In today’s Gospel Story we hear yet again, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. And in the Psalm we say, “The Lord is my light and salvation”. We hear these readings in the setting of a very divisive and dangerous world, an increasingly violent and truthless nation, and a fragmented church. We might wonder just what this “kingdom” is all about. The kingdom of God is what happens when Jesus’ followers take following him very seriously, and begin to do their best to live as he lived.
“The Lord is my light and salvation.” What does this mean? No doubt there is way more than one answer. Folks of a religious bent might say following the Lord is merely sticking with the tenets and rules of their particular religion. Ideally doctrines and tenets point beyond themselves to God, but many institutions in one way or another discourage going beyond literal and verbatim adherence. So many of us just keep worshipping Jesus and arguing about the right way to do it, setting up rules to keep people out rather than welcoming people in, making ourselves feel holy and safe, superior to those who do not think as we do, qualified to judge others on their goodness or holiness. It’s worth noting that Jesus never told his followers to worship him, but to follow him. It is a lot easier to worship him than to live as he lived. Christianity is a lifestyle, and we have made it into an established religion with several variations, each of which claims to be the only true one.
In Jesus’ day it was the outsiders, the folks on the bottom, who gathered around him and followed him, while the powerful, the insiders, those on the top were the ones who opposed and crucified him. This seems to continue today. Yet, much of the Gospels is written from the perspective of these outsiders.
Our response to the Kingdom is something intensely personal, yet definitely not private. We choose to be open to the Spirit, and to allow ourselves to be led wherever, or not. The Spirit always leads us to others, and as we consent to respond and be led, our part in the Kingdom happens. At times the Spirit may lead us just to be there for others, not knowing why, not to be right, to be appreciated, or anything for ourselves, just for the mystery of being open and trusting.
Do we really want the Lord to be our light and salvation? If we let him, suppose he were to show us things we don’t want to see because they would make us feel uncomfortable? Since the kingdom is about people, suppose he were to show us where we are actually working against the kingdom, perhaps keeping people out while he welcomed everybody?
Jesus’ main message was that Our Father loves each one of us as we are, no matter how many tell us otherwise because we are not living as they think we should, and that we have direct access to God ourselves, because we are in and of God. Our weakness is that we have no idea how much God loves us or what that means. We have learned from various systems the un-Jesus-like message that God loves us when we change, and how we are supposed to change depends on what religious tradition we are a part of. This is neither the Gospel nor the Kingdom. Jesus teaches us that we don’t change so God will love us, God loves us so we can change and become more and more open to grace, which is real, and grow into the fullness of how we are created, which is to be in relationship with everything that is. And so our awareness of our relationship with all in God grows and deepens.
In the Story Jesus calls the men to follow him, and they do so rather dramatically. There are times in our life when things happen, ether good or not so good, that give us the chance to look at where we are in our life, and perhaps where we are headed. At these times, open to the Lord our light and salvation, we might choose to make a change in how we live or how we see things. As we deal with what is going on in our life we sometimes sort things into good and bad. But life is one and what is, is. How we deal with it is what matters. When we let the Lord be our light and salvation we make an act of trust and go where it takes us. If we are afraid of God, the god we fear is the god we create for ourselves. The God Jesus shows us is the God who loves enough to create us as we are, and who is always with us. God is not a threatening judge who demands a code of conduct, but Someone who loves us as we are, is with us, and is very real — how real we gradually come to learn and experience. Experiencing God loving us is what moves us to change and grow into the fullness for which we are created. Often this one comes through other folks in our life. We learn we don’t have to know or have all the answers, and so we come to a way of trusting.
The Kingdom happens here and now as we really let the Lord be our light and salvation. We come to know God being God in our life, often through the people around us.
Just sayin . . .