Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Parable Regarding the Kingdom of God

There was once a mother who decided to bake a batch of cookies. She knew that she could bake the cookies all by herself and it would be quick, easy and simple. But the mother invited her child to join in the endeavor knowing that if she invited the child to participate in baking that it would not be quick, simple or easy. In fact, if the child was a part of the process there was likely to be flour on the floor, eggshell in the batter, and perhaps, spilled milk on the counter. It would be a much messier project. But the mother invited the child to participate with her because part of the point of the project was to include her child in the very act.

I suggest God is like that.

God has promised to
create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord. (Isaiah 65:17-25)

And God could do that all alone, with a snap of the fingers. Like the mother baking cookies, God does not need our help. So why doesn't God just do it? Why the delay in the final establishment of ultimate justice, freedom, and peace? Why are there still children of calamity? Why is there still weeping? Why are hurting and destruction still so common? Why are the wolf and lamb not eating together? I suspect it is because the God we know through the Bible desires our partnership, our participation in addressing "the evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God" (Book of Common Prayer, p. 302). God has made space in the world for us to take part in the new creation, to take part in His mission. "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us." (2 Corinthians 5:17- 19)

It is not our task to make the kingdom of God happen. But neither are we to check out of the realities of life in this world and passively wait for God to act. Christians are called to be a people who live now in anticipation of the kingdom, who bear witness to the kingdom of God's beloved Son in the midst of a world still under the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13), and who know that
To work for healing, restorative justice - whether in individual relationships, or anywhere in between - is a primary Christian calling. it determines one whole sphere of Christian behavior. Violence and personal vengeance are ruled out, as the New Testament makes abundantly clear. Every Christian is called to work, at every level of life, for a world in which reconciliation and restoration are put into practice, and so to anticipate that day when God will indeed put everything to rights. (N. T. Wright, Simply Chrtistian, p. 226)

Along the way, no doubt, our participation has been and will be imperfect - egg shell in the batter and spilled flour are part of the risk God appears willing to take for the sake of including us in the ministry of reconciliation in God's new creation kingdom.


Michael Gormley said...

The Kingdom of GOD is the Catholic Church!

Why did Jesus Christ become Incarnate in the first place? Was it to leave us with a book, or to establish a Church? Well, in this verse He told us one of the reasons why:

"But He said to them, "To the other towns also I must PROCLAIM THE KINGDOM OF GOD, FOR THIS IS WHY I HAVE BEEN SENT"." (Luke 4:43)

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10)

And how are we, who are the lost ones, to be saved? It is through the Church which He founded.

"Therefore, if you harken to My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My special possession, dearer to Me than all other people, though all the earth is mine. YOU SHALL BECOME A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, A HOLY NATION." (Exodus) 19:5-6

"You, however, are a chosen race, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PURCHASED PEOPLE; that you may proclaim the perfections of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." (1Peter 2:9)

The Kingdom of GOD will last forever:

"And when your days shall be fulfilled and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will raise up your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels, and I WILL ESTABLISH HIS KINGDOM. HE SHALL BUILD A HOUSE TO MY NAME, AND I WILL ESTABLISH THE THRONE OF HIS KINGDOM FOREVER...AND YOUR HOUSE SHALL BE FAITHFUL, AND YOUR KINGDOM FOREVER BEFORE YOUR FACE AND YOUR THRONE SHALL BE FIRM FOREVER." (2Samuel 7:13, 16)

"And among my sons (for the Lord has given me many sons) he has chosen Solomon my son, to sit upon the THRONE OF THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD OVER ISRAEL. And He said to me: Solomon My son SHALL BUILD MY HOUSE AND MY COURTS, FOR I HAVE CHOSEN HIM TO BE MY SON, AND I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM." (1Chronicles 28:5-6)

And He said, "To what shall we liken the Kingdom of GOD; or to what parable shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the earth, is the smallest of all seeds upon the earth; yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than any herb, and puts out great branches, so that the birds of the air can dwell beneath its shade." (Mark 4:30-32. See also, Mark 4:26-29.)

This is a clear analogy of the Church which Jesus Christ founded.

"Amen I say to you, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death, till they have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom." (Matthew 16:280)

Obviously all of those He spoke to died, so His Kingdom had to be that of His Church on earth.

"But woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because YOU SHUT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN AGAINST MEN. FOR YOU YOURSELVES DO NOT GO IN, NOR DO YOU ALLOW THOSE GOING IN TO ENTER." (Matthew 23:13)

Did the Scribes and Pharisees have any control over a heavenly kingdom? It had to be earthly.

"And I appoint to you a Kingdom even as My Father has appointed to Me." (Luke 22:29)

Jesus passed His Kingdom to His Apostles.

"Then comes the end, when He delivers the Kingdom to GOD the Father, when He does away with all sovereignty, authority and power."
(1Corinthians 15:24)

The Church is the "Kingdom which cannot be shaken", (Hebrews 12:28)

(Daniel 2:44)

Saint Paul had fellow workers who were members of the Kingdom of GOD, (Colossians 4:11)

Matt Gunter said...

Thanks, Michael.

I am actually inclined to agree with you that the New Community/Church is a significant part of what Jesus was about. But, as an Anglican in the Episcopal Church, I am less convinced than you that the RC is the only expression of the Church.

And I would be wary of making a one-for-one correlation of the Church (Roman or otherwise) with the Kingom of God. Certainly there is overlap and the Church participates in the inauguration of the Kingdom as it antcipates the fullness thereof.