Tag Archives: His Kingdom

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Grief Relief

‘Let the dead bury their own dead. You go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.’  (LK 9:60)

Resurrection flies in the face of the sorrows we nurture and the Jesus we tend to conform to the image of our sorrows.

Jesus on the other hand broke the back of grief by assuming it at Calvary. If the Gospel accounts of His rising are true, He does not tolerate for long our weeping at His Cross and tomb. He simply has too much for us to do. He conquered death and wants us to join in the dance of new life, something strange and unsettling for us who are more acquainted with grief than glory. We who mope need the marvel of Easter.

Take Mary Magdalene. Her whole life was bound up in Jesus, in an intimate bond of love with the One who delivered her then died. Her grief over His departure kept her glued to the tomb; sadness slowed her down, and compelled her to wait there. Even then, she could not recognize Him when He, raised and radiant, appeared to her (JN 20: 10-18).

When she did recognize Him, her tendency may have been to grasp. We like Mary tend to make Jesus in our own image, according to the old vision and version of how things were. Mary wept for what used to be with Jesus; when He appeared to her post-crucifixion, everything had changed. That requires a deft hand and heart to all who welcome His resurrection. ‘Don’t hold onto Me, Mary!’ were Jesus’ comforting words (v.17).

We need to hear those words as well. Life is full of disappointments that can become big as tombs unless we fix our eyes on the One who lives and yet who is never quite within our grasp, always free to show us the Life waiting to emerge from our little deaths. That means letting go of the past, especially the past now made perfect in our deceptive memories as an antidote for today’s uncertainty. We need to let go of the past in order to hear Jesus now.

Our certainty is Christ Resurrected. He rents our veil of tears over and over until joy supersedes sorrow and enables us to face hardship with expectancy. Easter’s marvel? Jesus makes us more alive than before through every strange twist and turn. Death is not the end. The end is Life.

Download PDF

Ascending Fear: Jesus’ Absence and Our Authority

Ascension of Christ. Woodcut after a drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (German painter, 1794 - 1872), published in 1877.

‘Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.’ (Jn 16:6)

Jesus had to leave us in order to liberate us. He had to depart in order to give us power. But for the disciples, Jesus’ ascension back to the Father may have felt more like abandonment than the assurance of authority.

Think about it. Jesus’ followers just got in the groove with the Resurrected Christ. (It took a while–remember? They failed to recognize him for days!) Just when they were in step with Him, the Lamb is swallowed up by a cloud. (Acts 1:9)

Jesus, now absent, gives disciples like us His Spirit—powerful and pervasive, but unseen. The Spirit demands our faith and action based on His leading. Yet His instructions are more whispers than proclamations. And we are imperfect ‘receptors’ at best, as inclined to our own darkness as we are to the light. How we long for Jesus-in-the-flesh declaring: ‘This is the way; walk in it!’

That means that we His disciples have to face our fears of ourselves: Can we do this? Was that a prophetic dream or a delusion? What if we obey that still small voice and turn out to be wrong?

What a risky God—entrusting us with continuing His reign of heaven on earth.

Scary stuff! I remember what I felt to be the Spirit’s leading to attend a university discussion on ‘Homosexuality, the Bible and Faith.’ In spite of all the major denominations represented, the course had little to do with any genuine respect for the Bible or faith; it was intent only on asserting ‘gay rights.’

I had only been a Christian for 6 months but I already knew that no-one there knew anything about genuine conversion. So I said so: ‘If Jesus really died for us, then we must die to our right to assert anything other than His rule and reign in our lives.’ I wasn’t voted most popular student that year.

But I did grow in faith because I learned to follow His lead. And He trusted me to step out, however awkwardly, and proclaim His rule and reign. He does so with any willing vessel.

This is the principle of Ascension: He must depart in order for His Spirit to empower us to extend His Kingdom on earth.

That principle applies to our letting people go in order to help them grow. Our releasing them releases the Spirit who will lead them beyond where we can take them.

I see this all the time in ministry. In order for men and women to become leaders, I must release them to step out and take risks. They won’t rely upon the Spirit as much if I am around. My presence may well be quenching the very Spirit that is straining to do great things through them.

