The kingdom of God is like yeast…
Orphaned No More: Dreaming and Working for the Now and Not Yet Kingdom of God
By Shane Bennett
“It’s Sunday evening here in China and just two hours away from my hotel room, my son is getting ready to fall asleep for his last time in an orphanage. Tomorrow he’ll be an orphan no more.”
~ Written by a dear friend, April 10th, 2016
I’ve been wondering lately what the kingdom of God looks like and what the path is from here to there. It may be a little boy in China who didn’t fit and was cut free from all ties until someone found him and helped him find a place where he fits. After all, Paul said in Ephesians 1:5, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
Seriously? Great pleasure? That’s almost too good to be true. And maybe that’s one way to think of the kingdom of God. It’s his good pleasure worked out in real life on the earth.
Consider the Kingdom
If you grew up in church, as I did, the term “kingdom of God” has been in your psyche since you were young. It’s part of the insider vernacular, along with phrases like “bless her heart,” “love the sinner, hate the sin,” “glory” and “partake” (honestly, does anyone “partake” anything besides communion?) You know there’s something there, but the shorthand has become so common, the meaning is seldom considered.
Jesus said some confusing, amazing, earthy things about the kingdom of God. For starters: It’s at hand. Thoughtful Jews listening to him said, “What?!? We didn’t hear any explosions and the bad guys aren’t all dead. Are you sure you know what you mean when you say ‘kingdom of God’?” If they were surprised, I’d be arrogant to assume I won’t be surprised. But you and do I have the benefit of much time to consider the “kingdom of God is like” parables of Jesus.
A couple of them really connect for me these days.
Yeast and Dough
The kingdom of God is “like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” For me this speaks of the unabating nature of the kingdom. It will permeate all. It will accomplish God’s purposes. It’s relentless.
Wheat and Weeds
With that hope in mind, I also appreciate the one about the wheat and the weeds. Look around or just half-way pay attention and you can see there’s a lot of nastiness at work in the world: evil, brokenness, oppression, injustice, sickness, longing, and despair. Yet somehow the farmer has it in hand. He’s not surprised, nor is he absent. His eye is keenly on the harvest. I don’t get it, but then that has never been the arbiter of reality. The farmer says, “I’ve got this.” I’m filled with (sometimes cautious) hope.
Living in the Middle
George Ladd helped us understand what Jesus taught, that the kingdom of God is both now and not yet. It’s here and it’s on the way. We live in the middle, with the heaviest of lifting having already been done, but much work to do and many dreams to dream before the day ends (or dawns).
C.S. Lewis also gives us some potent kingdom metaphors in several of his books: the melting snows in springtime Narnia, the “more real than real” diamond-hard grass in The Great Divorce, or one that almost always makes me cry when Aslan tells the children in the beginning of the last chapter of The Last Battle, “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
Dream with Me
Dream with me for a minute: What will we see when God has finally answered with a resounding “YES!” the prayer Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:10, “Let your kingdom come, let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?”
What do you imagine the fullness of the kingdom of God on the earth looks like on that day? What does your neighborhood look like? Your house, your small group, your kids, your heart? Dream out beyond your situation. What does the world look like?
What comes to mind for you?
I imagine beauty and peace and justice. I dream about light and hope and cooperative productivity. But I confess, my dreams are vague and my imagination is anemic. And my participation in the kingdom’s advent is too often rather lame.
Just last week, I was working on a job for my wife’s business, cleaning out trash from an abandoned house. A little old lady came tottering down the alley, talking to no one we could see. She carried a bed spread still in original packaging and a small stuffed dog. She asked if she could poke through the trash we were loading onto the trailer. I didn’t know what to do for her and I didn’t care enough to try. Who knows how God may have wanted his kingdom to come that day. I’m pretty sure, though, in the kingdom that’s coming, she will not have been abandoned by her family, her husband will be true, and she won’t have to nick clothes from trash piles.
Serving in the Kingdom
Will you join me in the hard work of dreaming, announcing, and crafting the coming kingdom? It’s here now. As I write these words, I sense deeply that I am a forgiven child of the Most High God and that the words of Jesus I’ve been taught are words of life. We have hope; death is not the end. But the kingdom of God is also still on the way. We dream of an end to malaria, then work late nights in the lab searching for it. It’s on the way when we tell someone who’s never heard that we’ve found hope in Jesus. It’s on the way when we’re kind in word and deed to people like those Jesus was kind to. It’s on its way when we accurately identify our enemy and wield the power and authority of God to push back evil.
It’s an honor to be a kingdom apprentice with you, serving alongside intrepid sisters and brothers under the powerful leadership of a wise and good and relentless king.
If you’re willing, I’d love to hear your hopes and read about what images come to mind for you when you consider the fullness of God’s kingdom on earth.
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