27 Jul 2015
We pray for it all the time: the Kingdom of heaven. “Thy Kingdom come.” And the important word there isn’t “Kingdom;” it’s “thy.” Thy Kingdom come, however it comes, let your Kingdom come. But God sometimes gives us conflicting ideas of what his Kingdom looks like.
We have the Ten Commandments—pristine, to-the-point, practical, very clean and orderly. And from that image or orderliness, we form in our minds an image of God’s Kingdom as being well-ordered. Certainly, there is something to that. And we hope for it. We hope for the Kingdom of heaven, the Kingdom of order, the Kingdom where everything and everybody has their place and there is perfect harmony.
But then Jesus gives us a very different image of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed; the Kingdom is like a pain-in-the-neck weed that grows into a big, fat, ugly bush, with branches going every which way, and you just can’t get rid of it.
And then the Kingdom of heaven is also like yeast—yeast, a symbol in the old days of evil and corruption; the kind that infiltrates and undermines society. The Kingdom of heaven is like . . . illegal drugs; it’s like pornography; it’s like spousal abuse that nobody sees. To Jewish ears, and to ours, that’s a pretty shocking thing to hear. That’s what the Kingdom of heaven is like—according to Jesus.
Of course, those are parables. The Kingdom of heaven isn’t evil and it isn’t an ugly weed. But the Kingdom is the kind of thing that infiltrates and undermines a society that is unjust and idolatrous. And to those who are spiritually blind, it is an ugly thing—I mean, just look at all the people Jesus lets in the door! Tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners and saints, conservatives, liberals, blacks and whites, Latinos and Asians, loud mouths and quiet people, gay people, straight people, divorced and remarried people, homeless people, the rich and the not-so-rich; ugly people, pretty people . . .
The Kingdom is either an ugly, untidy bush . . . or it’s like a shining diamond with so many facets we can’t possibly see them all. Depends on how you look at it—and whether or not we pray for God’s Kingdom to come or for our kingdom to come. But, being a people of faith who wait patiently and soberly for God, we pray: Thy Kingdom come. Whatever it is and however it comes, we trust in you. May Thy Kingdom come.