Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Kingdom of God

Today's post comes courtesy of John Vest, associate pastor for youth ministry at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.

Fourth was DairyStateMom's previous church, before she moved north of the border to become DairyStateMom; she still gets the church's daily devotions on e-mail. Mr. Vest's devotion for today, January 5th, is a timely reminder that Christianity is not the exclusive province of the fundamentalists whose particular take on the religion dominates both the media and the head-space of Christianity's harshest critics.

I reprint it here with Mr. Vest's kind permission. As he told me, "It certainly looks like we share some common callings." Indeed, it does.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Scripture Reading: Revelation 21:1-4
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
"See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away." (NRSV)

The kind of Christianity I grew up in was all about what happens when you die. The goal of life was to make it into heaven instead of hell, and the way to do that was to profess faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior--which really meant to accept a narrowly defined list of doctrines as the absolute truth. Apart from this kind of "faith" and this kind of orthodoxy, neither truth nor eternal life were possible.

After many years of wrestling with this kind of Christianity, and with the help of many faithful companions and spiritual leaders, I arrived at the conclusion that this is not what authentic Christianity is about at all. Instead, Christianity is about the kingdom of God. And the kingdom of God that Jesus talked about is right here and right now. Life isn't about preparing for the afterlife. The gospel isn't good news deferred; it is good news for today. It is the hope and promise and inspiration for nothing less than the transformation of the world.

That is what John of Patmos envisioned when he wrote about a new heaven and a new earth. It isn't about us going to heaven; it's about heaven coming to us. As Jesus put it, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

This is some good news that the world needs to hear from the church. Let's not be timid about sharing it.


God, help me to be an active agent of your transforming love. Inspire me with a vision of your kingdom, and give me the courage to be a part of it now. Amen.

Written by John W. Vest,
Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry
Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, DSD. There is indeed plenty we can find compatible with UU approaches in Christianity beyond its very vocal fundamentalist reaches. And it's been around a long time, the thrust toward life not death.

    I remember, years ago when Walter and I visited Sabbathday Lake in Maine and toured the Shaker complex there, being shocked and impressed to learn that in Shaker theology the Second Coming was not a future event but one that happened in the living soul of every believer - essentially another terminology for the annointing or indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Something related to life, not Judgment.

    And then, if you go back to the gospels, the J-man himself defines social justice action as the thing that merits reward and lack of social justice action as the thing that merits condemnation. Nothing ethereal or theological, but how we treat others here and now.

    We've got a lot more potential common ground with non-fundamentalist non-UUs than we (I) sometimes realize, faced so frequently as some of us are with fundamentalists.


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