Invitation to the Fall 2012 Reader

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“Through many hardships we enter the kingdom of God,” Paul and Barnabas told the new disciples.  Not much has changed.  Long ago Jesus declared, “The kingdom of God has come near,” indeed, in our very midst; he said it was the Father’s delight to give it to us—but attaining the kingdom, living the kingdom life, knowing the rule of our King is no easy matter.  It costs nothing less than total re-birth, re-entry into new existence—born again, born from above.  Indeed, it could not be otherwise when Jesus’ kingdom is from another place, not of this world; it is, truly, the kingdom of heaven.  He bids us sell our possessions and give to the poor, giving up everything we have to be his disciples.  From the very beginning, the kingdom was linked with total life-change.  “The time has come,” Jesus said.  “The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!”

Good news, indeed.  The kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  It is not mere talk—wasted words, committee meetings, endless red-tape and power positioning—but real power, real change, real world upheaval.  It’s about freedom for prisoners, justice for oppressed, sight for blind.  The poor are invited close to hear good news; the Holy Spirit of God is poured forth on all flesh.  God comes near and welcomes all to his table.  God comes forth and rights all wrongs.  God comes, gathering us into a new people living out this new reality.

But it doesn’t come easily.  It’s not cheap.  It took a cross.  It took the revolutionary humility of God, deep suffering, spilling of divine blood.  And as true kingdom people, living out this kingdom of light, we can expect no less.  Unless a grain falls and dies, it remains alone.  Death is the beginning.  Laying down lives for friends is stage one.

How could it be otherwise?  Our King does not invite us to a project, but to a Kingdom—and a Kingdom involves community.  It is, truly, all about love.  It is about the Other.  It is, ultimately, Friendship.  Basic to our humanity, foundational to our Christianity, but too often neglected.  Relational structures intrinsic to our human nature have been fractured by Western individualism, even in Africa, Asia, and South America.  Rapid urbanization is fragmenting family.  There is a spreading global loneliness.

Into this growing void the Church much speak.  Kingdom-life is social-life, is community.  And community begins with self-denial.  Recognizing the Other as legitimate already constricts the self—but our King calls us even further.  “Your kingdom come,” we pray.  “Deny yourselves, take up your cross daily, follow me,” we live.

Would the Savior of humankind

Without His people die?

No, to Him we all are join’d

As more than standers by.

Freely as the Victim came

To the altar of His cross,

We attend the slaughtered Lamb,

And suffer for His cause.[1]


[1] John and Charles Wesley, Hymns on the Lord’s Supper, no. 131, slightly amended.

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