‘Anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.’ (Jn 14:12)

I also see this in parenting. Annette and I and most of our friends worked hard to be the best parents possible. And then, guess what? It isn’t enough! Our kids may still make bad, Spirit-free choices that grieve us terribly. That’s where Ascension comes in. Our kids’ departure from the Light doesn’t stop the Spirit from brooding, imploring, and ordering all things for the good in their lives.

But parents get in the way of Holy Spirit when we try to be that Spirit. Like Jesus Himself, we must entrust our kids to the One who knows and loves best. We do our part yes—but it is the wise parent who knows when (s)he can do no more but pray. Confessing our fears and controlling schemes only to God, we entrust the son or daughter to the Ultimate Parent. His Spirit will have His Way.

Ascension reduces us to prayer. We grieve and let go and make room for God. Jesus left in order to free us to become people of the Spirit. Might we do the same for those we love most?

‘You may ask for anything in My Name, and I will do it.’ (Jn 14:14)

‘When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you [and your loved ones!] into all truth.’ (Jn 16:13)

Download PDF

Pray More

‘Patience, prayer and silence—these are what give strength to the soul.’ St. Faustina

If we want to be more like Jesus, we must be with Him more. And do less of everything else. Our roots must sink and stay deep in the Source if we want to bear fruit that remains.

I do badly when first thoughts of the day revolve around unsolved problems. I start striving, and my words and actions become cutting. I know right away that I am not in Christ; I am worldly, and thus unable reveal Him to the world.

I used to wake up each morning and see if the little red light was flashing on my phone. My first thought of the day revolved around which text or email or phone message needed me. One morning, weary and anxious after a fitful sleep, I bawled out a colleague who had left a disturbing message during the night.

So the next morning I bypassed the phone; I vowed to pray for a good while before anything else.

I cannot live like a Christian unless I am founded in Christ. That means opening my heart and hands to Him in quiet before saying anything to anybody. My loved ones deserve better.

And Jesus expects more of me, and of all who claim to know Him. He said that ‘unless our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees, we won’t enter His Kingdom.’ (Matt. 5:20) Contrary to popular opinion, the Pharisees were good, conscientious people. But Jesus raises the bar for everyone when He equates murder with bawling out a colleague and adultery with thinking lustfully of another. He then broadens ‘loved ones’ to those who hate us and treat us cruelly.

How can we love like that–purely, gently, non-defensively–without more of Him? We need to go deeper in Christ if our love is to exceed the Pharisees’.

Pray more. Do and say less. Let what you say and do arise out of increasing times of silence before Him. Judge the fruit yourself. Do we manifest love, peace, joy and self-control? Or anger, lust, and self-vindication?

‘Let those who are singularly active, who think they can win the world with their preaching and exterior works, observe here that they would profit the church and please God much more…if they were to spend at least half of this time with God in prayer…They would certainly accomplish more, and with less labor, by one work than they otherwise would by a thousand…Without prayer they would do a great deal of hammering but accomplish little, and sometimes nothing, and even at times cause harm.’ St. John of the Cross

Download PDF

Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 2

This is the second post of my Holy Week Meditations for 2012. Please click here for the archive list of posts as they become available.

Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditation, 2

Luke 7: 36-50 introduces us to Mary Magdalene. Mercy drew her out of fear and shame, and compelled her to offer herself to Him. Jesus embodied that Mercy for a prostitute. Imagine that: a kind, strong, handsome man who only wanted her good, nothing from her but her dignity. And a holy man who did not fear her and the entanglement of desires she lay at His feet.

She wept and lingered there. His Mercy was magnetic, a good match for her courage in abiding there as the Pharisee looked on aghast. She demonstrated from the start the transformation of intimacy: abundant Mercy provoking a wholehearted response.

Weeping and lingering. What else better defines intimate reliance upon another but weeping and lingering? Love alone provokes tears for another; love alone compels us to wait, to abide, to linger. These simple expressions of intimacy—tears and lingering—are the basis for Mary’s authority.

