“IF WE ONLY HAD eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both with in ourselves and with in the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.”
– Frederick Buechner, originally published in The Clown in The Belfry
“The kingdom of God is within you,” the master said.
Hidden in plain sight. Familiar, yet new.
Too often, we feeble folk forget this powerful truth. We turn away from the gentle, subtle, powerful Kingdom of God that is within us and wander instead into the kingdom of fear. We listen to that voice that tells us everything is falling down, that there are enemies on all sides, that there is no room, and there is no time, for goodness, holiness, peace.
We let fear rule, feeling its insidious and invasive ugliness move into every cell of us, body and soul. And fear is a powerful thing, a fearful thing. When it’s working as God designed it to work, fear is a good and dependable early-warning system, alerting us to physical or emotional danger in our immediate environment.
But when we allow our thoughts to be held captive by worst-case scenario thinking, when that thinking leads us to make unhelpful and surly responses to others with whom we disagree (and often, there is room for honest disagreement), and when those unhelpful, even hurtful, responses are then offered in the name of Jesus . . . well, then. It’s time to take a giant step back and re-think.
The newsfeed has been radiating fear-based, reactionary words and threats since the tragic events in Beirut, Paris, Egypt and Syria this month. And far too many of those words have come from the mouths (or typing fingers) of folks who say they are Jesus-people. We need to take a really deep breath, my dear friends. Really deep.
And then, we need to talk. Not shout. And we need to pray, deeply, regularly, openly, secretly. We need to encourage our political leaders to keep the conversation civil, to remember who we are as a nation. And we need to encourage other Jesus people to do the same, to remember who we are as kingdom-people. Most of all, we need to re-touch that Kingdom within and hang with all our might.
We do live in a world that is filled with pain, poverty, prejudice, anger, racial hatred and religious bigotry. Bigotry that has bloomed into a terrifying kind of behavior. Yes, it is scary out there. Very scary.
BUT . . . we follow that strange and wonderful rabbi, the dusty one, the determined one, the surprising one. The one who rebuked vengeful behavior. The one who called us to counter-cultural thinking and living. The one who offered himself to the terrorists of his own place and time. The one who said, “Peace, I leave with you.”
We stand at an interesting crossroads right now. Can we, as Reverend Buechner says in the quote at the top of this post, discover ourselves to be ‘better than we are and wiser than we know?’ May it be so. Oh, Lord, may it be so.
Because when fear rules, we all lose.