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The Kingdom of God

I've been tagged by Catriona, to join in a Scripture Meme - in which people are asked to comment on a piece of scripture that they keep returning to, wondering about, exploring and then to tag some others to make their contributions. 

It's strange to be asked this at this time - because my text for this coming Sunday is one such example - and so it seemed right to take up the challenge.

The text for this Sunday is Luke 11:2b "Your kingdom come" - though it could have been any reference to the Kingdom of God. My fascination starts with the idea of kingdom and continues with the way in which it has been used to assert power and then wonders at it's meaning in a world in which Kings (& Queens) no longer reign with the power of their ancestors.

Before I ever imagined myself as any kind of theologian, I was an historian - and so Kings were people who wrestled power and authority from one another on the basis that might is right. Their stories are fascinating, their ambition far reaching but it was always far removed from the lives of ordinary people whose histories I particularly like to explore. So how can Jesus be King? 

He can of course be an alternative King - one who is far removed from the ways of earthly kings - and indeed the image of Jesus in the gospels is totally removed from the way of Kings - but more than that in John 6 when the people want to declare him King - he walks away. Yet the Church has declared Jesus as King, dressed him in finery, sat him on a golden throne high above ordinary folk, written hymns proclaiming his Majesty, Power, Authority. What's more the church has then used that as an excuse to claim temporal power for itself, set itself up to reign in God's stead and made an almighty mess of doing so.

So I get uncomfortable with Kingdom language, yet I believe in the kingdom of God where a beatitudinal people are salt and light to the world. I was particularly encouraged when I learnt that the Greek word translated Kingdom could also be translated Reign - suddenly it felt better to talk about the reign of God - no longer were we dealing in male language, or territorial language, or power and authority language but we could talk about the way in which God's reign runs counter to the power structures of Kings and Presidents and Powerbrokers and Financiers and Multinationals.

And so it seems that it is in accepting God's reign in our lives that we belong to the kingdom of God (lower case is deliberate) - and that kingdom is not be confused with the Kingdom's of the world. It is to be found wherever God reigns and when we talk of the kingdom we need to move away from the language of Majesty, Power, Authority - hence my attempt at a hymn to be sung to the majestic tune 

But my constant pondering does not end there - it continues with a quote that stunned me when I first read it in Bosch's Transforming Mission and that I constantly return to and no doubt will share once again on Sunday.

“Kingdom people seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put 
church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. Church people think about how 
to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the 
world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people 
work to see the church change the world.”—Howard Snyder Liberating the Church.

I hope I'm a kingdom person and I challenge the churches I serve to be kingdom churches - but it's the church that pays my stipend and holds my pension. As we wonder if we have a future and look at a demographic that is 20+ years older than I am, the temptation is to work for the survival of my denomination and therefore ensure that there is a stipend and then a pension to be enjoyed.  In working for the wider church as well as the local churches a lot of energy goes into keeping the structures going; in deploying Ministers the temptation is keep church folk happy rather than to encourage people to take risks; in negotiating settlements there is always an eye on the assessment that the church will pay as well as the mission opportunities and in just keeping the show on the road - there isn't really time for concerns of justice, mercy and truth.

Yet still I pray, "Your kingdom come"

Who to tag? Not sure who reads this and blogs elsewhere - especially when I keep forgetting to post stuff - but let's try five from the URC Bloggers Ring


  • About kingdom - the way we sometimes speak of it as St. Marks urc is 'the kind of community God is working out' or 'the kind of ways God is involved in which are about good news'.
    This is not always easy since we have learnt to sing song of power & majesty with more empire-like gusto than war songs. But thanks for your hymn. We may try it out in August.
    I appreciate the bit about money, stipend & pension and to perceive this as proping up structures & denomination so it outlives us. It's a struggle of who to listen to for me aswell - those whose voice inside the church is loudest and have been there the longest and fear for the demise of the church or those who are on the fringes of church and the fragility of faith lived out.
    At St. marks we are always on the edge financially - in 3-5 years we may be bankrupt as a church. This could take up huge amounts of time, and perhaps for a time it is doing as part of responsibility to the local and wider church but we are trying to balance this with seriously making new spaces and opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus with new friends locally. Somehow the nature of kindgom can underpin these responses. Our experience in the last 18 months is that when we step away from our comfortable church spaces then 'kingdom' things happen - risk-taking and relationships are different because the context of church is different.
    The kingdom of God exists without the church but the church cannot exist without the kingdom; although it is not the fullness of it.
    hope these responses prompt others!

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