The Kingdom

The best stories (books, movies, folk tales, comics, opera… whatever) are ones where I reach the end and think, “I never saw it coming. But that was the only way it could have ended.”
Bonus points go to authors who make me want to smack my own forehead, and exclaim that I should have seen it coming. But when the masters are at work, regardless of how much it was staring me in the face, I don’t see it before. But once I get there it is just so perfect and inevitable.
I know I am not alone in loving this about stories. And I am going to speculate that maybe we have been hard-wired for this reaction. Because The Sixth Sense, Looper, Lord of the Rings, and every other Great story is just a shadow, a feeble grasping after a more fundamental Story.
Jesus was not what anybody expected. Never mind that he fulfilled hundreds of predictions. He baffled everybody… and of course, the very existence of the Jewish faith confirms that there are some (many!) who still don’t see how he fits. I would like to think if I was there, when Jesus walked the earth, I would have smacked my forehead, and said “I never saw Him coming, but this is the only way it could have ended.”
I don’t think I’m out on a limb, here. I think most of Christianity is on that same page with me– Jesus fulfilled and confounded expectations at the same time.
There is another area, though, that I think we are often missing the boat on. NT Wright has been helping me wrap my brain around the idea of Jesus’ kingdom.
Despite the fact that we affirm that Jesus is no ordinary king, we seem to have trouble asserting that his kingdom is no ordinary kingdom.
The Roman Catholic church is the easiest target here. But the most insidious ways this plays out is within our hearts. We create these hierarchies, these structures, these priorities that are really not much different than the world’s.
Before Jesus came, they had all these ideas about his person that were rooted in the world’s ideas. Now that he has come, we have all these ideas about what his kingdom is like, and we root in the world’s kingdoms.
When we see it clearly, we have that same forehead-smacking experience: It was nothing like we thought it was going to be. And yet we see it clearly: this is the only way it truly could have been.
I have never sat there and counted, but I’m going to bet that Jesus gives us more warnings about the backwardsness, the upsidedownness, the experience-defyingness of the kingdom than he ever does about his person. Jesus tells us how the first will be last, and the meek will inherit the earth, and the expected top dogs won’t be the top dogs.
And yet, it is so hard to live that out. When we do, the kingdom is among us, and Jesus is right here with us. But it is so hard.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “The Kingdom”

  1. good post Jeff. My Mother, who has Alzheimer’s has such a simple love for the Lord, and takes his words to heart. Over her lifetime, she has memorized alot of the Bible, and it serves her well now at this time of her life. Sometimes we must just take it as it is given. We are his church, his kingdom. It’s simple. We make it too hard, deep thinking.


  2. Their is truth right there: we’re called to have a child-like faith. And God knows overthinking can lead to all manner of needless complications.


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