The Reign of God as beginning here means there is no line - no waiting - no special passes needed - no need to move to another place in order to be within the domain of God's Reign. When we roll or spring out of bed - we are there in the middle of it. When we strap ourselves into our cars or step onto the bus or straddle our bikes - we are there in the middle of it. When we are on vacation - we are in the middle of it. The Reign of God as beginning is the Reign that is at hand. It is always ready for us to walk in the midst of the life it brings in every time and in every place. The moment at hand may hand us a terrible situation that is in need of a glimpse of the Reign of God. We are invited to be that glimpse of the Reign of our God as it would appear in real time and in real life. Each episode in this unveiling of God's Reign in and through our lives may not change the world. And yet, we still unveil it as we engage those around us. We may be one voice or one act in time - but we are that glimpse that many people long to see and hear. Today we will all be drawn into moments of God's Reign that becomes available to others through us. And - we may find that others become the presence of God's Reign for us.
O God of love and new life, always shape our day with the presence of your Reign and the life it offers for all. Amen.
The Reign of God as beginning here starts with something as simple as a thought. Maybe it is with something as simple as a small act of mercy or kindness or solidarity with someone left out. Maybe it is with words that offer encouragement and hope to another person. I watched a video of a council man in Texas who spent fifteen minutes at a council meeting telling his story. He had heard about too many GLBT teens who took their own lives. The pressure was too great for them - the verbal abuse - the rejection - the loneliness - the ridicule - the inability to 'fit in' to the dominant culture that usually is not very kind to any minority. So he spoke up to offer a story of someone who was able to grow up in such a world - and make a life that was creative and wonder-filled. The Reign of God as beginning here is when each of us does that - when we become the voice and action that brings hope to the world around us - a hope that opens up the future. There are too many voices that sound like hell and to make matters worse, they sugar-coat their hell with religious words - even when there are enough of us to say those hell-bent words are not a part of Scripture. And where they may be there for some folks - it is not consistent with the word of grace that is the hallmark of God's Reign dripping from the fullness of Scripture. The Reign of God as beginning is also the reality of the end - the word of grace never changes even when we try like hell to turn it into a bit of hell on earth for those folks we don't like - cannot understand - fear - or simply want to have someone to blame for anything that may be wrong in the world. When the Reign of God starts to smell and sound and taste like hell - it is. The old word used here is 'repent' - that is, turn and grab hold of the real Reign of God that is beginning here - right here.
O God of love and new life, shape our lives by the power of your Holy Spirit that we may be for the world a living word of hope that is able to ignites hearts and bring peace to all. Amen.
The Reign of God as beginning here is part of the vision of the parables of the Kingdom of God. In those parables something is happening now. The leaven is working - the mustard seed is not staying with that smallest of the seeds talk - stuff is beginning to happen now and it will have something to say about tomorrow when tomorrow gets here. For now, the Reign of God as beginning here is the life into which we are invited to play and live and love even if no one else in the world will join in and even when most everyone in the world thinks that such living is foolishness. The Reign of God as beginning here is not about 'maybe next time' or 'that is not practical' or 'what if this...what if that'. It is about let's go - let's be - let's jump in - let's march for a life that is not yet the life everyone has. In a world that has oh so many ways of limiting who is able to be in and who will be served and who will benefit from our goodness - God's Reign simply throws out the net and there we are - fully abundant - fully mixed up and confused - fully too much trouble for all the folks whose lives are fixed on sorting and picking and judging who are the keepers. The Reign of God as beginning here is that door to the church that is wide open and the people inside who help make everyone who enters a part of the household. It is also the door to the church that sends us out so that when we encounter the world around us, it is as though we never left the character of the body behind for next Sunday. It begins here - and here - is always right here.
O God of love and new life, let the wind of new life lift us up again today. Amen.
The Reign of God as beginning here takes us away from the waiting and delivers us into the hands of the God who is at hand. This is how we take the Reign of God as a serious reality and a precious hope. Each moment of our lives becomes the time of the in-breaking of God's Reign into the days we would usually see as ordinary - as days waiting for something else. Each moment also becomes the day we have hoped would come. The Reign of God as beginning here is the beginning of that victory announced last week. Now becomes the time in which God's victory is at hand - we are invited to step into it and live as though it is a reality for us even though the world around us cannot see it and will not acknowledge it. The Reign of God as beginning now happens even as we are reading this at this moment - look around. It all looks just as it was a few moments ago. That is the point. The Reign of God as beginning now will be the unfolding of the character of God's Reign that looks like the world we sometimes want to flee - and we are invited to be a part of that character - a witness to the Reign alive.
