Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where's the Kingdom?

Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches."  20 Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."

What is the kingdom of God like? Perhaps more fundamentally one could ask, What is a kingdom like?  Or perhaps even, “what is a kingdom?”  What do you think of when you think of a kingdom?
Do you think – Ah, The Kingdom is the fourth full-length release from the Swiss metalcore band Cataract?  Or - The Kingdom is a 2007 film directed by Peter Berg and starring Jamie Foxx?
Do you think of a kingdom as a country or domain ruled by a king or queen?  I am guessing the last definition.  A kingdom is that over which a ruler rules -  Perhaps we could even say that a kingdom is a sphere of influence?

So how Jesus answers the question, “what is a kingdom like?” is kind of interesting.
The kingdom is like a very average seed… that grows into a tree.  The kingdom is like a tiny bit of leaven, which when added to some dough, permeates the whole thing

The kingdom, in both of these parables is small.  It is so small as to almost be unnoticeable.  Eventually the reality, the full nature of the kingdom emerges, but at one point, at least at some point – the kingdom is barely there.  This may be another very important message.  The kingdom is not about big moves! It is not about huge gestures.  Is not something big or showy.  At times it may be barely noticeable.

Now why is this message important?  Because we keep looking for the big things… We expect the Kingdom, if it really exists to be, obvious, unmistakable, powerful, incredible.  Yeah, God is here!  But what do we see as we look at the world?  Is the kingdom all that obvious?  Is it all that obvious in our own lives? 

It’s all very confusing, it was confusing for the people Jesus was talking to.  Do you think Jesus was what the people had in mind when they thought of a King and a kingdom?  How did he and his ministry fit with what was expected?  Remember, the Messiah was to be a descendant of David  - a warrior king who would restore the kingdom, deal with enemies of Israel.  Create a Kingdom of power and glory

But here we have this guy.  He was not royalty, but the son of a common carpenter.  He was at odds with the religious leaders of the day.  He did nothing, in terms of overcoming the enemies of Israel.  Plus his leadership team was a joke.  Fishermen, children, women!  What kind of army is this?  Tax collectors, prostitutes?  The people had to have wondered – seriously wondered about any claims that the kingdom has come.

Think about today – does it look, to us, like the kingdom has come?  Look around you!  Do you see the kingdom of God?  I think we see a lot of stuff when we look around us.  We see, cancer.  We see despair.  We see economic troubles.  We see a society that seems to be full of all kinds of problems.  Greed, hatred, violence,

Where is the kingdom?  If the kingdom is here, how is it evident?  What do we think it should look like?  A nation where everyone believes the same way?  A nation that is successful and powerful, that pursues a course of “might is right” and seeks, through political and military power install its version of “rightness” on the world? 
The Kingdom is like a mustard seed.  The kingdom is like leaven.  Perhaps Jesus was trying to tell us that the kingdom may not, through much of history look like much.  Perhaps Jesus was telling us that we may have trouble seeing the kingdom with clarity.  Perhaps we may have trouble seeing it all all…. Buried as it is in the earth, hidden in the dough….

Perhaps he is telling us that when it comes to the Kingdom we have to have faith.  That we have to trust… that even though it doesn’t look like much, at least right now, the kingdom has come.  It is here… and it will have, ultimately finally incredible power –
The power to change – to make all things new.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Following God's breadcrumbs

A church reader board had this “interesting” statement.  “Don’t let worry kill you, let the church help”  Don’t let worry kill you.  Let the church help!  Worry!  It’s a big deal.  We all know about worry.  For many of us it is an all too familiar companion.  It goes b y a lot of names. . . this affliction.  Anxiety, dis-ease, concern, apprehension, nervousness, angst, fear. 

It is the last word that hits home for most of us.  Fear!  And if there is anything we know about fear, it is about how powerful it is.  It has a lot of impact.  There are some positives – fear helps us survive.  But fear also produces things that are often far from positive.  Anger, defensiveness, grasping, a pulling of resources to ourselves, apathy, self-centeredness, alienation, isolation, hate, even death.

It is pretty clear – when we are wrapped up in fear or worry, we are not living optimally.  We are not, probably, loving, caring, giving, being open sharing.  Worry eats at the fabric of who we are. 
So what is the antidote to worry?  Jesus in Luke tells his followers, “do not worry. about your  life, what you will eat, or about your body what you will wear”  Instead?  “Do not be afraid little flock, for it is God’s good pleasure to give you, the kingdom.”

There is there a way to deal with fear?  It is called faith.  Trust in God, In God’s love, in God’s forgiveness, in the generosity of God. When we trust God, then we can look at life a completely different way.  We don’t have to look back, and carry with us the fear and worry generate by what has happened in the past.  And we don’t have to look ahead, imagining, with anxiety, all the bad things that might happen  We don’t have to walk through life closed, protective, suspicious, hugging our resources to ourselves.  Instead we can move forward – Open, Loving, Forgiving, Giving - living life in the context of God’s love.

Wayne Muller, in his book “A life of being, having and doing enough” has a wonderful concept that I think says, in a very creative way, what Jesus was talking about in this wonderful parable.  He notes that we are assailed by our worry:  We worry about whether we are enough, good enough, talented enough, strong enough.  We worry about whether we will have enough – enough food, money, possessions,  power.  We worry about whether we will do enough, whether at the end of our days we  will be able to look back with pride at our life, about whether others will admire  us, remember us, honor us.

But he insists that it is important that we don’t go there.  We don’t cave into our worry.  How do we avoid doing that?  We do it by focusing on the moment, that the past, not the future, but on the moment, and, in that moment, by listening to our inner sense of what is right, what is most nourishing.  To put it another way, we counter worry by going inside, and listening to the Christ in Us, the Spirit.  And then?  Then all we have to do is make one choice.  It is Muller insists the only choice we have to make.  It is a choice we make over and over and over again, but it is the choice…What is the next right thing for me to do?

We can’t make this choice when we are looking way out there, into the future. When we are looking at all the variables that are coming at us from every direction.  When we are listening to a million voices.  We can’t do it when our view of reality is twisted and warped by our pasts.  We can only do it when, in this moment we trust God - and then listen to God.  And then take – just – one – step

We trust God, and we make the next right choice. In Spirit we chose to take that next step, as an open, trusting , giving person. And then?  We look for the next right thing to do…In many small choices, we strive for the kingdom, we make the choices, and God is there… taking us where we need to go… Giving us what we need.  Muller likens this process to following breadcrumbs from God,

I like this concept .  It means moving from a lack of trust to trust.  It means moving from a place where, looking far into the future I try to set my course.  Where I functionally try to supervise the work of God.  To a place where I humbly follow God’ tender prompting as it comes in the power of the Spirit. 
I pray that I can have the faith to follow the bread crumbs.