A sermon by Pastor Michael Pahl on July 1, 2018—Canada Day—called “From Sea to Sea.” It is a reflection on Zechariah 9:9-12 and Psalm 72:1-8, from which Canada’s motto derives. It is a revision of a sermon Michael first preached in 2014. For a written adaptation of the original sermon see here.
Here is a written excerpt from the conclusion:
Our hope for the future does not lie in any nation, even one so glorious and free as Canada. Should Canada fade from history, should the world map be radically re-drawn, God’s kingdom would remain. Jesus would still be Lord.
The kingdom of God cannot be identified with any nation. A nation can reflect kingdom values to a greater or lesser degree, but no nation is the kingdom of God.
God’s kingdom is bigger than any nation—it has no borders, in fact it breaks down borders of geography, race, and economics.
God’s kingdom is outside the power structures we create, our governments, our laws, our law enforcement, judicial system—because however good those things may be, they are inevitably abused and corrupted, always in danger of supporting systemic evil.
God’s kingdom is among us as people, not among us as a nation.
Our hope for the future also does not lie in any church organization, whether globally or nationally or regionally—or even us locally. Should Mennonite Church Canada be completely dissolved, should Morden Mennonite Church even cease to be, God’s kingdom would remain. Jesus would still be Lord.
The Church is not the kingdom of God. The Church is called to be a witness to God’s kingdom, a “signpost” of the kingdom, pointing people to what God desires for the world.
Local churches like Morden Mennonite are to be a kind of “outpost” of God’s kingdom on earth, nurturing the upside-down values of the kingdom, a test plot showing what the kingdom of God can be like.
But God’s kingdom is bigger than any local church, broader than any particular denomination—it encompasses the world.
Rather, our hope for the future lies with Jesus, the world’s true Lord and King. This means our hope for the future lies in the extent to which we follow the way of Jesus, the way of God’s kingdom.
Do we truly want to follow the way of Jesus, the way of God’s kingdom? Then let’s count the cost. Let’s ask ourselves some hard questions—as a nation, and as a church.
Who are the last and the least among us? The vulnerable, the marginalized? Who are the lost? The doubting, the confused, the most egregious sinners, the spiritually seeking?
To the extent that we first the last, feast the least, and find the lost, God’s kingdom is among us—as a nation, and as a church.
Who are the poor among us? The needy in our community, the homeless in our cities? Who are the sick? The elderly, the lonely, the dying, the mentally ill? Who are the outcasts? The refugees, the immigrants, our indigenous peoples, the convicted criminals, the shamed victims?
To the extent that we richly bless the poor, freely heal the sick, and center ourselves on the outcasts, God’s kingdom is among us—as a nation, and as a church.
Who are our enemies? Our theological enemies, our political enemies, those difficult family members or colleagues? Who are our neighbours? The people next door, the people down the street, the people in that other church, the people in that city next door?
To the extent that we love our enemies as neighbours, and love our neighbours as ourselves, denying ourselves for the sake of others, God’s kingdom is among us—as a nation, and as a church.
Notice: These things have nothing to do with how many people we have in our pews or how many programs we have in our church. They have nothing to do with how closely our society’s laws parallel our sexual ethics, or how well Canada’s economy is doing. These are not signs of the kingdom.
Rather, Jesus says the signs of the kingdom are these: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (Matt 11:5). In other words, the last are first, the least are feasted, the lost are found, enemies and neighbours are loved alike.
To the extent that we do these things as a church and as a nation, God’s kingdom is among us—and Jesus, the world’s true King, reigns from sea to sea, A Mari Usque Ad Mare.
And as we do these things we can experience the joy of God’s kingdom, we can discover that flourishing life and joy and peace. We can break out the parties and lay out the banquets. We can turn the cup of cold water into a bottle of the finest wine in celebration.
May it be so.