The Weekly View - October 8, 2021
In This Issue
- Weekly Message from Rev. Joanne Whitt
- Weekly Facebook Video
- Announcements & Upcoming Events
- Outreach Opportunities & Updates
message from rev. whitt
Dear St. Luke family,
This coming Sunday we’ll explore a well-known passage in Mark’s gospel that is challenging for many reasons. One of the main reasons it’s challenging is that people misunderstand what Jesus means by the phrase, “the kingdom of God.” So, this is a quick refresher on “the kingdom of God.” It might help you this Sunday.
The kingdom of God was Jesus’ primary metaphor for what God wants for God’s world here and now – for what we mean when we say, “God’s will.” Author Brian McLaren tells a story about how his life and faith were forever changed during a 1994 conference of Christian leaders in Africa. A Burundi pastor named Claude said he realized his whole life had been lived against the backdrop of genocide and violence, poverty and corruption. He wondered, “Did God only care about our souls going to heaven after we died? Were hungry bellies unimportant to God? Was God unconcerned about our crying sons and our frightened daughters, our mothers hiding under beds, our fathers crouching by windows, unable to sleep because of gunfire? Or – did God send Jesus to teach us how to avoid genocide by learning to love each other, how to overcome tribalism and poverty by following his path, how to deal with injustice and corruption, how to make a better life here on earth?”
Claude said he’d come to realize, “Something was missing in the version of Christianity we received from the missionaries. The missionaries told us how to go to heaven. But they left out an important detail. They didn’t tell us how the will of God could be done on earth.”
Brian McLaren recognized immediately that this is not just an African problem. Over the course of the conference, the leaders talked about the kingdom of God, and how the message of the kingdom – contrary to popular belief even among many Christians still today – was not focused on how to escape this world and its problems by going to heaven after death, but instead, was focused on how God’s will could be done on earth, during this life. During a break in the conference, McLaren saw a woman from Burundi sitting at a table, her face hidden in her arms. He checked to see if she was okay. “I’m okay,” she said, “but I’m shaken up. … Today, for the first time, I see what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God. I see that it’s about changing this world, not just escaping it and retreating into our churches. If Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God is true, then everything must change. Everything must change.”
In this Sunday’s passage, we’ll hear Jesus say, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” He is not saying anything about whether a rich person will or will not go to heaven. He is saying it is very hard for people who are essentially comfortable to believe that everything must change, and to join in and pray for God’s saving work to create a kingdom, a unity of harmony and shalom for all of God’s creation that’s good for everyone beyond what we can imagine.
But that is what we pray for when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. We say the Lord’s Prayer so routinely that we might miss how revolutionary and challenging these particular words are. That’s why the petition about God’s will and about God’s kingdom go together. Thy kingdom come ON EARTH. Thy will be done ON EARTH. When we say the prayer, we usually put a pause in between “thy will be done” and “on earth.” In fact, our pew Bibles put a comma there. When we pause like that, it’s easier to imagine, as many folks do, that Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in heaven once we’re dead.” No. I checked with my friend the Greek scholar. There is no comma in the Greek text between “done” and “on earth.” This is what we should be saying, what Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth.”
There is plenty more that is challenging about the camel and the eye of the needle. Still, it doesn’t say anything about who is going to heaven after they die, and who isn’t. Stay tuned, and see you on Sunday!
Grace and peace,