In Christ, this woman of many men recognized the Real Thing—the Source of unfailing love. Perhaps some of us have experienced times where Mercy drew us out and compelled us to pour out our broken hearts before Him. Mercy primed us, the dam broke, and we arose from the puddle grateful and slightly embarrassed.

The challenge? Walking out the ‘encounter.’ A weepy interlude based on recognizing the Christ must become ongoing reliance upon Him. Divine romance is easy; marriage is hard. Long after the chemical charge, we wake up in a lonely bed and must make the daily effort to probe the unseen Reality of Christ-with-us.

Mary helps us here. Soon after her encounter with the Luke 7 account, we become aware that Magdalene was among a small group of women who accompanied the disciples and Jesus as He traveled from one town to another; according to Scripture, these women provided for the Kingdom band with their own funds. (Lk 8: 1-3)

In other words, she followed Him. Her surrender to Him was ongoing and included her time, her money, and what we can assume were ongoing gestures of care. Matthew describes Mary and her band of Jesus’ supporters as those who followed Him in order ‘to care for His needs.’ (Matt. 27:55)

Caring for Jesus’ needs. How do we do that today? Certainly by spending time with Him, taking in His Words, exhaling ours, giving Him the treasure of our time. And by advancing His rule and reign by offering ourselves to those we love most, which must include the lost and least if we are to care for those He loves most.

We can assume that Mary’s intimacy with Jesus involved both prayerful lingering before Him, and weeping with those who weep. His Kingdom became hers; she immersed herself in His world. Mary Magdalene embodied the words of St. Faustina Kowalska: ‘The more I have known You Jesus, the more I desire You.’

This is the bond He loves, a bond He vows not to break, an intimacy with us that surpasses whatever kingdom He called us out of. Dylan was right: ‘You gotta serve somebody’, be it a pimp, a fantasy, or your own defended self.

Like Mary, let’s seek and serve Jesus. Let us depend on Him. He offers us Mercy, His beauty, unseen but more real and true than any of His creations. Truly He is worthy of our surrender, a life yielded to His.

Download PDF

The Kingdom Among Us

I have never been quite comfortable with Luke 17:21 : ‘The Kingdom of God is within you.’ Here Jesus responds to Pharisaic questions about the nature of His Kingdom. His answer seems to feed that highly individualized, American approach to life: trust no-one, rely only upon the God-within. When the Kingdom around us falters, we pack our Bibles, stifle our wounds, and carry God-with-us into the formation of yet another ‘church’.

Does Luke 17:25 reduce His Kingdom, that swirl of holy creativity in which the blind receive sight, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and the mute shout for joy, to the kingdom of self? Then I read that the Greek word for ‘within’ can be translated ‘among’. A light dawned: the ‘Kingdom is among us’ points to the whole Body of Christ in which each must bring his/her gift and offer it to others.

In other words, the Kingdom is not mostly an interior gift that we contain and brood over as a mystery; the Kingdom is a powerful current of divine gifts that He intends to give one to another. That means that we first must gather, in expectation. And then it means that each one must do his/her part by giving the gift. It may be an encouragement, a word of knowledge or wisdom; it could be a type of discernment or prophecy, maybe a leading to pray for another’s healing.

The point is: the Kingdom ‘among us’ calls us out of ourselves and into the one Body where He dwells. It is a level playing field where all are receptors and extenders of God’s Kingdom gifts. God gives His gifts freely to all who seek His face and the good of His Church.

He loves to act through us. Imagine how much He loves His broken bride! Does He not want to act to extend His Kingdom rule over and through her? That means we each must do our part, attending to His leadings and activating them by releasing a word, a prayer, some act of Kingdom encouragement to the one next to us.

Last week, amid all the holiday hustle, a group of us paused for a few hours just to listen to His voice and to pray for one another. The Spirit of His Kingdom was sweet and strong among us. Words of confirmation, clarity, and gentle challenge moved among us; it was a feast of God-with-us, the Spirit brooding and depositing His rich life in us. I ate then and am still savoring now the riches I received that day as we discovered afresh His Kingdom among us.

Download PDF
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: