquet Feast or a Wedding Banquet, lets go with…
Principle 2: Kids Just Want to Party
The second reason why kindergarteners are well-equipped to enter the kingdom of God is because they instinctively want to have fun.
Kids love going to parties. If I remind my kids that they have a bday party coming up on the weekend, I can gain at least a week of good behavior by threatening them, if you guys misbehave, I might not let them go to the party. It really works.
And what is the most prominent feature of parties — joy!
Food and fellowship go hand in hand. Eating good food w/ friends and family is my favorite time of the day. Eating, talking, laughing. That is the highest form of joy on this side of eternity. And I think the kingdom of God will involve a lot of sitting around a table with a bunch of your loved ones and sharing a meal.
John 2 – wedding – that is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. A
it is no accident that the first miracle of Jesus’ is this kind of wedding celebration. And the last portrait in Revelations is when Jesus, as THE bridegroom, will return to celebrate his final union with his bride, the church.
What a wonderful metaphor that brings together these two features about kingdom living, love and joy. Not just a father and son relationship. But Jesus joyfully taking his bride in a passionate embrace. Love and joy are 2 very prominent features about the kingdom of God.
We already talked about love so I want to focus on joy. This theme of joyous partying can be found all throughout the bible.
And I want to pause for a moment to ask, is this your conception of Christian living and what being part of this kingdom means to you? Is joy a day to day reality for you? If we are already citizens of this kingdom, then joy should be one dominant reality for all believers.
I often forget this because I tend to be introspective and so I feel like I need to repent all the time. And sometimes I meet Christians who are always smiling and they are in a perpetual state of peace and in the back of my mind I am thinking, man, they must be shallow or something. How can they not have a care in the world? Or maybe they are just ignoring their sinfulness. Or maybe they are just listening to sermons that only emphasize grace and not our responsibility to ask for forgiveness.
Repenting and forgiveness are just means to an end. The end is a party.
And I wonder how Christians portray to the world what life in the kingdom is like? I think the world sees a lot of legalism. A lot of dos and donts.
One OT prof at my seminary would deliberately curse in class and make comments about southern baptists and their refusal to drink alcohol just to make a point that we care more about these regulations or moral behaviors than real life and death issues. I think he had a point. Is Christianity just gloom and doom? Is it just keeping your nose clean and gritting your teeth and bearing it so that you can escape hell?
No, the kingdom is a place of joyous feasting. Tim Keller makes a point that non-Christians reject Christianity because they think Christianity is no fun and he says that they are rejecting faith on stupid grounds. Because the promise of the kingdom is that it is going to be party that makes the best worldly party seem like a funeral. The kingdom is about joy.
Luke 14:15-24 -talks about the kingdom of God as an invitation to a banquet. But an odd thing happens. The servant goes out to invite people but people give excuses why they cannot attend.
Not Going to the Banquet/Not Entering the Kingdom: Psychology of Excuses
I want to spend a few minutes exploring the psychology of these excuses. Last week, we discussed how it is hard for the rich and the religious to enter the kingdom of God. By looking a bit closer at these excuses, I think we can gain a better understanding why it is hard for some to enter the kingdom of God.
Who wouldn’t want to attend a party by the Creator of everything, including joy? Yet, people make excuses.
The first excuse is I just bought a field. You see the financial implication here. In modern days, this would be a property or a home. And it says I must go and see it. Why must go? Does he mean that if he waited until after the banquet, the house would be burned down? No, but we are seeing something a bit off here.
The second excuse is I just bought 5 yoke of oxen. And it says I am on my way to TRY it out. Oxen doesn’t have a tight analogy in modern times. But anything that can be tried out. Maybe a new car, I want to take it on a ride around the block. Or a new computer – I need to try it out and configure it and see how fast my operating system loads at bootup.
What is going on here? Does he have to go see the house right now? Does he have to try the oxen right now? Is someone going to steal the oxen right now? Are they like cows and he is afraid they might tip over and die if he doesn’t go try them out right now?
The third excuse is I just got married. Ah, isn’t that special. Surely, this is a legitimate excuse, or is it?
What is the psychology of these excuses?
It’s the presence of these ever-present distractions that we think require urgent attention that make it easy for us to not attend the banquet. The more money you have, the more options you have. The more options, the more distractions. Just think about what to eat on the weekend? There are endless choices of what to eat.
What about if you are shopping for a laptop, forget it. There are a million manufacturers with a million different specifications.
We live distracted lives. Just sitting in front of a computer for work all day, I get bombarded by work emails, chats from friends, jackie calling me on the phone just because she wants to hear my voice.
And you got facebook and I have to update my facebook once a year when something significant happens like Obama winning the election or the Phillies winning the world series. But after I do that, then all my friends respond. And then I feel guilty for ignoring them so I have to login to facebook again and comment. It’s endless, the way technology vies for our immediate attention.
Nothing can wait anymore. Everything is a pressing emergency. We get emails and texts on our phone so we never have an excuse to delay our response. We are all dictated by instant everything.
And when everything is urgent, nothing is urgent. If everything seems important, then the thing that is really important, God, gets lost in the shuffle.
Those are the physical things like oxen and fields. The last excuse is a spouse. And if you think things can distract, how much more people can take up our time and energy?
Newlyweds have to spend time together before they can ease into their normal routine. God understands, right? For Jackie and I, we had each other as an excuse to put God as second fiddle (can you blame her for being distracted?).
And this lasted during our dating and into the early part of our marriage. And God didn’t want this excuse to become permanent so he sent us on missions after a few months of marriage. And if you need a cure for the newledwed excuse, go on missions but that is another message altogether.
New moms – they think, oh my goodness, what have I gotten myself into? I have a kid. What if he doesn’t eat enough? Jackie’s sister was paranoid that her daughter was not eating enough and the doctor took one look at her and saw her chubby cheeks and the fat ripples and without even weighing her, she said, i think your daughter is fine.
What about my boss – I have to perform well and reach my goals so that I can get ahead.
Things distract and people distract infinitely more.
And this parable warns us that we can easily go through life and not even know that we have been making excuses all along not to come to God. Pushing God to the backburner.
I have to check out my house, I have to test drive my new computer, I have to provide for my family and because of these seemingly harmless excuses, these end up being the very reasons why we don’t go to the banquet.
In every stage in life, you will be faced with many things and people that will make you feel like these require immediate attention. God can wait. He is not as real as these things or people or circumstances in my life.
And before you know it, your life has been one excuse after another and God says, I need to fill my house for the banquet feast. If these people won’t come, invite the poor, the crippled, blind, lame.
Of course, the poor and the crippled and these kinds of people can have other excuses not to go to the banquet. It could be their bitterness or anger at the world, it could be a victim complex.
But on the whole, I think the Bible seems to indicate that these people have far fewer excuses. They receive the invitation and without hesitation, they head out toward the banquet and the banquet table is filled with these kinds of people who have little else, either little else to be distracted by, or little else to put their hope in.
What excuses am I making for why I am not joyful right now? Examine them and see if these reasons we give to God do in fact require immediate attention. Or is it that these reasons just make us feel like we have to attend to them right away when it is not urgent.
If it is the latter, then we have to learn to identify these reasons as mere excuses that are robbing us of God, his kingdom, feasting, partying characterized by unending love and joy.
Let’s pursue God, like little kindergarteners for Christ.