Monday, May 16, 2011

Reflections on the Kingdom of God

“How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden trees; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”  Mark 4:30-32

We’ve spent the year exploring the Tree of Life and how to live in such a way that we are reflecting the life Jesus died to give us.  We examined how important it is that a tree has a good root system that goes deep into fertile soil.  The root system of the Word and Spirit allows us to grow a healthy, thriving tree in our lives.

The trunk represents community; as we live in healthy friendships with others who share our passion to live lives patterned after Jesus, and his two priorities of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, we develop a healthy trunk that surrounds and protects the great kingdom fruit found within the leaves and branches.
Jesus tells us that the mustard seed turns into the very greatest tree in the Garden.  Our small seed of faith, when rooted in God’s soil and surrounded by his faithful people, becomes a very attractive tree that all the birds of the air want to nest within. 
Why did Jesus tell this story?  He was a master at taking that which was familiar to the people and helping them to understand spiritual concepts.  He wanted them to know through their experience what the Kingdom of God is like. 
Jesus describes the Kingdom of God as a banquet to which a wealthy landowner sends his servants to go into the alleyways and byways to find those that are most hidden to come to his party.  Missio Lux got to host one of those kingdom parties on Easter and experience the Kingdom of God in action.
It wasn’t the flashy things that happened.  It was the quiet, almost invisible, kingdom taking place that permeated the dough of God’s delicious bread.
We knew that God had something special up his sleeve when we watched the signs of the weather.  The drive to the Square was in a major downpour of rain.  I prayed out, “Lord, wouldn’t you like to have a sunny party today?”  When we parked, it was no longer a downpour, it was now just a steady drizzle.
But, the gift came at exactly 1 p.m. when we gathered to pray before we started. The sun burst out of a bunch of clouds and stayed out for the WHOLE AFTERNOON.  The Kingdom of God was present in the weather.
The kingdom of God was also present in the atmosphere on the Square.  There was a tangible sense of peace and joy.  Paul tells us in Romans 14:17 that the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy.  We experienced that peace and joy in abundance on Easter Afternoon.
As I walked around, I saw table after table of men, women and children sharing a meal together.  They were listening actively to one another and crossing a giant cultural divide to reach out in friendship and faith.
I’ve heard several stories of the guests who encouraged the hosts.  The faith of the poor and disenfranchised is often very large and can encourage those of us who live in greater day to day security through our possessions and bank accounts.  When you don’t have a large safety net, you discover that Jesus is the true safety net in life.
One man I met was named Vince. 
He literally stumbled upon the Square by accident, as he was new to Seattle and didn’t even know that we were hosting a party.  He was looking for an AA meeting, but it was Easter and they weren’t there, so he found himself in the middle of a banquet. 

He told a man named Dan that he was seeking to go to Rehab the next day and was looking for bus money.  Dan knew that God had more than bus money in mind and he brought him to meet me.  Both Dan and I listened to Vince as he described a hellish childhood and adult years that found him addicted to drugs and alcohol, as well as serving several stints in prison.  Dan and I both prayed for Vince and then we took him to the center of the party where we had a communion table. 

As the three of us took communion, the Kingdom of God was present!

The Kingdom of God was present through children who decorated Easter bags, filled them with candy and delivered them to guests at their tables.  The bags had foam stickers on them and the guests had fun putting the stickers on their clothes and their hands and faces.  They laughed at one another with their silly decorations!

The Kingdom of God was present in the set up and take down.  Mike, the man who volunteered for the servant role of loading and unloading tables, chairs, and supplies had a helper. His name was John and he wore a shirt that said “Security” on it.  John was a  security guard from heaven as he worked so hard all afternoon.  He helped Mike and as he did, he told him his story.  John is recently homeless, a new experience for himself and his wife.  They are learning how to navigate life on the streets and are new enough to it that they are developing a burden for those that live this life for many years.  A friendship was formed between Mike and John as the birds nest in the branches.

The Kingdom of God was present as I left the Square.
  I met Randy who was talking to my friend Dave.  Randy had a beautiful guitar that he pulled out on my request.  He sang one song after another as he gave testimony to how God had worked in his life. 

Randy didn’t have much in life but he shared freely what he did have:  a talent for bringing joy to others through music.

As you go through your week, be aware of the simplicity of the Kingdom.  A simple word of encouragement, a touch, or an act of kindness pleases the King of the Kingdom and fills the tree with many beautiful birds nesting in the tree’s branches.  You never know when you are may be offering kindness to angels:  “Don’t forget to offer hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without even realizing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

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