Where is the Kingdom of God?

Gods-kingdom-and-willOver the last several days…
Weeks…
Okay, years…

I have read statements condemning those who don’t speak up. I have read statements saying that an individual should leave their congregation if their pastor does or does not say a particular thing. I have read statements saying that someone “can’t be a Christian” because of what they have said or done. I have even read statements condemning those who disagree with the author or even say the same thing, but in a different way.

I have read so much condemnation it is as if we, as a whole, have become so intent on making sure that those around us know “where they belong”, we have made our world a true living Hell.

My heart breaks for those who make these statements and for those who read them, wishing they could say something but they can’t find the words or the space to do so. My heart breaks for those affected by the situations which so many are speaking out both for and against. Mostly, though, my heart breaks for God who watches creation tear itself apart, claiming the destruction to be in God’s name.

My heart breaks because we are only moving further and further away from God’s kingdom here on earth.

 

I want to ask what a Facebook post will do when the author only sits at home, shaking their head at the TV. I want to ask what a sermon will do when the pastor has no backing from the congregation or when the congregation only nods along, no minds being changed because everyone already agrees (and those who do not agree have no space to safely say so). I want to ask what our words are worth if we are not doing something to fill them with love and action. I want to ask what a sermon is worth if it was only inspired by the judgment and condemnation of other clergy.

Someone once told me that this approach to change is full of privilege. I have spent a lot of time considering this and have to agree that yes, it is – in so many ways.

This approach is full of the privilege of God’s grace and a desire to share that with everyone and not just those who we agree with. This approach is full of the privilege of the unconditional love of God which we (or at least, I) struggle to comprehend and seek ways to emulate in all of our relationships. This approach is full of the privilege of relationships with individuals who, if we said everything we really wanted to, could be hurt far more than we can ever imagine.

This approach is full of the privilege of knowing that we have an incredible amount of privilege and knowing this, continually seek meaningful and appropriate ways of using it to bring about change – in the ways in which we live with others, speak with others, teach others, and learn from others; not just when we are angry with the government, but every single day in ways that are true to who God made each of us to be. This privilege of being an active part of the Body of Christ brings with it so much more weight than any other type of “privilege” could, because in the end doesn’t our relationship with Christ far outweigh our skin color, gender, sexuality or any other label created by humanity?

If we don’t stand up and speak out EVERY DAY, living our lives in the full light of the unity, equality, compassion, grace, peace, safety, freedom, and LOVE which is being called for EVERY SINGLE TIME these calls are made, then what good will it do to only stand up and speak out when something goes wrong? Who will listen to us if we let our calls expire as the news story changes?

If your pastor doesn’t preach on the current events and that is what you seek, ask them if you can help lead a discussion group. If your pastor prays for something you disagree with, ask them if you can chat over coffee.

If your parishioner storms out of the Sanctuary during worship, call them and ask if you can share a meal. If your parishioner sends an angry email on Monday, work with them to find ways to address the concerns of the wider congregation.

If your congregation won’t be able to hear the sermon that is on your heart, write it and save it for when they can and care for those hearts the best that you can until the time comes (if it ever does) to preach that sermon.

 

Not everybody is ready, not everybody is able, not everybody is at the point where they can stand up and speak out, and that is ok. We will get there each in our own time and in our own way. Condemning, chastising, punishing, and shaming are not the way to make it happen though. Encouraging, loving, welcoming, embracing, and seeking relationship through God’s love and grace for and with each and every single person – THAT is what will help each person find their voice. If that happens we begin to see God’s Kingdom being fulfilled and what will there be to speak out against?

I don’t know anywhere in scripture where we are taught to act in the way that so many are acting right now. I don’t remember ever reading a statement of Christ in which it was okay to be hateful for ANY reason. If our end goal is to bring God’s Kingdom to fulfillment, every step of the way should match that as well.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Transitional Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

Mercy Calls

field sport ball game
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon in March, one of my youth asked if I would join the church’s softball team he and his brother were starting. My desire to be back outside mixed with my desire to help this young man and his brother have this experience with their dad, got to me and I reluctantly said yes.

Let’s get one thing clear real quick – I don’t play softball. In fact, I barely understand the sport. My husband had way too much fun taking me shopping for a glove and explaining the basics of the sport to me, probably very confident that I would barely make it through one game (he wasn’t too far off).

Well, the time came and we had a practice or two before our games started. Our team was comprised of a handful of seniors from our youth group, a few young adults (including myself), and a few 40+ parents and church members. Some have more experience on the field than they are (still) letting on, and then others were right with me – wondering why the glove went on the wrong hand and what we actually call the game officials. Early on, we knew we were there for the fellowship of the game.

What I found interesting as we played each game was the attitude on the field. In a church softball league, I expected the teams to all be fairly similar to us – a group made up of individuals from all areas of the church, just looking for a fun night together. I was sadly mistaken. Many of the teams appeared to be leveled with an A, B, and sometimes a C team from a handful of churches. The desire to win filled the calls from the dugouts. The stress of the disputable call caused the occasional bat to hit the fence.

As our team watched the divide in the score grow with every ball we didn’t catch (and every ball I hit!), I began to wonder, “If this is a church league, where is the mercy?” (Unfortunately, we learned of the mercy rule soon after this thought!)

I have pondered this all season as I watch the attitudes of different teams. There have been games when I stood by my assigned base and chatted with whoever was standing there, waiting to make a run. We talked about our churches, our jobs, and how the team came together. We wished each other luck as the pitcher wound up and ran on our way once the ball was hit. There were also, unfortunately, several games in which the other team didn’t want to do anything other than crank out those runs and get us out as quickly as possible. The laughter and calls from the dugout only made it harder as we tried our best. The win was more important than the fellowship and relationship.

I think about my struggle and desire for mercy and can’t help but think of so many who I see everyday, asking the same question. The individuals who are just trying to pay for basic groceries, but the paycheck didn’t come on time. The family who is trying to give the kids everything they want, but the parent lost their job. The young student who is trying to get into college but can’t afford the application fee to even begin the process.

Where is the mercy? It is in our hands.

I wonder if we are so focused on winning the game that we forget the purpose of the game. Christ’s call to us to live with one another, sharing in God’s grace, is pushed to the side so that we can “on top” in the relationship. I wonder if our desire to get to home base has led us to miss those we are running past. I wonder if our focus on our own team is causing us to miss the brilliant plays by the other team. I wonder if winning a simple game has become more important than ushering in God’s Kingdom here on earth.

Now, I get what the goal of softball is (kinda) but if we can’t find and share mercy in a church league, where WILL we find mercy? Where will SHARE mercy?

Our team experienced one or two mercy calls this season, but I think we are ALL missing the greatest call for mercy right now. If we step back and look at who is around us as we strive to reach “home”, if we extend mercy and love to those we encounter and pass along the way, won’t it make that “home run” that much better?

This Christian life isn’t about the way the glove fits, how heavy the bat is, or whether or not the ball was actually in the strike zone or not (See? I did learn something this season!) This life isn’t about being the fastest around the bases or the most gruff in the dugout. This life is about being with one another and sharing in God’s mercy for each and every one of us.

The best part of the games this year was when the teams circled up around the pitcher’s mound at the close of the game. One player would lead the group in prayer, and usually they would ask if there were any prayer concerns. My prayer today is that we might all seek ways to share God’s mercy on our way to “home” and in that way, we might usher in the Kingdom of God here on earth and all high-five and say “Good game, y’all!”

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M. Div. ’14)
Transitional Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)