Blogging towards SundayWhat is the Kingdom of God? Is it a place? Is it the future? Is it just a metaphor that Jesus used? Something historical we look back to or something in the future comes towards us? What is it? Where is it? When will it be here? – or will we get there?Traditionally we seek to grasp it in the language from the Bible - from the teachings of Jesus - who says the kingdom is like yeast, mustard, a sower who goes out to sow seeds, like the City of God, the New Jerusalem, good news that make fishermen become fisher of men and the image of the feeding of the 5,000.
Powerful words and images that try to convey something that is both available to us and beyond us, a promise, as Paul would say, that is already outs and not yet completely fulfilled.
Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Latin American Liberation Theologian writes that “The Kingdom of God revealed to us in Jesus’ practice is a messianic practice which inverts not only values, but historical realities and social roles as well. To be a disciple of Jesus is to make our own his messianic practice.”
The Kingdom of God is the alternative community – or way of being together through faith – that Jesus invites us to become. It’s the creation intent that God has for humanity. It’s the new creation existence that we are invited to and empowered to live in, through and by Christ’s resurrection. I think it’s knowing God – with our lives, our minds, our hearts, in our actions, relationships and service.
The testimonies of the Bible say that God is both absent and present in our world.
Absent – in the sense that God can’t be controlled or manipulated: Isaiah 45:15; 1 Kings 8:27
Present in the sense that God is actively working in our history and in our midst: Exodus 40:34-38, Deuteronomy 4:7, Exodus 19:16-18 & 1 Kings 19:11-13 & Daniel 3:62-66.
The Bible also affirms that we live from hope into hope. Today we’re in the midst of a bail-out in which we don’t know what’s really happening, where we’re really headed and who is actually being bailed out. The testimonies of the Bible talk repeatedly of God’s future – of wholeness, healing and redemption – which is breaking into the world in which we live. We know God in history, in our own lives, in our experiences of loss, grace, hope and faith. The future of God is talked about in many ways: as the City of God (Revelation 21) as the New Jerusalem (Isaiah) and by Jesus most often as the Kingdom of God. It’s a new way of being that’s already here and now in Christ and not yet completely fulfilled, until the last days when Jesus heals everything through his powerful love. It’s like the picture below (that I took from the Exploratorium on a recent visit) that changes according to our perspective – and is more than we can take in when we first encounter it. When you relax your eyes, focus differently, you see that what you thought was static and dead actually seems to be alive and moving. When we encounter it we both see it and yet our vision isn't yet fulfilled - you have to look for "it" to encounter "it". I think it's a similar thing with the Kingdom of God: what we think at first glance is distant, stagnant or non-existent is actually moving, breathing, creating and acting before our very eyes.
In the Old Testament the people knew that God was in their midst because the tabernacle (or tent of meeting Exodus 36:8-40:35) was in the center of the space in which they lived. They saw daily the Glory of the Lord in their midst: the cloud that traveled with them in the day and the fire at night (Exodus 30:34-38). God was in their midst. But what does that mean for us? Is it just a story? Is it just history? Could God really be living in our midst? If so how does that shape the way we act, reflect and engage our world in the name of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?