We have a DVR, powered by Tivo. It can be a blessing or a curse, this ability to digitally record any show you want. For my family, it's turned out mostly to be a blessing. I won't pursue the ups and downs of Tivo right now. I had tivoed the movie "Kingdom of Heaven" sometime back. You know the one, with Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, and many more about the crusades. I liked the movie. The seige on Jerusalem with the seige towers and catapults was mesmerizing. The battle was gritty and bloody, with men biting, choking, poking out eyes, and the ruin left behind after a bunch of people run at each other full tilt with very sharp objects in their hands. While it did romanticize war and warriors and knights to some degree, the carnage of the battle certainly balanced that out. The closing lines mentioned that a thousand years later there was still no peace in the "kingdom of heaven".
What is the Kingdom of Heaven? What does it mean to advance it? I, like the rest of the church, don't have a real good answer to that. Yet, that is what Jesus came to do, to usher in the Kingdom, and that is what we are to continue to do, so how do we not really know what this means? We wrestle with what a church service should look like, the music that should be played, programs and the like, to the point that it polarizes and divides brothers and sisters in Christ. Look, I think how church is "done" is something we need to revisit and rethink, don't get me wrong. I think some of those discussions are happening because we see an absolute lack of Kingdom ethics and life in our churches, and that makes those discussions important. Some of them are happening because we want butts in the pews, and we want to be hip and with it, and thats a vain pursuit that cripples.
Here's what I struggle with. Most talk of the Kingdom of Heaven is strictly end times oriented. I'm weary of an interpretation of Revelations that are narrowed down to scaring the hell out of anyone who would listen. I'm really weary of people who believe that a narrow, strictly literal version of the events in the Revelation is THE truth, when prophecy in the Bible is so much more metaphorical, pictures and poetry that reveal truth. We like to point to the violent return of Christ as interpreted literally as the time in which we will be justified for the way we've behaved, but we don't want to look at the way Christ lived, when He said the Kingdom is "here", "at hand", to see if our lives and ethics and treatment of people are even remotely close to what His return will restore. Look, I don't know how the events of the Revelation will be played out in the literal sense. I think we should all view them with a big dose of humility and caution, given how often the people of God have misinterpreted His prophets. I do know that He will return, and that He will restore the Kingdom of Heaven in it's fullness on earth. That should be a great comfort to us, not a source of fear and manipulation. I also think we should collectively as the Church quit pointing our fingers at each other and point them inward at ourselves, and revisit the way Jesus LIVED, not just His birth and death and resurrection. He was born, crucified and resurrected to restore us to himself, and to empower us to LIVE the same life He did, to continue the advancement of the Kingdom. I also believe that the advancement of the Kingdom does not look like scaring people into repeating a prayer, getting baptized and generally living a much churchier life. I believe the advancement of the Kingdom will be visible in how we treat the poor, the marginalized, the "drunkards and sinners", and yes, the way we preach the Gospel.
May we struggle together to see peace in the Kingdom of Heaven.