Monday, October 8, 2007

Kingdom of God (KoG) III

Good morning, PDX!

Portland is PDX to locals. KoG is my shorthand for kingdom of God, the singular hallmark of Jesus' ministry. Back to the future. Back to the KoG. (NOTE: For this discussion I am eternally indebted to my guru, the late Lutheran pastor and professor, Joseph Sittler. Read anything and everything by this man you can get your hands on. Read it 5 times until your mind begins to expand to the magnitude of his faith and thought.)

If I had a dollar for every time I've spoken the Lord's prayer, which may be a different number from the number of times I've really prayed it with my heart and mind, I could take a very long vacation. Maybe even fly both of us to Italy for a month to savor the art--a trip Jean and I once dreamed of taking to celebrate our 35th anniversary, now nearly two years behind us. Every time I've spoken those sacred words, the triad "thy kingdom come" has been among them. How does the KoG come about? How does it happen?

That's a mind bender. As we saw in KoG II (Matt. 4:23), KoG has immediate application and fulfillment against the diseases and distresses of human beings. KoG is about healing, to be sure. Yet, we are dumbstruck when a simple question is asked. If Jesus had the power to heal, and if Jesus was moved with compassion, then for God's sake why didn't he heal everybody? Instead of being an itinerant teacher/preacher/healer who hit a few sore spots but missed the vast majority, why didn't Jesus set up a permanent headquarters in Jerusalem, marshal all the best human and financial resources available, and then use the demographic data of Rome's census to attack the high disease areas first? Aft that he could have systematically expanded the operation throughout the whole of Palestine and thence to the entire globe?

Because KoG is not about system but style. It's not reducible to rules or principles. It's like the gull flying above the waves, only occasionally diving straight down to snatch the tidbit of food before flying on above the rolling sea. It's like the powerful but unpredictable and chaotic lightning bolt that only fleetingly illuminates the texture and color of storm clouds at night. It's not an externality that is imposed in order to make a cookie cutter clone out of you and me and every other human being or artifact of nature. It's not about imposition but participation. KoG is not closet Christianity.

Instead, KoG is the living, breathing inbreaking of the perfection of God's creation that has never been lost and never forsaken in the Divine mind. KoG is not private but relational, not something done to you and me but with and through you and me. KoG is like planted seeds or an implanted embryo. KoG is life in formation and the predecessor of new birth. KoG touches now here, now there, not all at once. Yet in so doing it has power, in Sittler's words, to touch all that "saddens, maddens and gladdens us."

They brought Jesus a denarius with Caesar's image on it and asked if it were lawful to pay taxes to the emperor. Jesus replied, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." They asked for a tidy rule. Instead, he gave them a messy policy. Essentially Jesus replied, "Go figure it out in real life. Stop standing there dying and get busy living." Thus the KoG broke in for them.

Two days ago I sat across the table from someone who shared a new vision. Some loving folks want to quietly provide child care for strippers. That's right: young Moms who take their clothes off and do table dances for a living. Kids will be safe and well cared for while Mom is at work. And if she wants it, Mom will be offered a hand out and perhaps a hand up (as opposed to a handout) when she comes home. If that ain't the KoG, I don't know what is!

A lightning bolt out of the darkness, a gull diving into the turbulence and depths of there... Thy kingdom come... Amen!


Pastor Roger

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