Articles from the July 1997 Unification News

The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand

by Jim Stephens -Bloomington, IN

This is from a "sermon" published in a column titled "From the Pulpit" in our local paper.

Of the many sermons I have given, one point always continues to amaze me. That point is that Jesus loves us as individuals and not as a group. He speaks through a sermon to individuals in the congregation, not to a faceless crowd. Sometimes a whole sermon is intended for one particular individual, who is unknown to me. The rest of the people of course can benefit from listening, but they are not the precise target of the message.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand," Jesus declared. What is this Kingdom of Heaven in today's world that Jesus is saying is at hand? Simply put, it is the realization of true families as a precursor to the ideal world. I'm not speaking of ordinary families as we know them, but the type of families that are the culmination of history, the goal of God's history. These are families where the father and the mother have become Christ-like.

In society today you are seeing everywhere a lot of talk about "family". God is working behind the scenes to develope these ideas. We are seeing whole movements emerging like the Promise Keepers for men and Free Teens for young people (no drugs, no premarital sex) inspired by ideals of faith, committment and purity.

The leaders of our church have even suggested that we drop our denominational name and become just "The Bloomington Family Church".

My wife and I have joined an international group called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification and been trained in a wonderful "Blessing" and Re- dedication ceremony for families. Any husband and wife, regardless of religious beliefs, may receive this blessing on their marriage and family.

You must be willing to agree to the following commitments before God.

1. absolute faithfulness to each other (no adultery). 2. eternal marital commitment (no divorce). 3. raising your children to abstain from sex until marriage. 4. work together with other families of all races, nations and religions to propagate these commitments.

Already 1.2 million couples have received this blessing and re-dedication ceremony throughout the world. The Phillippines is leading the way with over 250,000 couples and the African nations are close behind. Taiwan has over 170,000 couples who have participated. America is getting a late start but can still catch up.

The original goal was to have 3.6 million couples by Nov. 29, 1997, but it is now projected that we will far surpass that goal. On Nov. 29, there will be a huge rally and celebration in RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. It will be broadcast via satellite simultaneously to sites all over the world, making it the largest religious event in history.

The first couple in Bloomington to receive this ceremony was on June 23rd and we have set a goal of 160 couples, one for each day remaining until Nov. 29th. Please join us.

The ceremony takes only five to ten minutes, but it can be very emotionally moving as husband and wife make the above vows to each other. We can do it at your house or at our house. It involves only the recitation of the commitments above, a sharing of holy wine (actually grape juice), a sprinkling with holy water and a closing prayer by my wife or myself. We encourage pastors to be trained to do the ceremony in their congregations. It will help your marriages. We encourage friends to have the ceremony as a whole group. It will be a lifelong memory. We especially encourage senior citizens to re-dedicate your marriages. Even widows and widowers can participate to offer your marriage to God.

Please ask Jesus if your couple should re-dedicate your marriage in this way, receive this blessing and participate in this historical world-wide event. I trust that you will know the answer.

Call or write us to schedule the ceremony or for further information, Rev. Jim and Hiromi Stephens, (309) 662-8029, P.O. Box 1802, Bloomington, IN 61702. May God bless you and your family.

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