Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Kingdom Comes

This was inspired by Rick McKinley's book, The Beautiful Mess. It talks about three kinds of Kingdoms pursued by would-be followers of Jesus. The first is a kingdom where we continue to rule but invite Jesus to be our adviser and counselor. But Jesus has no interest in that, So we ask Jesus to sit on the throne and rule our kingdom - OUR kingdom. But he has no interest in that either. Finally we realize that we must surrender our little kingdom for the real thing - the Kingdom of God where Christ does not have to be invited to be king. He already is. So here it is.

A Kingdom Comes

The kingdom of God has come,
For all and not some, it is done by the on
He is Jesus the Son of God who is love
Above but not just there, like dust in the air
But everywhere and then everywhen
See him if you dare to open your eyes.
His call is clear to those who would hear
And enter with no fear to the kingdom drawn near.

And we answer with “yes” but is it just a guess
That we know what he came to show
Or are we too slow in our minds to find
The path of the one who said “Go”
Got out of your bed so
The world of the dead know
There is nothing to dread, no
And I have come for them; for life.

We respond to the king, the one who would bring
A song to sing in the shadow of a wing that protects the beloved.
But I am one, or some or none of what he desires
To inspire and fire and not be mired in the dim
Of my little kingdom, so tired.

At first to quench my thirst is a burst of passion
The latest fashion is Jesus the adviser
To the soul compromiser and reviser of truth
That cannot save or even cause me to behave
A slave who thinks he is the master, depraved.

But I end in disaster as my decline accelerates faster
Until I see the flaw of my throne retained
And I am drained of life in the strain to maintain a
Kingdom so plain and empty and far from life-giving.

So I surrender my crown to one more renowned
With words profound as he walked the ground
Of people like me, and now I see, or do I?

Jesus is now king, no loner me
He rules my kingdom from mountains to sea.
But is that what he wants? A kingdom to haunt, not his own
With a taunt from the fool who gave him the crown
Imagining Jesus would be my clown and smile
All the while I stay inside the turnstiles of my realm
Not matter the king. This is still my thing.

But Jesus says “no” to any stake in the rule of a kingdom so small
One so pretend that cannot contend
Or even defend itself against the truth of the real.
No appeal or remotest of zeal for ruling
A throne of my making, far from earth quaking
Or soul shaking, an exercise in spirit faking. And now it must fall.

Because God’s Kingdom is greater.
And he is no waiter here to serve my whim
Yet neither is he the grim and
Oppressive pantocrator I seem to fear
Or else I would also draw near to his kingdom and to him.

Yes, he rules in love as one above all other kingdoms and thrones
Of those who forever drone on and on and on about the
Life that they build, they imagine a sleigh filled with toys for the
Enterprising girls and boys who do it their way.

But I must leave behind
Receive sight as one blind but no longer so
And now able to go where I no longer run the show
As if I ever did, but now it is so.

Jesus is king and here is the thing I finally bring to this rhyme
A high truth worth the climb
It is Christ’s kingdom not mine.
Still he invites me in, out of the dim and grim
Of a kingdom pretend and into his loving rule.
And now I walk in. A wiser man from a fool.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

With a Capital "T" and That Rhymes with "P” and That Stands for "Politics"

What is it about a political season that makes Christians as well as those who oppose evangelical (with a little "e") Christianity lose their minds? We have two choices before us for president. But depending on the person speaking to me, my choices are either a right-winged puppet of George Bush who by virtue of his selection of Sara Palin wants to institute a theocracy that would suppress all individual rights and force all music stations to play the Gaither Trio's Classic Hymn Collection, twenty-four hours a day, or a communist-loving, terrorist-sympathizing radical Muslim who has been bred to do what he is doing because he is the anti-Christ.

And this kind of extreme and alarmist polemic is what passes for dialogue and discourse in our day. We've got t-r-o-u-b-l-e! I cannot really address those outside of the faith, because I am not one of them. All I can offer them is the example and testimony of one who by the power of God's grace, is striving like crazy to live and love as Jesus did. Nothing else I can offer is likely to influence them.

But for those of us in the Christian camp, can we just stop it? Please? In something I read recently, the author talked about Christians who often go through two incorrect understandings of the Kingdom of God before they get it right, if they ever do.

One idea is that we want Jesus to bless our rule of our kingdom. This is a corruption of the Gospel that plagues a lot of us. Some of us move past this distortion only to embrace another. We realize thet Jesus needs to rule, so we ask Jesus to rule our kingdom. We want him to rule, but to also remember that it is our kingdom, and we hold veto power of any of his decisions. I think a lot of us are stuck there. We want to do right, but are fully prepared to do wrong if it gets us what we want. And we wonder why the unbelieving world sees us as inauthentic.

