An Anemic View of the Kingdom

I think those of us who participate in the life of the Church often promote an unhealthy attitude about what God can accomplish.  We underestimate God’s ability to work in our lives, in the work of the kingdom, in transformation.  And so we set the bar accordingly.  In other words, low.

We have a tendency, I believe, to think that we know how all this works.  That people don’t change, or that our lives—collectively and individually—will not get better.

And that anemic view of God’s kingdom holds us back.  It limits what we hope for.  It makes us hamstrung.

That’s not to say that I am promoting a “health and wealth” understanding of the faith.  I don’t think that God’s desire for Jesus’ disciples is to be wealthy.  Jesus himself was homeless, so I just can’t buy into that belief that some Christians hold on to dearly (and more often than not they are getting that idea from charismatic leaders who have created a lifestyle that others desire—yes, I’m looking at you, Joel Osteen).

This past Sunday those of us reading from the Revised Common Lectionary heard two parables about the kingdom of heaven starting small—with a mustard seed or some yeast—and getting to be huge.  Jesus was saying that the kingdom is like the energizer bunny, it just keeps growing.  It may look like it’s insignificant or too small, but it doesn’t stop.  And then it becomes a place where the birds can come and nest.

If he were living in the US today, Jesus might say the kingdom is like kudzu—that ivy like plant that has grown over tress, signs, even houses, in the southeast.  It doesn’t stop once it grows.  In fact, even though it lies dormant in the winter, in the spring it picks up where it left off.  The kingdom is like that.

People in my denomination sometimes dole out statistics about the church’s impending doom.  That somehow we can see the end of the church.  Nope, Jesus says.  While we like to sometimes latch on to scarcity and the frailty of God’s work, God pays no attention to what we think and keeps on working.  God wants to use us in that work to be sure, but even if we don’t God’s work continues.  The kingdom just keeps on growing.

So what view do you take of the kingdom of God?  Do you think of it as a dying vine or a flourishing tree?  Is your view of how God can work in our world—in your life—limited or is it hopeful that God will bring life?