I wonder what we think God’s kingdom, sometimes described as the kingdom of heaven in the Bible, is like? If you were to define the kingdom of heaven – how would you describe it? What is your version of heaven? If you’re a golfer – perhaps it’s a place where you always get holes-in-one? If you’re a baker, perhaps it’s a place where you always have the perfect rise on your cakes? If you’re a football fan – perhaps your team always win? But, but if that’s your version of heaven, of God’s Kingdom what would that mean for the fans of the team you beat? Perhaps your vision of heaven is a place where lots of little cherub angels play harp music all the time – but what about if you don’t like harp music? So how do we describe the kingdom of heaven?
In the Bible, Jesus would often use parables to describe the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is like…. and then he’d tell a parable to help explain. These parables are not just nice stories that Jesus tells us that help us understand his points better. They can sometimes serve as illustrations but they’re not very simple at all. The logic behind parables is often bizarre – perhaps because the kingdom of God is sometimes strange and it defies conventional wisdom. Take for example, the well-known parable of the mustard seed – the smallest of seeds that grows into the greatest of trees where birds shelter in its branches. We’re so used to such stories that we can domesticate them – but if we stop and think about this it might not be as easy to understand as it first seems. To begin with, mustard plants aren’t anything like trees – they’re a bit more like dandelions, they’re small and they grow all over the place. And what about the birds that Jesus describes – are they going to temporarily take shelter in the branches of the tree, are will they build nests there and produce little birds: could that end up feeling invasive or challenging to us. If we had a bird’s nest in our homes – what would that be like for us – it might lead to unexpected or unintended consequences for us. And yet Jesus tells us this is what God’s kingdom is like.
God’s kingdom is very difficult to pin down and it can be an elusive thing. God’s kingdom – which we might consider as being what things are like when God is in control is sometimes a difficult thing to rationalise. In these last months, during the pandemic, in these recent days of slowly moving out of lockdown – days that still hold huge challenges for people – I think I can
see little glimpses of God’s kingdom. Sometimes that’s in the surprising action that someone might take to care for another, sometimes that’s in the great resilience that people show despite the difficulties of their circumstances, sometimes it’s in small and unspectacular ways that might have unforeseen circumstances but I just sense of something of God’s kingdom in the stories people share with me.
My encouragement for these times and the times ahead is that we’re watchful for glimpses of God’s kingdom that we might just find God’s kingdom, the kingdom of heaven in some surprising places.
With my continued prayers and very best wishes.