Final Message of the second millennium delivered at St.Paul's-Peace Church Las Vegas, New Mexico
by the Rev John W. Ridder an
Episcopal priest, living in semi-retirement with his wife in Las Vegas, New Mexico
I Christmas C, Dec.31, 2000
Las Vegas, New Mexico
THE SEARCH FOR THE NEW KINGDOM
On the Collect for I Christmas: "--- You have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate word.
Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives. ----"
LUCRETIUS. ancient wise man and philosopher [95-55 B. C.] wrote:
No single thing abides, but all things flow, Fragment to fragment clings; the things thus grow until we know and name them. By degrees they melt, and are no more the things we know.
This is the kind of world in which we live. What are the values that last?
Is there life that lasts? Or is there nothing ahead but change?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This is a story about a young man who had been searching for eternal truth in a deep forest.
He wandered at last to the bank of a wide, smooth, slow flowing river.
At the water's edge was a raft and a pole and sitting nearby under
a simple shelter, he met a very old man.
"Viejo, why are you sitting here?"
"I pole that raft to the other side for anyone who wants to cross."
"Are there many who want to cross?"
"No one has been here in all the years I have been the ferry man."
"Then, why do you stay?"
The old man smiled and pointed into the water below. "Look in there. What do you see?"
The younger gazed in amazement for in the water he could see passing events. From upstream they came, passed that point, and moved along. It was a continuing parade of life from birth to death. All of the challenges of living were there. Buildings were constructed. Armies passed by and sometimes clashed. Fields were planted and there were harvests, too.
"I see life passing by. Ages, too. I see lovers meeting. Babies grow to men. There are workmen, artists, class rooms. And yet, if I raise my eyes to the other bank, the river looks the same as when I first arrived. It is still. It does not change. The river must be enchanted."
"It is known to have been flowing here for two thousand years." The old man said. Before that there was another river but it dried up during a great drought. Then came colossal rain. The heavens opened up and a new stream began."
"Alas, Viejo, what can change the events I see? The range of what I see goes from the beautiful to the ugly and violent."
"Patience, young seeker. Look more deeply. You will see LOVE displayed in SACRIFICE. It is the triumph of the spirit over the powers of the flesh.
I have remained here watching, hoping to see the end of discord and the coming of the new kingdom of love and forgiveness."
"I have not heard of such a place."
"It will not be a place or in a place. It is within the human spirit and it will come to pass from within.
" Now my watching time is nearly over. And you are the chosen one to take my place at the riverbank
"Look into the water of life again and again. Let love and forgiveness overwhelm you.
You will know the signs of the coming of the new kingdom, and after
much prayer and watching, you will find the Kingdom of God within you and you in it."
Mi hijos, step onto the raft with me. "Let us now cross the river.
Take me to the other side,then return here to watch and wait.
My time is over. May God bless you in yours."
The younger man poled the raft across the river.
The Viejo embraced him in farewell and turned away.
The younger man returned across the water to take up his post.
He found edible plants along the water's edge and a fish pole and net in the shelter. There was a gourd for drinking water and a mat for sleeping.
Since no passengers were in sight he sat by the river and prayed to God that he might understand the message of the river of life. He looked curiously into the water of the river of life, and he prayed that the Kingdom might become visible there and everywhere
He wept when he observed sacrificial love, and he was filled with joy when he saw peace making, caring, healing and thanksgiving; and God was always in his heart and in his thinking.
He saw a man in the water that looked familiar. He heard a voice say "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."
In amongst the events passing by, he saw the man again and again.
He saw him teaching. He saw him hugging children. He saw him praying.
He watched with wonder as he healed the sick and even raised a dead
man to life. Then he saw soldiers fall upon him and take him away.
Then he watched him drag a wooden beam along a crowded street. Finally, he was nailed to the beam and hoisted up on an upright and left there to die.
The young man was beside himself. There was no way he could help.
In the months to come, he saw and heard this man many times, living, teaching, praying, suffering, - the events of his life intermixed with those of the passing centuries - and his longing to know him grew almost unbearable.
