Monday, November 24, 2014


Jesus was obsessed with one thing: the Kingdom of God.
We have made a lot of things out of Jesus.
But Jesus cared whole-heartedly and single-mindedly
         about one thing – the Kingdom of God.

He saw his teaching and his works of healing and mercy
         as the crucial first step of God’s reign breaking into the world.
If we are going to believe Jesus, there are two ideas we have
         to get out of our heads right now.
Both area ideas you’ll hear a lot of people say are Christian teaching.
But they aren’t.
The first is that everything is already going
according to God’s plan. It isn’t.
If everything were already clipping along on God’s agenda,
         then God wouldn’t have been so upset about things
                  so much in the Bible.
If everything were already going God’s way,
         we wouldn’t have needed Jesus turning over the apple cart.
If everything were going God’s way,
         we would not be suffering in hope that Christ will come
                  and change everything from night to day.

The second idea is that the Kingdom of God
         doesn’t happen until sometime way out in the future.
True, the Kingdom will not be here fully until the end of history.
But it happens in flashes right now.
Our job is opening the door to the Kingdom now.

So let’s be clear: Jesus was not here to show us
         why the way of the world is already just fine thank you.
He was here to start a revolution to usher in God’s Kingdom.
Only it wasn’t a revolution like we thing of.

It wasn’t one violent power over throwing another violent power.
That just replaces one gang of thugs with another.
Jesus’ revolution that could only be achieved
         by revolutionary methods --
methods like behaving in surprising ways,
         responding to cruelty with forgiveness,
         seeing giving as better than receiving,
         living for others instead of self.

If one person goes genuinely Christian, just one person,
         it makes a little difference in the world.
If two people who don’t know each other go Christian,
         it makes twice as much difference.
But if those two people come together
         -- as we do in Holy Communion --
         the power multiplies many fold.

You get a dozen of them
         and they can go forth into the world
         making disciples of all nations.
The deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk,
         and peace breaks out between old foes.

Our lesson for the Feast of Christ the King
         is about the Kingdom of God.
This story tells us what God loves
so it will be part and parcel of his kingdom in eternity,
and also what God does not love so it will have no part in eternity.
It dies.

You know the story.
Those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger,
         and visit the imprisoned are the ones living in God’s way
regardless of their theology or church membership
                           or lack thereof.
Those who ignore people in need
         have no part in God’s Kingdom
even if they are right believing church members.
Very simple.

But would these simple acts of mercy make a real difference?
Yes, it’s nice. But does it change the world?

Consider this story from Naomi Shihab Nye,
a Palestinian-American woman at the airport in Albuquerque.
This is her story:

“Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal,

after learning my flight had been delayed four hours,

I heard an announcement:
‘If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands . . . Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.’
Well— one pauses these days.
Gate A-4 was my own gate.
I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress,
just like my grandma wore,
was crumpled to the floor, wailing.
‘Help,’ said the flight agent. ‘Talk to her . . . .
We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.’

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
“Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick,
The minute she heard . . . words she knew, . . . . , she stopped crying.
She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day.

I said, ‘No, . . . you’ll get there, just late,
who is picking you up?
 Let’s call him.’

We called her son . . . .  
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane.
She talked to him.
Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic
and . . . of course they had . . . shared friends.
Then I thought just for the heck of it
why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her?
This all took up two hours.
She was laughing . . . by then.

Telling about her life, patting my knee, answering questions.
She . . . pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies
  little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates
and nuts— from her bag and was offering them to all the women
           at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single traveler declined one.
It was like a sacrament. //

The traveler from Argentina,
the mom from California,
the lovely woman from Laredo
  we were all covered with the same powdered sugar.
And smiling. There is no better cookie.

Then the airline broke out free apple juice
and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it
and they were covered with powdered sugar too.  . . . .
I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
‘This is the world I want to live in.’
The shared world.’
Not a single person in that gate . . .
seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies.” End of story.

And that brothers and sisters is the world I want to live in too
-- the Kingdom of God.
Already it happens.
Do you not perceive it?
The Kingdom of God comes very near to us.

Sometimes, with God’s help, we make it happen.