Friday, February 19, 2016

The Kingdom at Hand

"Repent!" Jesus famously commanded. "For the Kingdom of God  is at hand!" Jesus called his generation to turn, to leave behind the lives they had known, and to follow him into some new way of being. To call it Christianity, or a new sort of religion, is to look back into the story and try to make sense of it using titles and categories that didn't exist until later. It was not a religion Jesus was heralding, but a new age-an entirely different type of reality.

And this new age didn't dawn upon the world without warning. This, according to Jesus and his early followers, was the day the prophets had spoken of. The story had gone terribly awry, the glory of God had grown distant. Sin had hardened hearts and needed to be atoned for. Enemies had made slaves of the children of God. Abraham's seed was intended to bless all the families of the earth, but it had instead become a byword among the nations.

Yet they knew the story wasn't over. God would come. He would come to avenge, and to redeem. To forgive and to heal. To open the eyes of the blind and to raise the dead. Sons would come home and a nation would be born in a day. The Spirit of God would be poured out, new hearts would be given, the distant nations of the earth brought into the divine romance.

Into this fray of pain and longing steps the carpenter's son, Jesus of Nazareth. "These words are fulfilled in your hearing!" He exclaimed, referring to Isaiah's promises of prisoners released and God's favor poured out. "Are you the one we are waiting for, or should we wait for another?" one of his biggest supporters asked. "Look around," Jesus simply replied, "the blind are seeing and the deaf hearing. The poor hear good news. And the one who is blessed is the one who doesn't take offense at me." In other words, the climactic day, the dawn of the new age, had come in the flesh and blood of the man from Galilee.

To follow Jesus is to believe in a new access to God himself, and as a natural result, a new way to be human. It means to be part of a new type of family-one that is not chained to the fears of this age because its members are heirs to the age to come.

It means to be awakened to the reality that we have already begun to live the life everlasting, that the choices we make are preparing us and sowing into our eternal inheritance. Such a clarity sobers the soul and empowers us to shake off the lesser things that war for our attention, and to delve with all of our hearts into that which is truly life.

Come, the risen Christ beckons, come and shake off the dust. Awaken to the day that is dawning. Pray and love and give, for time is short. Make use of all that you have for the glory of the one who is forever. Receive with all of your heart the Spirit that is the foretaste of all that is yours in Jesus, the very power of the age to come. And in the power of that Spirit, go and set free the world. Love it, bless it, heal it, and call it into its destiny.

This, I believe, is what he meant when he said, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand." This, and much more besides.