His heart breaking, he complained aloud: "I came here
searching for Truth, for eternal meaning. I am still looking for that new kingdom of
love and forgiveness, where Evil is overcome and Good prevails."
He remembered that he asked the Viejo where that kingdom might be found and the old one had answered: "It will not be a place or in a place. It is within the human spirit and it will come to pass within."
And he had also admonished him: "Look into the water of life again and again. Let love and forgiveness overwhelm you.
You will know the signs of its coming, and after much prayer
and watching, you will find the Kingdom of God is within you and
you in it."
Like lightning, it struck him. It is within!"I have watched time and life passing by and I have prayed to see it, and all the time, it has been within!"
And he remembered a prayer he had been taught as a child.
He had repeated it over and over often, and yet its words, long buried in his mind, had merely passed through his mouth into the air and were gone each day. He had never thought about the words at all!
"That prayer" he shouted, "It's all in that prayer" and he shouted again and again, "That prayer..the keys to the kingdom!" and he ran along the bank of the river shouting it aloud and savoring the meaning of every phrase.
"Our Father, who art in heaven
hallowed be thy Name
thy kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven."
It is not a place! the Kingdom is in the heart. When it is in every heart, it will indeed be everywhere.
"Give us this day our daily bread"
Strengthen us, by your Grace, to live in your presence and among your people!
"Forgive us --our trespasses, our debts, our sins"
against you and the brothers and sisters and neighbors and fellow citizens among whom you have placed us!
"as we forgive those who trespass, or owe us, or sin against us."
If we forgive, we cannot hate. If we forgive, we love -- we love you, O GOD, and we love others, too. But we are frail and fickle of mind and will, so we plead:
"Lead us --- NOT INTO TEMPTATION -- but DELIVER US FROM EVIL!"
O God, let your Kingdom be within me, now and forever. AMEN
He was free at last! . He was IN the kingdom from this very moment. The heavens grew brighter, the stream seemed to leap with joy and to flow more rapidly, too. As he looked into the water, he again saw the man, whose name is JESUS.
But now, He is not nailed to a cross. He is crowned in glory and he sits upon a throne in the midst of the new Kingdom of love and forgiveness, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God.
The Prayer, the Our Father, the young man discovered, is the most profound Good News brought by Jesus. It is the key to the Kingdom.
Jesus, the Son of God, and Son of Man. is alive! Two thousand years gone and He calls us still.
"I am the Way" he calls -- not meaning a goal of history, but the direction in which all are to move, and the power to go forward. (Wm. Temple)
A new millennium looms ahead. Time, the river of life, still flows on. The dramatis personae changes.
Needs and temptations change but the Kingdom of God remains unchanged, a challenge to all to come and to sample the eternal life to come.
The Kingdom of God is within. The Kingdom of God is nearby and far away. There is nowhere it cannot be. Yet everywhere it is unseen.
I pray that you may know the Kingdom of God, that which Jesus preached. It is truly within you, yet only real when your heart is filled with love and forgiveness.
As for sacrificial love, that you will know when it must become a part of your life. Your citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven becomes real when you love others as God loves you; and when your heart is forgiving of others as God forgives you.
Follow Jesus, "I am the Way" he said.
May His Way, be your Way into the Kingdom.
12/20/00 John W. Ridder. All rights reserved.
posted by permission of the author.
POST SCRIPT ..... you have read my last pulpit message of the year 2000; it is also my last of the 20th Century; and my last of the Second Millennium.
I have always attempted to share with you my own spiritual journey. And since no one can take you farther than he has come himself I try very hard to follow the advice of the Viejo in the story:
"Look into the water of life again and again. Let love and forgiveness overwhelm you. You will know the signs of its coming, and after much prayer and watching, you will find the Kingdom of God is within you and you in it."
What I have passed on to you and others through the years has come from the heart of my understanding to a people I love. I sincerely pray for each one of you and your families and significant friends that the Kingdom of God will be at the center of your lives in your portion of the thousand years beginning this night. As always, In Jesus' name, and to God's Glory alone.
John W. Ridder all rights reserved by the author.
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