Of late, my thoughts have been occupied by the Lords prayer and the coming of the kingdom of God. This has largely been due to N.T. Wright and Scot McKnight. They have challenged how I view and interact with the world around me. I’ve recognized in my own life two perverse views that have distorted what it means to seek, pray, and usher in the kingdom of God.
The first is exclusionary. Unfortunately this is a large pool of several prevailing thoughts. Basically what this all boils down to is to think one has the option of opting out of bringing the kingdom to earth. I will pay money to someone else; I’m physically unable; I don’t have the time; I don’t want to get my hands dirty; they’re too much of a mess; it’s the clergy’s job; and lastly, Jesus will fix it all when he returns (more on this down below). When in actuality, Jesus may be calling us to work in a particular situation…no matter the excuse.
Jesus informed us that everyone is our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). He challenges us to love those who are unloved asking what good is it to love the people we already love? If God loves the world and all that are that in it (John 3:16)…shouldn’t we? In a few chapters later in Luke, Jesus tells the story of the lost coin, sheep, and son. These parables show us that in each instance when the person was searching for what was lost and they then found what they were looking for, there was a party. We can wage moral and religious fights all we want…but that’s not what we’re called to do, we're called to be party hosts! We must have open eyes and keep our ears to the ground to ever be aware of the kingdom around us and to help others see it and hear it too. What is God asking you to do to help bring the kingdom to the people, workplace, community, and neighbors in your life?
The other perverse kingdom view that I wish to discuss is evacuation from earth to heaven, that when we die, we will go somewhere anywhere...just not here. I was sitting with Wes Tongue at Starbucks and I suggested that we sing “I’ll fly away” while we were in the Organ Recital Hall for the next several weeks. We both thought it a good idea, Wes talked about how he sang that song at his Grandfather’s funeral, and I loved the simplicity of this hymn. But then we listened to what the words were communicating and the look on both our faces was a realization that there’s no way we could sing it. This song is a perfect example of evacuation away and from what will become the kingdom. Earth won't be departed for something new; newness will enter into the present.
I sometimes think that we view God as an artist. He starts painting a picture and then doesn’t like that tree there or that happy cloud up there and that sunset color over there just isn’t the right orange. When God see’s these imperfections, unlike humans who are likely to reach for a new canvas, God chooses to work in the current one. Looking at the entirety of scripture God is always working with and within the original until he gets the perfect picture. You can try to argue that the flood was a reset but if it were He wouldn’t have used Noah or any of the animals.
We’ve got to care for time and place in the same way that God does. Heaven will come to Earth and we will not be going anywhere. Those that are dead will rise and won’t be excavated or removed…they will be resurrected. As we are here, let’s pick up a paintbrush and get to work bringing heaven to earth for those that have gone before us, for those that are here and for those that have yet to come, most importantly our King.