Most of us think of the Kingdom of God as something happening in the future. That was not how Jesus proclaimed it. He said it was near. That it was happening now—breaking into the world during his ministry. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God was Jesus’ message to the world. The Kingdom of God as Jesus proclaimed it was not “when we all get to heaven” or “pie in the sky bye-and-bye. Jesus saw it as “breaking in on earth—-it was now! He taught his disciples to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed was a new way of living—a very different way of living. Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God set the business of living in this world in the conventional way on its head. For example:
- “Blessed are the poor“-—not the rich as conventional wisdom holds.
- “Blessed are the meek“—not the powerful. The meek will inherit the earth instead of the conventional expectation that the powerful and rich will do so and pass it endlessly on to their heirs.
- “Blessed are the peacemakers“—they, and not the army generals, will be called children of God.
- “You have heard ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’, but I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”
These and many more are descriptions Jesus gives of the way life in the Kingdom of God would be different. The Kingdom of God is what the world would be like if God ruled in everyone’s heart!
We have had many centuries of Christianity and we still seemed not to grasp Jesus’ proclamation. Our “Christian” societies have not brought us close to the Kingdom of God—far from it. Society hasn’t changed much since Jesus’ time. Let’s compare the two eras—-Palestine during the time Jesus walked the hills of Nazareth and the U.S. today.
Life in Palestine during Jesus earthly life….
- was organized into political entities that included city officials, territorial governors, and heads of state—-all of whom drew their support from the high taxes levied on the peasants that made up 90% of the population.
- was organized around the worship of many pagan gods.
- was designed to support the political and economic power of those who were rich and powerful and who lived by different rules and standards than the common people. The rich and powerful included the high priests and the temple organization.
- was a culture where about 10 percent or less held the wealth and the land and the 90% were peasants getting by on a subsistance living or below—just enough to barely live on and survive so they could pay the bulk of their income and produce in taxes. The two constant worries of the peasants were food and freedom from debt. Without food they starved and if they were in debt they lost their land and livelihood to their creditors. Note that Jesus recognized this in the prayer he taught his disciples—-“give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
- A culture whose religious structure and leaders worked in concert with the political/governmental power of Rome to maintain their power and influence over the people.
- It was a land where people were lost and perished every day.
Does it sound familiar. Let’s look at our country today….
- We are a country where the rich and powerful live by different rules and standards than the common people and where those with money and power have become status figures. No one knows who Charles Middle Class Smith is, but they all know who Charles Koch is.
- a country that has many pagan gods—we call them by different names such as—- Money….Power…Pleasure…Comfort, etc.
- A country where 10 % of the people have 60% of the total income, while the other 40% of the income is divided among the remaining 90% of the population.
- A country where people with no conscience kill and rob on a daily basis. Where life is cheap. A country whose children kill and maim their teachers and fellow classmates. A country where multiple murders are committed in movie theaters and at marathons. Everywhere we turn there is violence, in our streets, on our TV’s, causing us to live in fear of each other and carry guns to defend ourselves.
- A country where the greed and gluttony of huge financial institutions eat up the savings of those most vulnerable who trusted them; and do so in order to enrich their wealthy stockholders who demand a profit at all costs.
- a country where the wealth of a Beverly Hills exists in stark contrast to the filth and poverty of a Watts in the same city of Los Angeles.
- A country where the lonely and the aged, the poor and the mentally challenged are neglected. A country where children have no access to health care and not enough to eat. A country where the homeless and the misfits of society remain largely unseen and uncared about. Programs to help them, such as affordable health care and extension of Medicaid benefits are the first ones to be cut from government budgets or discarded for political reasons. We reduce food stamps and aid for struggling families in order to reduce the federal deficit—-while huge corporations that contribute to the re-election of our legislators continue to receive tax breaks and other benefits as they feed at the public tax trough.
- We are living in a place where children go to bed hungry, without health care, and are homeless even though both parents work—but for indecently low wages that can’t support their families—and we still support the politicians that have made the lives of the most vulnerable people even worse.
- This is a country ruled more and more by men and women whose only aim is to do whatever is necessary (whether right or wrong does not matter) to stay in power.
We need a voice crying in the wilderness like that of John the Baptizer saying “Turn around, for there is a better way than this way of Greed and Suffering that you are walking—it is the way of Jesus and the Kingdom of God he proclaimed.
We need this voice because people are still wandering in this wilderness of today, having lost their moral, emotional and economic way—-yearning for something better and not quite knowing what that something better is. They are yearinng for a different way of living that leads to a society where all of God’s people are treated equally, fairly and lovingly. Jesus proclaimed that Way long ago. He lived the Way. The Church as Jesus’ body needs to Show the Way today.
It is the mission of our post-resurrection Christian Community to proclaim the Kingdom of God through what we do and who we are as God’s people. We’ve messed up for centuries—-let’s strive to get it right!