Sunday, July 24, 2011

Where Do You Find The Kingdom?

Today's Gospel readings, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52, restored the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast by splicing them into the parables of treasure in the field, a pearl of great price, and the haul of good and bad fish.

Our preacher, Fr. Diggs gave a nice sermon on the subject, but when he referred to Thomas Merton, it was clear that he would tempt us to wander from a strict interpretation of the text.

"Tell us about the Kingdom of God," is something we hear from Jesus' disciples, and it is something many of us often wonder about. Merton tended to think about it in the here and now rather than as something that is to come. The following is from his journals,

"I remarked on the strange and marvelous fact of this apparently easy and natural communication between a monk in a strictly guarded Trappist monastery and a suspect poet (Pasternak) behind the iron curtain. I am in closer contact with Pasternak than I am with people in Louisville or Bardstown or even in my own monastery-and have more in common with him.
And all this while our two countries, deeply hostile to one another, have nothing to communicate between themselves-and yet spend millions trying to communicate with the moon.
The simple and human dialogue with Pasternak and a few others like him is to me worth thousands of sermons and radio speeches. It is to me the true Kingdom of God, which is still so clearly, and evidently, 'in the midst of us.'"

Thomas Merton October 18,1958 III.224 ("A Year With Thomas Merton: daily meditations from his journals" p. 288)
This takes us back to Luke 17, and I wish Fr. Diggs had made that point to lend a little more weight to his argument.
"And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.
And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.
For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.
But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation."

Luke 17:20-25 KJV
My reading of Luke gives me two images: one is of the Kingdom as already having come in the form of Jesus, who could be touched, and the Holy Spirit which we have been blessed with of whom we often times are unaware, and a second image of Christ's return at which time his presence will be as obvious as lightning in the sky.

So are we left with a little bit of the Kingdom of God in the here and now and a little bit of it to come?

Some like to think that the Kingdom of God is something that can be brought into the here and now if we work harder at it. Some think that by enacting laws to create their vision of a more just world, or perhaps by "voting for change" they can bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth. This is a type of progressive theology which I am not convinced that Jesus was trying to get across when he also told us about wheat and the tares and the haul of the keeper fish and the throwbacks.

Before I buy into the argument that the Kingdom is all around us, a nearly completed, done deal, because we have been baptised, etc, and that all we have to do is open our eyes and see it, I will have to somehow forget what our Lord told us when he taught us how to pray, "...Thy Kingdom come."


  1. The "observable" portion of the Kingdom of God has to do with seeing those whose steadfast faith has led to the fruits of the Spirit, methinks.

    At least, that's the way I've always thought about it.

    Yes, we can see God's hand in the world in other things, but the specific "Kingdom" is a reference to Godly men and women, both from history and with us today.


  2. The way Jesus gives us "then and now" by simply shifting the subject in one of the parables was the core of my sermon today:

    Then: "the treasure" is the subject of the kingdom, the something we are aware of out there, hidden from sight, and for which we are willing to give up all that we have...

    Now: "the merchant," the seeker, is the subject of the kingdom. In the process of giving up all of our current treasure to obtain that perfect pearl, the kingdom is here and now, transforming us.

    The kingdom is glimpsed in the here and now, but its fullness is definitely out there in the "then." Like the treasure/pearl, we don't "own it" until all that we currently hold is surrendered - including our life in this age.

  3. Thanks ya'll. That really helps.