We’re called to be Kingdom-spotters and Kingdom-builders!
This June, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will be celebrated marking, among other things, the fact we belong to a kingdom – and not a republic.
There are at least superficial parallels between earthly kingdoms and the realm the Bible calls the ‘Kingdom of God’ or ‘Heaven’. Certainly both Judaism and Jesus himself used it as a metaphor for God and God’s presence.
As you’ll recall, there were two main interpretations. One was that a Messiah would throw off foreign tyrants and set up a divine kingdom. The second was the apocalyptic belief that God would personally show up ‘making Israel happy and proud’. In both cases, it involved a relationship between God as King and the individual as subject.
By parable and dialogue, Jesus claimed the Kingdom: was open to all, Gentiles as well as Jews; it would grow; it manifests itself as a disturbing but transforming spiritual energy; it is of priceless value. Most strikingly, those with discerning eyes and mind, there are signs of God’s rule all around – the ‘Kingdom is among you!’ Yet its completion is unquestionably yet to be.
What might all this imply for the world of 2022?
It implies, I believe, that aspiring disciples of Jesus should be both Kingdom-spotters and Kingdom-builders.
Being a Kingdom-spotter means being spiritually perceptive, trying to discern, like Jesus, how God really is active in the present – and often in unlikely people and unexpected circumstances, both ‘churchy’ and secular.
‘But surely’, someone could well retort, ‘The Kingdom’s more elusive than ever: God’s more AWOL than present’ No, no, the world’s a thoroughly evil place and to say “the Kingdom’s among us now” is pie-in-the sky!
The hell inflicted on Ukraine supports such a response. Yet the compassion shown within that stricken nation and beyond its borders, together with so much empathy and generosity evident all over the world, day in and day out, is surely vindication of Jesus’s cheering observation that ‘the Kingdom of God is among you’ – then as well as now.
If God’s Kingdom often appears to be more absent than present – so clearly yet-to-be – it’s surely vital that individuals or groups claiming, in some sense, to be agents of God, should also be Kingdom-builders. Basing such endeavours on the foundation of Jesus’s life, teaching and self-giving, this means, I suggest, among many things: offering as credible an understanding of Christian faith as the very concept of faith allows; getting involved in community life (including, for some at least, the messy world of politics); supporting all sorts of worthy causes; along with being kind neighbours, good citizens, considerate travellers, and judicious caretakers of our planet. So: may we be both perceptive Kingdom-spotters and diligent Kingdom-builders!
Revd Edward Hulme