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.

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