O God of love and new life, keep us ever present in your Reign as it comes down around us and among us. Amen.
The Reign of God as victory is when the power of death - that power we all seem to point at as being 'out there' and yet it is just as much 'in here' - has lost its hold over all sides. It is when neither side has to make the end come out in our favor or we will lose. Rather, the Reign of God as victory takes place as we give no room for the power of death to rule how we will move into the future. This is a victory over death by simply not living by death's rules. Death is about division - the Reign of God is about healing and reconciliation. We will not play the games of the powers outside of the Reign of God. The Reign of God as victory is not even a battle plan to defeat the powers of death as in we will get you and we will destroy you. Instead, victory comes by putting to life the life that vulnerably opens our hearts to the reception of the power of death so that they too can be transformed and death - we might say - is no more.
O God of love and new life, lead us into the victorious peace of your Reign even as we find life being transformed all around us. Amen.
The Reign of God as victory is an adventure in truth-telling. For we are invited to reveal what we are doing - what we are plotting - what we envy and lust after. Who wants to do that?! We are also invited to speak of our hopes and dreams - to expose our hearts to the other. The Reign of God as victory is shaped by everyone laying their cards on the table and then, together, asking 'now what.' What must we do to heal one another? This is not a victory in which my side is healed and made whole. It is the adventure of mutual healing and the healing of the life between us. The Reign of God as victory must be filled with the courage and boldness to say what needs to be said - reveal secrets and ask for secrets to be unveiled. That is always a risk-taking adventure. No one really likes to look vulnerable to the other side - even when we are in 'loving' relationships. And yet, for the relationships to grow in a holistic fashion, truth-telling is an essential building block.
O God of love and new life, nurture vulnerable hearts in all your people. Amen.
The Reign of God as victory is - as James Alison notes - the creation of a new 'we'. Maybe that is why we never pursue that kind of victory. It means we will not come out just as we have always been. It means we must give up something or change something for this kind of victory. And yet, that is why we so often go to war - to make sure we never lose anything or have to give up what we claim is ours. The Reign of God as victory is so alien of a reality, that when we see signs of it appearing in the everyday world, we wonder what is wrong. If a diplomat presses for dialogue and that dialogue counts on a depth of reconciliation that will transform both sides and make for a new relationship never before practiced, that diplomat will be shunned and mocked. It is unrealistic in our world. The Reign of God as victory does not seek to find what is realistic - it seeks to find what will heal and make all things new. A realistic resolution to war and violence usually means - how can we still hold onto our power - our way - our wants. At that point the sides make bargains that are just waiting to be broken so that the machines of violence and war will be able to reengage The Reign of God as victory is not bargain based. It not about finding that onto which we can still have a hold. It is about finding how both sides can let go and step into an alien future of trust and reconciliation. It takes courage on all sides.
O God of love and new life, encourage us to pursue the grand victory of your Reigning peace. Amen.
The Reign of God as victory asks the 'other side' what is needed for peace to reign among us. It is a dialogue that is always moving toward the well-being of the other and ourselves. This kind of victory will insist on sacrifice by all because we will all need to redefine what makes for life that will truly bring the rest that peace is meant to hand us. The Reign of God as victory does not enter into such a dialogue as though one side has more power or a greater claim on how things will be resolved. This victory will come as both sides come to the end of the dialogue and can honestly feel a peace and know that there can be rest for all. The Reign of God as victory becomes a never-ending dialogue. For as we all know, there will be this or that happening around us that is able to tip the boat or knock over what we all spent time creating. So the talk must always be open and the openness must be willing to re-evaluate how time changes what victory for all may mean.
O God of love and new life, inspire us to be watchful of how peace may need to expand among us so that we are never pulled into the old patterns of warfare. Amen.
