Ordination Questions, Part 5: The Kingdom of God, The Resurrection, and Eternal Life
Please see the introduction to Part 1 for the context of these questions…
f) What is your understanding of the Kingdom of God; the Resurrection; eternal life?
1. The Kingdom of God -- The word “kingdom” is not used much in our common vernacular. But everybody has a kingdom – a little sphere in which what they say, goes. Another way to describe it is the range of one’s effective will. One’s body is a place in which what they choose their body to do, it does. People figure out early on that they were made to have a kingdom. That is why a two-year-old’s favorite word is “no.” We don’t like to be told what to do by somebody else – we don’t want their kingdom violating our kingdom
All of humanity’s little kingdoms intersect and merge and form bigger kingdoms: families, schools, companies, cities, and nations. These kingdoms create economic, political, and cultural systems. This whole conglomeration of where we live is called the Kingdom of Earth.
On the other side of coin, there is a community, a society called the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the sphere in which what God says, goes. It is where everything that happens meets with God’s approval and delight. Everything is exactly the way God wants it to be. Most of what Jesus taught was about what this community looked like. Jesus believed that once people came to understand what it was all about they would want it more than anything else. So Jesus would say things like:
“Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom.” (Matthew 18:4) (Unlike the Kingdom of Earth, humility is the ticket to greatness in the Kingdom of God).
“He ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the town. Bring in those who are poor. Also bring those who can't walk, the blind and the disabled.’” (Luke 14:21) (Jesus’ kingdom is about the outsiders and the marginalized being a part of the party).
Imagine for a moment a society where there is no pride, arrogance, big shots. A place where people are always on the lookout for someone who may feel lonely or rejected so that they can be celebrated and loved. Where nobody did anything petty or small minded – no gossip, no cruelty, no fear. Jesus said that this is the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom is among us in embryonic form (Luke 10:11).
2. The Resurrection – Death and resurrection are the rhythms of Christian spirituality. It is the paradox of being Jesus’ disciple – if you want to find your life, you lose it. If you want to live life to the fullest, you have to surrender and die.
Jesus’ resurrection was His way of proving that what He said was true. It was a declaration that God has not given up on the world. It validated that this world matters: dirt, blood, sweat, skin, and water, that this world God is redeeming and restoring and renewing.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus demonstrated that what we do with our lives matters. Every act of compassion, justice, kind word, work of art that celebrates the good and the true matters. In the words of Richard Rohr, they all belong.
3. Eternal Life – In the first century, when a person wanted to know where a rabbi was coming from, you would ask, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This was not a question about what happens after we die. Rather, they were asking: What does it mean to be in harmony with God? What does it mean to live the good life? By the rabbi’s answer, one could tell where the rabbi was coming from – pray a lot, give to the poor, etc.
Eternal life, as understood in the New Testament writings, is not just about when we die, but what it means to live in this time and place in harmony with God.