Archive for October 10th, 2010

Daily Office

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.

He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

So have you thought lately about what the kingdom is like? I haven’t. Honestly. I have put no thought into it at all. It comes and goes, ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes—these times of thinking and not thinking about the kingdom. Maybe part of being a part of the kingdom is learning to think about the kingdom without be cognizant that we actually are thinking about the kingdom. I don’t know if that even makes sense.

For some reason, I honestly have no idea why, I have been receiving episodes (I like that much better than the word ‘issues’) of the magazine Charisma. It is strange that I am no longer professional clergy, and I’m not really even close to Pentecostal, and yet I am receiving this, maybe there is more to it than I thought. Maybe God is sending me a message. Who can figure these things out with any certainty? I read some of the articles in the magazine, but what intrigues me more are the advertisements—mostly for books or conferences—because I’ll tell you what: Pentecostals have the kingdom down to a science, or at least they have thinking about the kingdom down to a science. The advertisements may as well read like this:

The kingdom of heaven is like defeating demonic strongholds.

The kingdom of heaven is like maximized manhood.

The kingdom of heaven is like a body of politics.

The kingdom of heaven is like understanding what happens after we die (and Perry Stone will lead us.)

The kingdom of heaven is like a good insurance company.

The kingdom of heaven is like a convenient and healthy step forward in the celebration of communion.

The kingdom of heaven is like the faith and values of Sarah Palin (because what she believes really does matter for America!).

And that’s only the first 26 pages or so. Look, I have nothing against Charisma magazine. I’m sure it inspires and helps and encourages a lot of people–even me at times. This isn’t a question of salvation or anything of that sort. I just happen to think it is rather funny that some people in the church have this kingdom of heaven thing all worked out into a neat tidy package. That’s exactly what makes me think that maybe they are on to something. For them, the kingdom isn’t just one thing; they see God in everything, doing something in all the minutia of every day existence whether painting a building, rescuing immigrants, or worshiping with Jews for Jesus.

These are people who are thinking about God, thinking about the kingdom. They are more than I am. They are necessary to counter the ignorance of people like me who think that the kingdom is like a nice brick building on main street where the old people gather to sing songs from the 1700’s.

It appears to me that even Jesus wasn’t really sure what the kingdom of heaven was like—even if he did happen to have some particularly wonderful ideas. What I mean is that Jesus was looking for the kingdom everywhere. He was not so confined his thoughts. For Jesus, anything and everything had potential kingdom value. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good see in his field. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. The kingdom of heaven is like leaven. The kingdom of heaven is a treasure hidden in a field. The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant….a net…seriously? The kingdom of heaven is like a lot of things according to Jesus. Makes me wonder what Jesus would say if he were speaking to us in our culture. Maybe the kingdom of heaven is like the faith and values of Sarah Palin (although something tells me if a certain divinity student from Duke still visited us he would laugh loudly, disagree, and point out the necessarily satanic value of such a statement).

Maybe the kingdom of heaven is like a mini-van which, when properly functioning, carries a load of people from one destination to another. Maybe the kingdom of heaven is like a baseball game (!).

Or some such thing.

Whatever jesting I might make about Charisma one thing is certain: the authors, advertisers, and editors are at least thinking about what the kingdom of heaven is like in our context. Maybe nets and mustard seeds and merchants do not meant all that much to us, but I’ll bet they meant a lot of things to Jesus and his followers then. Thus, back to my point, maybe I simply do not spend enough time each day thinking about what the kingdom of heaven is like in my context. Maybe that is exactly my problem: maybe I’m just not creative enough to think about the ways that the kingdom manifests itself in this world every day. Maybe I’m simply not spending enough time thinking about the kingdom or looking for the kingdom or thinking like Jesus thinking about the kingdom.

Maybe if I would pay a little more attention, think a little more creatively, then perhaps I might start seeing the kingdom in more places, and in more ways, then I had previously imagined possible. Maybe nets and merchants and mustard seeds are only the beginning. Maybe there are a million ways more that the kingdom exists and manifests itself each day in the US of A and around the world. Perhaps I’m just too narrow-minded and myopic to see it. Perhaps more kingdom thinking is necessary.

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