Exploring the Kingdom

This summer as we are enjoying the stories of the Kings of Judah during our weekly worship services, I've been doing a lot of reflection on the kingdom of God. Many of us have heard these words for a lifetime - Kingdom - of - God and have perhaps not given much thought to what these three words mean. It's churchy sounding stuff that may not resonate with us very deeply, if at all.  Some among us bristle at the masculine sound of the words as though it is simply one more example of the perpetuation of the deep-seated patriarchy that clutters the inclusiveness of the gospel. Since we live in a country that liberated itself from the far reach of British monarchy in the 1700's, the fact that we even continue to mention kings at all seems out-of-sync with our culture despite the popular American fascination with the lives of people like Prince Harry and Megan Markle. So just what is the kingdom of God?

Father Richard P. McBrien in his little book "What is the Kingdom of God" puts it this way: "We can define the kingdom of God as the redemptive presence of God. This redemptive (or saving) presence of God can be found in everyday personal experiences. Whenever people love one another, forgive one another, bear one another’s burdens, work to build up a just and peaceful community—wherever people are of humble heart, open to their Creator, and serving their neighbor—God’s redemptive and liberating presence is being manifested. God’s kingdom and loving rule are in operation there."

When we look at the scripture, particularly the four gospels of the New Testament, the Kingdom of God is clearly shown to exist wherever Jesus is. In his public ministry, we witness the redemptive work of God active through the redemptive presence of Christ.  Where Christ is, redemption happens. It is for this reason, Jesus frequently says to those he encounters "the kingdom is near." When the kingdom is near, healing happens, miracles happen, the unexpected happens, and the Lordship of Christ is made manifest in real time with real people.

That word Lordship is also another key to unpacking this phrase. When say the oldest confession of faith in the New Testament, "Jesus is Lord", we are saying Jesus is the sovereign ruler of our lives. At the heart of this confession of faith, we are saying Jesus is King with a meaning that far transcends human-centered notions of biological gender.  And it is this Lordship of Jesus that sets us free to be people of God, citizens of the Kingdom of heaven. As citizens of Christ's Kingdom we are called, sent and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be about Kingdom work in all areas of our lives so that the kingdom of God comes near to the world Christ died to save.

As a congregation we have adopted a mission statement that centers our work on the Kingdom of God.  We are joined together on a mission to activate the Kingdom of God. That means bringing the redemptive work of Jesus into the lives of real people, amid real circumstances, with real outcomes that can only be attributed to the presence of Christ among us.  As a community of faith, let us always be mindful of why we are here and what our purpose is. For when we are mindful of the kingdom of God and being citizens of this kingdom, things happen. Good things in Christ.

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