Of course the correct and biblical view is for us to forsake our pretend little kingdoms and join the Kingdom of God where Jesus is Lord. And what should our understanding of that Kingdom be in light of the upcoming election? How about loving those we see as our enemies, praying for them, blessing and not cursing them? How about speaking the truth in love? How about refraining from speck removal and concentrating on plank removal (not to be confused with a political party plank)? How about caring for the poor and oppressed and those on the margins? How about honoring and facilitating hard work and enterprise and creativity and growth? How about caring for the environment over which God has made us stewards? How about caring for fatherless and the widow and those who have no voice and cannot speak for themselves, from the homeless in the US, to the starving children on another continent, to the unborn everywhere?

When did, "Go, sell all that you have . . . and come, follow me" turn into "stay, keep all you have and gather more, and elect politicians who will give you what you want so that you can continue to rule your own kingdom, or imagine that I am running it?"

Look, I know I am stepping out on a limb here, but if Jesus were to inject his voice into this political scene, I think he might be consistent with his behavior while in the flesh. To the irreligious who were guilty of greed and irresponsibility and self-promotion and lack of concern for others, he would have some redirecting words of grace pointing to an offer of transfomration.

For those of us in the church who have bilindly wed ourselves to Conservative (with a big "C") politics, or Liberal (with a capital "L") politics, giving automatic blesing, and recklessly and indiscriminately buying into whatever those leaders offered, Jesus would have some very harsh words. Too many of us have wanted Jesus to rule over our kingdoms instead of forsaking ours and joining his.

We always ask God to bless America. Maybe God is waiting for those who say they follow Jesus to bless him by living according to the kingdom principals he lived and proclaimed. Maybe God has no interest in blessing our pretend little kingdoms.

My thought is that Christians need to be part of the discussion in the public square and work to influence public policy as much as we can. But to indiscriminately join ourselves to political parties or movements without reserving a healthy level of detachment, is reckless and poor stewardship of the Gospel we have been given as a priceless treasure, because it causes the Gospel to become a prop in service of an ideology. When we are guilty of that, we've got trouble with a capital "T."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The A/C Guy

I had the A/C guy out to my house yesterday to check my air-condition system for efficiency. It has problems, but nothing that a few thousand dollars won’t fix. I got into an interesting discussion with the guy they sent out. Our conversation was mostly about hunting and fishing, because that is what he was waaaaaaaayyyyy into.

But he made some comment about going to church, so I asked him what church he went to. He didn’t really answer, but said he was raised a Lutheran. I got the impression he was a little disillusioned with the church and with faith. He made some comment about evangelists suggesting they all needed to be taken out and disposed of. When I asked why, he argued that it was religion that was responsible for everything wrong with the world.

According to the A/C guy, religion is the cause of wars, oppression, famine, disease, slavery, racism, poverty, root rot, high cholesterol, bad gas mileage, athletes foot and the 1990’s fascination with “boy bands.” As a result, he has said “bye, bye, bye” to faith. This is a brief synopsis of what was about a five minute tirade.

Here was my response. I asked him; “So what if I had a magic wand that I could wave to rid the world of all religions and religious writings? What if I could make Lennon’s imagination come true and there were no religions in the world? More than that, what if I could make it so that when we wake up tomorrow, all memory of, or knowledge of any religious notion was removed from the collective human psyche? Would that then mean that the world would be free from wars, oppression, famine, root rot and boy bands?”

His answer was a very honest, “No. Of course not.”

I then suggested that his answer reflected a deeper understanding of the problem than did his earlier suggestion of religion as the source of all evil. The problem of evil is one that originates with humans – all humans regardless of religion or lack of it. The problem is the human heart which is selfish, prideful, arrogant and fearful. Why would it surprise us that humans would take something as beautiful and true as the reality of God and twist it to suit and serve the nature of the very broken human heart? That’s not God’s fault. That’s not religion’s fault.

About that time he finished writing up the ticket and I finished with the check to cover it. He seemed reluctant to carry our discussion further, so there was more polite talk than genuine conversation going on after that. Anyway, join me in saying a prayer for the A/C guy, and for the people like him you will meet this week.

All of this served to remind me again how we keep looking for something outside of ourselves to blame for what’s wrong with the world, while we keep looking into our own heart to figure out how to make it right. We have it exactly backwards. Our heart is the problem. The solution is outside of us in the grace that only comes from God in Jesus and his ability to give us a new heart that beats in rhythm with his.