Nature has flipped a switch. Now it really is fall. From dry to damp (OK, wet!). From warm to cool. From blue to gray, brown to green. All within a 24-hour period. That's how quickly seasons change here. Now we get to adjust to seeing our everyday world in an entirely new way. It's an annual ritual. I love Portland!
OK. Kingdom of God. Christ followers today talk surprisingly little about the kingdom of God. Maybe shockingly little. Why? Many reasons, I think. First, we don't do well with royalty here in America. We figure we were all done with that back in 1781 when we at last managed to sufficiently bloody the nose of George III of England so that he finally bowed to our colonial insurgency.
Second, "kingdom" offends egalitarian sensibilities today. Some of us figure that if there's a kingdom an even-handed God ought to also have a queendom. So we weasel on the words and either drop the "g" to get "kindom of God", or else we adopt the entirely new word "dominion" instead.
Not sure either of those do anything but further obscure things. Talk about door-slammers! Just imagine saying to somebody you know or work with, "Hey, let's have coffee (or a beer) so I can tell you all about the kindom of God or the dominion of God!" They'll probably conclude that you're either dyslexic or a fundamentalist Canadian. Once they recover from their bewilderment enough to speak, the first excuse they can think of will probably erupt. Maybe something like, "Sorry, but no. I have to help my dog with his homework--right now!"
Kingdom of God. I like to abbreviate it KoG in my notes, jottings and Bible margins. Yeah, I do write in my Bible--all over the margins. In pencil; no highliters, please! Where did this KoG thing come from anyway?
It has deep Old Testament roots. Yahweh (the "name" we give to the God of Israel whom those folks would only refer to by the letters YHWH or as "The Lord") is regularly worshiped as king of the universe, king of creation, ruler of all. So far, so good. Almost.
Then Jesus took that ball of kingship and ran 99 yards with it. It was absolutely a hallmark of his teaching and preaching along with great aphorisms and the engaging illustrations we know as parables. KoG was a high-stakes, risky move. Why? 'Cause people had some genuinely first-hand bad experience with kings. Kings nearly always came with armies. That's how they got power and retained it. And often that's how kings exercised power: armies. Great if you're in the in-crowd, absolutely deadly if you aren't. Besides, kings levied taxes. And more often than not, kings had abysmally immoral lives.
So for Jesus to run around proclaiming the KoG more steadfastly than anyone in history ought to stop us cold in our intellectual tracks. KoG? Are you kidding, or what? What is that? What's it look like, taste like, feel like? Why should I not fear it but long for it? Why on earth should KoG be good news? Why would it possibly be the best news one could ever hear? Why? For God's sake, why?
Maybe it's like fall here: seeing our world in an entirely new way.
Next time: KoG II--Y not?