I’m Back … to talk about the Kingdom of God…

Ok. So i’ve been busy, and I disappeared for a while. But a friend of mine challenged me to blog my thoughts as I begin a new sermon series on the Kingdom of God. It really isn’t a series, which presupposes a certain number of weeks that I will preach on the central theme of the Kingdom of God. This is the problem with that assumption: the Kingdom is much much more than a few weeks worth of sermons.

The Kingdom of God is .. is … well, it is everything. It is how we read a passage of scripture, how we hear a sermon, how we understand “God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”:  how we love our kids, how we treat our next door neighbors that don’t like our kids; it is why … why we do scripture instead of just read scripture, why we are less concerned with backpocket fire insurance than the homeless shelter that caught fire;  why we go to church on Sundays at 10AM, why we serve the littlest people instead of the richest, why we get up in the middle of the night to pray, why we go apologize to our spouses when it their bad attitude :), why we take the last snowcone instead of the first … and it is what:   what we do with our money, what we do with our time, what we do with our words http://kyammatalk.blogspot.com/2009/09/moment-in-life.html … THAT right there is the the Kingdom of God.

On my search for reading up on the Kingdom, I pulled a book from my shelf that I read 22 years ago for a college gen. ed. class at Messiah College. I was barely a christian, and understood a nigh crumb about Jesus, let alone the Kingdom. Now, I read the book and my soul is filled … the Kingdom of God is here, the Kingdom of God is definitely The Upside-Down Kingdom (Kraybill, 1978 rev 2003, Herald Press) when held up against the Kingdom of Earth. Tell me what you think:

The corporate life of the people of God will be visible and practical. We are the folks who engage in conspicuous sharing. We practice Jubliee. Generosity replaces consumption and accumulation. Our faith wags our pocketbooks. We give without expecting a return. We forgive liberally as God forgave us. We overlook the signs of stigma hanging on the unlovely. Genuine compassion for the poor and destitute moves us. We look and move down the ladder. We don’t take our own religious structure too seriously because we know Jesus is Lord and Master of religious custom. We serve rather than dominate. We invite rather than coerce.

Love replaces hate among us. Shalom overcomes revenege. We love even enemies. Basins replace swords in our society. We share power, love assertively, and make peace. We flatten hierarchies and behave like children. Compassion replaces personal ambition among us. Equality overshadows competition and achievement. Obedience to Jesus blots out worldly charm. Servant structures replace rigid bureaucracies. We call each other by our first name, for we have one Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…

Generosity, jubilee, mercy, and compassion–these are the marks of the new community. Freed from the grip of right-sided up kingdoms, we salute a new King and sing a new song. We transcend earthly borders, boundaries, and passports. We pledge allegiance to a new and already-present kingdom…

We live in a future already bursting upon us. We’re the ones who turn the world upside down because we know there is another King names Jesus … we welcome the reign of God in our corporate lives each day.

Wowza. That is the Good News of the Kingdom of God…

I Hate to Wait for Anything.

Patience is not my strong point. I used to secretly sneak peaks at the presents under the tree, carefully pealing back the tape just so I could get a glimpse of the side of the box inside. Silly the lengths I would go to satiate the momentary desire, only to ruin the surprise… 

I said to my soul, be still,
and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing;
wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing;
there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope
are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought,
for you are not ready for thought;
So the darkness shall be the light,
and the stillness the dancing.

-TS Eliot, The Four Quartets

Confession: I worship My Time. I think.

I distinctly remember the day I started Kindergarten. I was in the backyard of my aunt’s house delighting in and completely occupied with playing on the swing-set. With each pass of the of the swing’s cadence, the late summer air wildly blew my hair back and forth into and outof my face. I could be in this Moment for ever.

Breaking into my ecstasy was my mother’s voice, “Jayne, it is Time to come inside and get ready for school.”

Grief filled me. Even as a 5 year old, I realized that I was no longer the keeper of my own time. Someone else would now tell me how to spend my days.

I am still debating whether the Grief was the loss of my naivete about our Falleness — we shall live our days toiling with the ground –and ‘Living those Days’ was inaugurated in that moment. Or, even at a tender 5 years, a heart can be entangled with false Loves. Someone just took away what I Supremely love.

My time. I do worship My Time. I protect it, hoard it, fight for it, spend it wildy for my own delight and pleasures.

The Jury is still out.

