Sunday, October 09, 2005

How the Kingdom of God is like that....

Today we celebrated the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi with the following lessons:


King David said to the whole assembly, "My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great; for the temple will not be for mortals but for the Lord God. So I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, besides great quantities of onyx and stones for setting, antimony, colored stones, all sorts of precious stones, and marble in abundance. Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God: three thousand talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for overlaying the walls of the house, and for all the work to be done by artisans, gold for the things of gold and silver for the things of silver. Who then will offer willingly, consecrating themselves today to the LORD?"

May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor un-circumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule-peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body. May the grace of our LORD Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
MATTHEW 19:16-22
Then someone came to him and said, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to him, "I have kept all these; what do 1 still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
A few quick words, brought up by these scriptures and their coincidence with my thoughts about the kingdom of God.

First, we live in a material world. It is impossible, perhaps even inhuman, to talk about God and not talk about creation. Even though God does not ask for a temple of gold and silver, we still want to offer it. Are these things right, or wrong? Where our treasure is, there our heart is, also. Can we give to God without giving God our treasure?

In the LA Times article mentioned below, one of Dobson's employees mentions the old saw from seminary: "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." It's an idea that's as problematic as it is accurate, but it contains an essential truth even Bertolt Brecht recognized: if you cannot offer a starving person food, they don't care to hear about salvation. If our ideas of God cannot be related to the world we live in now, we never get to the fear of replacing God with idols.

But speaking of idols, the story of the rich young man shows he lacked only one thing to be perfect: his love of his possessions. Can we say the Kingdom of God is our possession, the prize possession above all others? If we do, what does that say about possessions? Do they possess us, or do we possess them? If they are our treasure, are they the proper receptacles for our hearts?

Finally, we get (quickly!) to Paul, for whom there is no question of possession, just a state of being. Paul emphasizes loss ("the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world") but through that loss, gain ("a new creation is everything!"), but still with the emphasis on a creation (and this shifts the emphasis in Jesus' message, I might add, from loss, to release.) The Kingdom of God, in other words, is not an entirely spiritual matter; but neither is it one gained by, nor imposed by, power. It is achieved not through accomplishment or even the blessing of God, which may prompt our gratitude in showers of things. It is achieved through loss (or release), and through complete faith in the activity of the God of Jesus, and the God of Abraham, in human history; in God's creation.

That's at least one way of getting at it. There are many others; and many other curious statements about the kingdom, to come.

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