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Your Kingdom Come?   

6 months ago

This week ReSource Minister Revd Dr Rod Allon-Smith shares a challenging word, inspiring us to enlarge our vision of the kingdom!

Recently, I was speaking to a group about how particular themes from Luke’s writings in the gospel and Acts have a direct bearing on approaches to mission today.  One question that arose was “What do you mean by the kingdom”? Initially I was a little taken aback, that a longstanding churchgoer should be somewhat uncertain about a definition of the ‘kingdom of God’; but on reflection thought it a good question.  It’s a term which, in Christian circles, could be taken for granted.  As social circumstances change, it may need revisiting and clarification.

When the disciples asked Jesus ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ (Luke 11: 1), after addressing God as Father the words ‘Your kingdom come’ is the first petition.  Many of us will pray this daily, or regularly.  

Historically, of course, the term kingdom would be an expression for any realm or province where political power was exercised by a monarch, expressing sovereignty and the extent of their influence.  In an age of liberal democracies, such an understanding may seem outdated, and not very helpful in describing more complex systems in the modern world.  Issues to do with authority, power or control need careful and sensitive treatment, where community, political or legal boundaries set the terms of the debate.  The term ‘kingdom’ can also, of course, refer to broad categories in the natural world – such as animal, vegetable and mineral; and today organisations in the commercial world, such as ‘google’ or ‘amazon’, operate within the  terms of what can appear as their own  ‘fiefdom’. 

Currently, conflicts over Ukraine raise issues of authority, autocracy, dictatorship and power.  These events remind us that political expressions of ‘kingdom’ can express the character of dictatorships or abuse.  Seeing Ukraine as a part of Russia and not an independent nation is held out as justification by Putin for his actions; but it is less than a century since ‘lebensraum’ was a motivating ideology for Hitler.  History does seem to  repeat itself sometimes, and is littered with the plots and ambitions of tyrannical leaders.  The abuses of kingdom ideologies are well documented.

If the language of ‘kingdom’, as we think Jesus intended, is to be authentic, reflecting good and Godly characteristics, we may need to reimagine it as an expression of the values that God intends, and enlarge our vision. The ‘rule of God’, which we sometimes use as a shorthand when referring to the kingdom, highlights qualities and dynamics that are expressed in loving , merciful relationships and flourishing communities which chart their life on their decisions informed by God’s character, love, mercy and grace.

Of many hymns about the ‘kingdom of God’, one of my favourites is that by Brian A Rees: ‘The kingdom of God is justice and joy, for Jesus destroys what sin would destroy - -etc.”. After an affirmative opening, over five verses it summarises the characteristics of this kingdom as including justice, joy, mercy, grace, challenge, choice, gift and goal. The hymn suggests that as these qualities are lived by ‘heirs of the kingdom’, we get to know God’s power and glory in Jesus, captives are freed, sinners find place, and the outcast are welcomed.

It was Lesslie Newbigin in The Gospel in a Pluralist Society who wrote: “How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross?  I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic (interpretation /demonstration) of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it”.

The gospel is Good News, to be proclaimed as a vision of a Godly kingdom in which humans – personally, and in community - are liberated, released and made whole as kingdom life is grown in and through our lives.  As the church, that is surely a challenge to us – to open the doors and windows of our lives to enlarge our vision of the kingdom, that the Holy Spirit may blow through our churches with new kingdom life to God’s glory.

 Testimonial

"Many of our church community who were at the weekend appreciated the time and space that was given to hear from God’s word and for prayer, reflection and sharing with one another in smaller groups. They valued the opportunity to go deeper in their relationship with God, exploring and inviting the Holy Spirit to take them into a deeper encounter, leaving the weekend feeling encouraged and resourced to move forward and go deeper in their relationship with God"
Emmie Walford, St Luke’s and Emmanuel, West Kilburn