We are generally gullible about news of scarcity. We have, it seems, an inbuilt skittishness about shortfall. This has been with us a long while, since the garden, by my reckoning.
Most of us live afraid that we’re almost out of time. But you and I, we’re heirs of eternity. We’re not short of days.
We just need to number then aright.
The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan

Find a sand pile, a little desert lot …

Friends, resist the temptation,
don’t look at your watches.
Let go of time and allow the Beloved
to lead you lovely into the desert,
not the Sinai or the Sahara,
but into those quiet, empty spaces hidden in this day–
desert space devoid of ticking clocks
and lethal deadlines.

Children of God–
let each of us find a sand pile, a little desert lot,
behind the garage or at the beginning of the day,
silent and strong
with the slow scent of sagebrush,
and there, as in our younger days–
the Divine Friend will speak–
not to our heads, but to our hearts!
Free from haste and the violence of rushing,
we an do one thing, slowly, at a time.
Then we can respond as in the days of our youth–
with abundant affection,
dedication,
and dreams.

Coming forth from those empty spaces,
desert-places–kissed by silence,
we shall be able to savor–
The Spirit Supreme,
sip by sip
in every, every segment of our lives.

Hurrying–A Hindrance to the Holy, from Edward Hays, “Pray All Ways”

Debriefing Our Lives

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The truth is that people need help debriefing their lives. They need to examine their experiences to learn from them… to help people make sense of what is going on in them and around them. In earlier times, people accomplished this while lingering over meals with their family and engaging in late-night discussions on front porches or on the phone with friends in extended conversations…. Now we have to stimulate those discussions for people because they aren’t making TIME (emphasis mine) for them anymore, due to the frenzied pace and isolation of contemporary life. 

From his book, Missional Renaissance, Reggie McNeal writes these words to move our thinking about the goals of  Sunday morning worship service. I could talk about that, but I want to talk about Time, and how little we have. 

I was watching a documentary on Mike Douglas, the tv host from the 60’s and 70’s. The show was aired in Philadelphia. The documentary was embeddded with clips from the original broadcasted show … and I realized, having grown up in South Jersey, that watching Mike Douglas and his daily hosting of hollywood stars and musicians was in my childhood memories.  Sammie Davis Jr, Bill Cosby, Carol Burnett, Captain & Tennile … I am warmed by their youthfulness. 

My mind drifted back to those days of being eight or nine or ten. It seemed like a simpler, slower time, I rationalized. When afternoons crawled into dusk, and the smells from the dinner hour lingered through the whole evening. Mom would sit at the table, playing solitaire, and the sweat on her glass of ice water was the hourglass reminding us that time was barely moving. Biding time – waiting ON time, because it moved too slow for our impatience, was relieved by an afternoon of rhythmic rocking on the neigbor’s porch  swing. 

Where did that life go?   

Life … my life, is  now impoverished of Time. The sacredness of an hour has been lost to the minute. Dinner eaten in 12 minutes. Cooked in less than 10. Cleaned up in 2. Less than Thirty minute meals. A glass of water consumed in cupfuls and gulps, no time to sweat. And playing solitaire? Isn’t that the game played by people who have no important place to be in the next 20 minutes?  

Debriefing–making sense of life and what is going on around me–is pushed to the far edges of my days; maybe 10 mintues in the morning, or the 27 seconds it takes me to fall aspleep after I crawl into bed. But I need to make sense of my life. 

McNeal touches my poverty. There is a moment in my week that I am permitted to stop, and Debrief. And This, honestly, is why I go to church. For one hour I debrief my Life, and hold it  up against the Words of the Keeper of Time. And am reminded that I am the Poor, desperately Poor, and in need of turning from this Driven Pace.

It Won’t Be this Way for Long

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His claim to fame was the lead singer in Hootie and the Blowfish, Darius Rucker, now gone country. He sings about Time again…

It won’t be like this for long
One day soon that little girl is gonna be
All grown up and gone
Yeah, this phase is gonna fly by
So, he’s tryin’ to hold on

‘Cause it won’t be like this for long

It happened to me when my oldest turned 10 and the decade of years seemed more like the single turning of a page, or maybe two. The next ten years are gonna fly by, and it won’t be like this for long. It is only these present moments we have to make time be on our side.

Tuesdays are Family Library Night

We’ve been consumed over the last 6 months with making preparations for a ReLaunch of our church. Every Saturday, early morning through the dinner hour, we offered our time to Making Preparations.

We are done. The space is beautiful. The ReLaunch a success. But it is Time to give back to the parts of our lives that have been lost to the Goals. Our boys and what we’ve taken from their 7th and 10th year  of life. My Life and what has been on loan from my 40th year.

So, we started with the little things… Family Library Night.

Eight books, and two DVDs later, we called it our Family Time. Not a bad way to Redeem the Time.

My, How the Time Flies.