The Coming of the Kingdom
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”
~ Luke 17:20-21 (NRSV)
A few weeks ago, I experienced something that brought absolute tears to my eyes. You see, I had run into Walmart for a few things and, of course, it is back-to-school shopping time. I was surrounded by frazzled parents running themselves ragged looking for just the right lunchbox or notebook or box of crayons. There were tired kids crying, and I watched as a little girl, about five years old, argued with her mom because she didn’t want the practical pink lunchbox with the thermos that her mom had picked out. She wanted the one that looked like a sparkly purse with the Disney Princesses on it that not only cost twice as much but was so small, as her mom was trying to point out, that it would only fit a tiny package of crackers in it.
I smiled remembering those days, then quickly got the things that I needed and made my way to the checkout. Of course, since everyone was doing their back-to-school shopping, there were long lines everywhere you looked. I got in one line and waited as I watched a tired mom with a baby in one arm struggle to keep her three-year-old from jumping out of the carriage to grab all the candy in the checkout line in front of me. Behind me, I heard the very loud complaints from an elderly couple who couldn’t understand why parents today don’t discipline their children.
At that point, I probably should have been crying simply because of all the frustration and unhappiness around me. But it was what I witnessed on my way out of the store that caused me to sit in my car and cry like a baby – not tears of sadness, but tears of utter joy!
A dad was walking out in front of me with his two children. I would say that they were about four and six, and they were discussing what they should do for lunch. As they walked out the door into the sunlight, the six-year-old stopped in her tracks and screamed at the top of her lungs. “They’re here, they’re here!” she shouted. And she and her brother squealed with glee as they turned around and started to dance. I had no idea what they were talking about and neither did their dad, so he asked in a rather gruff voice, “What are you two doing?” “Look, they’re here!” She squealed again, “Our shadows, they’re here!” the little girl replied, and she had a smile a mile wide on her face.
At that moment, I looked down with a smile myself and realized that my shadow was there too; I just hadn’t noticed it. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’ve paid much attention to my shadow since my kids were little. Actually, I guess it’s always been there, but I’ve just been too busy with other things to pay attention to something as simple and ordinary as my shadow. And yet that little girl reminded me of how extraordinary my shadow actually is!
Well, I have to tell you, I learned more than I expected on my trip to Walmart that day. And that little girl reminded me of the utter joy that the simple things in life can bring. But even more importantly, she reminded me that I am surrounded by amazing things and gifts beyond measure, and what a gift that was! Because somehow I get too busy and I forget to even look for them.
Friends, in our scripture reading today, Jesus is being questioned by the Pharisees about the Kingdom of God. And they are asking a lot of questions that we many times ask ourselves. “When will the Kingdom of God come? How will we know? And what can we expect to happen when it arrives?” Now over the years, we have learned many things about the Kingdom of God. We have read parables that have told us that the kingdom of God is like the sower who sows seeds, or like a mustard seed, or like leaven in bread, or like treasure found in a field, or like a pearl of great value, or a net that is cast into the ocean to catch fish.
I find it interesting that each time Jesus is asked about the Kingdom of God, he tells a different story of some everyday, mundane thing that we don’t usually pay much attention to. But in today’s scripture reading, Jesus simply says, “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” There seems to be a little bit of disagreement between different translations of the Bible, so your Bible might read, “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” Or it “is among you.” Or some translations even say “The kingdom of God is within you.” But whatever words we use, I think the best news of all is that if the Kingdom of God is not something that we have to wait for. The Kingdom of God is here among us, in our midst, and within us. It’s all around us!
And it is like a Sower who sows seeds, and mustard seed. It’s leaven in bread, and a treasure in a field, and a pearl of great value, and a net that is cast into the ocean. And if it is like those things, then it must also be like listening to music and talking with a friend, washing the dishes and mowing the lawn. Riding a bike, shopping at Walmart, and watching our shadows dance on the sidewalk.
My friends, just imagine. What if the things that we see and do every day are all a part of the Kingdom of God? I wonder, would that make you look a little closer, and try a little harder and appreciate a little more?
Folks, so many times we run through our days waiting for someday when all we really need to do is open our eyes and our hearts to experience the Kingdom of God here today! Because as Jesus told us, “The kingdom of God is in our midst!” And that’s what makes the ordinary extraordinary, and it makes each and every moment sacred and holy.
Friends, in two weeks, we are going to be starting something called Household Huddle. It will take place the hour before worship when our kids used to gather for Sunday School. Household Huddle is a time to get our church household together to listen and to learn from one another. All ages will be working together, just like all ages worship together here in Oldtown. And because of that, I’m sure that there will be some moments when we need to have a little more patience and understanding. But I know that there will also be moments when our eyes will be opened to the presence of God in our midst. Because when all ages come together, and we each bring our gifts, we all become teachers and storytellers and guides along the path of life.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, and you find yourself surrounded by frustration and unhappiness and negativity, take a walk outside and find your shadow. And instead of waiting for someday, look a little closer at the ordinary things around you. Try a little harder to make the world a better place, appreciate a little more the gifts that we that so many times take for granted, and enjoy each and every moment, remembering just how sacred life is, because as Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is in our midst!”
My friends, may it be so! Thanks be to God. Amen!