I haven’t posted in a few days, but I haven’t abandoned my plan to spend a consecutive 30 days seeking evidence of the Kingdom. In all honesty, I just haven’t felt like gluing myself to a computer long enough to post anything–and that, I think, is a good thing!
But, now, to catch up on my Kingdom Sightings:
Day 2: November 1 (All Saints Day)
I spent All Saints Day with a migraine, probably triggered by standing in the damp, rainy weather the night before. But even if you had told me that I’d spend the next day hiding in a dark room, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Celebrating our young people is too important and I personally enjoy the trick-or-treaters more than they enjoy trick-or-treating. So what could possibly be evidence of the Kingdom when a person is laid up all day, all alone? Well… I wasn’t alone, and that was day 2’s sighting:
Riley wouldn’t leave my side. Forget that she is still a puppy. Forget that she is a combination of two extremely active breeds. Forget that everything in her nature is designed to run and play and never sit still… her love and concern for her “momma” overruled all that. I often think God gave us animals to teach us about love, compassion and mercy… and as this sweet pup gave up a full day of play in order to bring me a little comfort, I couldn’t help but think of the promise of the “Peaceable Kingdom” and how, for a little while, I had found it in my living room.
Day 3: November 2 (All Saints Sunday)
In the United Methodist Churches of Rivesville, we worshipped together–always a glimpse of the Kingdom. We also shared our testimonies, prayers, and stories about the saints in our lives that have inspired us and taught us how to be better disciples. And then we took communion together. On All Saints Sunday, the sinners and the saints of today’s church set aside all their differences and gathered around Christ’s table to receive a grace and a mercy that even the most saintly amongst us doesn’t deserve… but it was offered anyway. No strings attached. The Kingdom is beautiful!
Day 4: November 3 (Preacher’s Sabbath)
Mondays are my Sabbath day. As a preacher, I sort of work on Sunday–and depending on how much programming is planned and how many community and/or family gatherings I’ve been invited to, they can range from being exhausting to being so tiring I’m not sure I would ever be able to stand up again if I sat down for a second. I love them, though. But the next morning, I’m in need of Sabbath and I take it. The phone is turned off (at lease part of the day), I avoid planning meetings (as much as I can, anyway), and I restrict pastoral care calls to emergencies only. It is a day of peace and silence–exactly what an introvert like me needs.
Sabbath is important, and sadly, quickly sacrificed in our busy modern world. But when we set aside our own needs and desires and ambitions, and spend a day simply resting in care and love of God, amazing things can happen. A hurried soul can find peace. A worried mind can be calmed. And a lonely heart can realize just how loved it is. We rely wholly on God on a true Sabbath day, and that’s the Kingdom: a place where God is always at the center of who we are and what we do.
Day 5: November 4 (Election Day)
I vote because I care about my world. I vote because my faith informs me about what policies are probably best for God’s children in this imperfect world. I vote because I hope that, together, as a society, with the right leadership, we will come closer and closer to the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. I don’t assume any of the candidates I vote for are going to be saviors or are going to usher in the final age. That is Christ’s job and Christ’s alone… but I vote because I care.
This election day, for the first time, I attended a candidate’s election party. I went mostly because he and his wife have been good friends to me since I’ve moved to Rivesville… but also because I thought he was the best candidate for the job. I planned to only make a quick appearance, shake a couple of hands, hug the candidate, and leave. I stayed because I spent the evening fellowshipping with people who care about their world as well. We talked–not just about politics and public policies, but about everything. We talked about families, about the future, about hopes and worries, about what we need as a people, about the church, about God, about everything. Even though we were there because we had supported the same candidate, we were all very different people, though–but our differences didn’t matter. We were united by thoughts and dreams and hopes that were bigger than those differences… and that’s what the Kingdom is like. We aren’t all clones of one another. We are all us unique as God has made us… but in the Kingdom we are bound by love and love builds bridges across even the biggest chasms.
Day 6: November 5 (Ava Capri)
A young mother from one of my churches gave birth to her first child on this day. Nothing expresses the sort of love that the Kingdom represents like the face of a young mother seeing her child for the very first time:
Day 7: November 6
After a busy week of meetings, hospital visits, Bible Studies, and (as my Dad would say) “keeping the roads hot”, I was relieved to get a slow-paced day when I could turn my attention to planning for future worship services. But that day ended with a United Methodist Women’s Circle meeting. These meetings amaze me for several reasons. First, the amount of funds this small group of women are able to raise to support missions is always amazing. Second, good news about what missions are being carried out as a result of Christians pooling their resources for mission work is always astounding. Third, we laugh. I mean, we laugh hard and have a good time.
But at this particular meeting, Kathy asked us to keep her in prayers. Now, Kathy is a walking miracle, anyway. She’s undergone six brain surgeries over the past year or so and just keeps bouncing back. The last two surgeries were back, to back though (two in two days), but she is determined not to let the recovery prevent her from doing the things she loves most in the season she adores the most. So she asked that we pray for her so that she can participate in the Christmas time fundraising activities the women conduct over the next couple of months. So, we gathered around her, we laid hands upon on, we anointed her with oil, and we prayed. In that moment, all the fears and concerns and worries of this world faded away because for that moment we were a sisterhood of women, united in faith and in love.. and that is the Kingdom!
Day 8: November 7
Right now, I’m sitting at Barnes and Noble, updating this blog, and enjoying the community I’ve come to know in this, my favorite hang out. I spend a lot of evenings here, so the employees have come to know me, and I’ve come to know some of the regular customers. Today, though, there are two men sitting at a table near me, talking about their plans to begin a Bible Study for non-Christians–a place where they can be safe to ask questions, express doubts, wrestle with scripture and with God, and, hopefully, come to know Christ through these sessions.
The Kingdom is a place that is big enough for all of us–sometimes we, as Christians, panic and assume their isn’t enough space and we begin making rules about who can and cannot get into the Kingdom. But Jesus made it pretty simple, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16, CEB, emphasis mine)
It’s not for us to decide who gets in and who doesn’t. All we are asked to do is to present Christ to everyone we meet–through our witness, through our actions, through our discipleship. Christ will handle the rest.
As I eavesdropped of these two men making plans for their near-future, I realized I was witnessing bricks being laid in the Kingdom.