The Reign of God as victory is something I am borrowing from a comment made by James Alison. In the world, the victorious are those who have been able to subdue or defeat the other. When we see the Reign of God as victory, we must take another look at what victory means. No longer is it something that is accomplished over and against another person or another people. The Reign of God as victory is when those who would be on opposite sides - in which there would usually be warfare and death and victors - find themselves involved in the work of reconciliation. Therefore, the conflict in Israel and Gaza will only be considered a 'victory' if there is reconciliation and justice and peace and healing. If that is not the victory, it is not a victory that gives witness to the Reign of God. Instead, it is the same victory that brings death and threat of death and the inhumane treatment of one people by another. Neither side can make a claim to be God's people. The Reign of God as victory opens up space for something new to emerge and grow. Death is not a part of the calculation within this newness. Victory is about life for all and the well-being of all. We cannot move into that character of the Reign of God as victory when we wave guns, drive tanks, fly loaded drones, and operate out of threat. For when we act in that pattern, we show just how much we are unable or unwilling to reside in God's Reign.
O God of love and new life, teach us to share the victory that heals our humanity and the world. Amen.
The Reign of God as in Christ is a place to rest. We can rest because the image of the Christ gives us a notion of the peace and forgiveness and mercy and kindness that will be present as God's Reign unfolds around us. We can rest because that character is already there - we enter into it by way of a wide-open invitation that is free for all. We do not work our way into this place - we cannot. It is more like a breath of fresh air that is a part of us before we even know that we have taken a breath. The Reign of God as in Christ is already the reality of our lives. Now, breath it in and live - in Christ.
O God of love and new life, as you Reign unfolds around us we give you thanks for the sweet smell of your graciousness and love. Amen.
The Reign of God as in Christ tells us something about the character of life within the Reign of God. It will look like the many visions of the Christ that come to us through Scripture. They are not just visions of what could be, they are visions of what is presently unfolding. When we are in Christ, the Reign of God is visible to the world and our lives begin to be shaped by the hopes and dreams of what the Messiah or Christ will be. And then, moment by moment, as our lives unfold within that vision of the Christ the Reign of God becomes visible in ordinary time. Being in Christ is always a statement about a life. The Reign of God as in Christ is also always about a life that engages the day with the values of the Christ becoming flesh of our flesh. In Christ is never a mere agreement to a list of propositions. It is always the unfolding of God's Reign - now.
O God of love and new life, keep inviting us into the unfolding of your Reign. Amen.
The Reign of God as in Christ is already at hand. In the gospels we hear language like the 'kingdom of God is at hand' and many folks don't know what to do with that. Was it a statement about that one time when Jesus was living into the vision of God's Reign. Well, yes and more. The Reign of God as in Christ is also what is at hand when the story in Acts tells of Jesus' ascension. There in the life of that body of saints - that remnant - that fear-filled but ready to live community - life 'in Christ' blossoms. We cannot stop there. We cannot leave the reality of being 'in Christ' as a time that has gone by and is over - something to be examined like an archeological site. The Reign of God as in Christ may be right in front of us looking like an ordinary day and yet ready to unfold with the trapping of God's Reign taking us up into all of its glory in the flesh. I would suggest that we are taken up into it - we are moved or pulled or nudged - into the experience of 'in Christ' and into the experience of God's Reign at hand. Now, we need only see that it is indeed at hand. I think that is why we say "Come! Holy Spirit! Come!". We long to step right into it and yet we seem to also want to stay put - so we call out for help.
O God of love and new life, move us again today into the life that unfolds in your Reign. Amen.
The Reign of God as in Christ is an invitation into a life and it is a challenge. Like any invitation, we must understand what it means to accept the invitation. Already within the Reign of God is a peace that brews peace - a love that stirs up love - justice that spread more justice - mercy that is endlessly merciful. That is not the usual kind of place we choose to live. We are used to holding back and letting war persist - letting justice be ignored - laughing at mercy - considering love as a waste of time. So, the invitation is one that offers us space in another world that is not like the one we fall into so easily. The Reign of God as in Christ is the power that moves us into new life. We are in the life that is meant to be alive as the vision of the Christ. This is a bold new day. We will be challenged to step out into the life of the Christ knowing that the Christ is with us and we are in the Christ. Though that is easy to say, it will always take us out of our way and introduce us to the pathway of martyrs and saints and wanderers who have been draw to a vision that is more than the ones we try to make for ourselves.
O God of love and new life, challenge our hearts to be open to how your Wind of Life will move us into the center of your Reign. Amen.