According to Mark, Jesus said “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” He goes on to ask four of his disciples to join him in spreading the good news that God’s kingdom has arrived. That was two thousand years ago and the kingdom of God is still just as near, but yet so far away; and the request to spread the good news is very much the same, but so hard to hear, and even more difficult to act upon.
I and Michael have both spoken of the need to be active in our faith, that Christianity is not a spectator’s sport, it is a way of life. A life rooted in a meaningful relationship with God. It is a difficult life and it is so very easy to get off track. It is difficult to understand how God is calling us, let alone what we are being asked to do. When Jesus says “the kingdom of God is near” what does he mean? I think he is saying that it is right in front of us, it is behind us, it is all around us; but in order to see it we need to be able to view the world; no, creation, through God’s eyes and not our own. We all know how to do this, we may even try it from time to time, but again and again we get distracted; we get distracted by life, by our kids, by the occasional resentment we feel towards our partner, by our feelings of guilt, by our confusion, our anger, and even our joy. I often get lost in the chaos and overwhelmed by the insurmountable need in the world; and I use the term world here, instead of creation, because I think that the world is what we have created; it is what we have done to God’s creation. Creation is perfect, but the world is not. The world is riddled with greed, poverty, racism, classism, ageism, pollution, hunger, neglect; there are so many issues, so many problems, it can be overwhelming, especially when you think about what it means to spread the good news. How can we spread the good news that the Kingdom of God is near, that there is a better way when there are so many problems obscuring it?
Yesterday, I attended Bending Towards Justice, which was a program of prayer and discernment sponsored by our diocese’s Social Justice Commission. The main speaker was Stephanie Spellers, who is an episcopal priest and Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism. I found it to be a very powerful experience for many reasons, but the most powerful thing I heard came in the form of a question, which was “what injustice has broken your heart?” I found this question powerful because it helped me realize that God is not asking me to fix the world, God is asking me, asking all of us, to spread the good news that the kingdom is near, and that God can restore creation through us. It is through our relationship with God and our willingness to be God’s hands and feet that brings us closer to both experiencing the kingdom of God and assisting God with building it. Jesus did not call his disciples and God does not call us to solve every problem in the world and thinking so places far too much emphasis on ourselves. What God revealed to me yesterday is that it is okay to focus my energy on the injustice that has broken my heart and leave the other injustices to God. God has many tools, in fact there are more than 7.8 Billion of us. Imagine what the world would be like if all 7.8 billion people in the world answered God’s call to spread the good news. Injustice of every kind would be eradicated; it is a lovely thought, and it is something that we should both pray and hope for; it is also something that we can help bring about. God’s kingdom is near, we can feel it, we can hear it, we can even see it; but to do so we must watch and listen for God. We must be open to hearing and seeing God’s call because it can and will come in many forms. It may take us by surprise; it may arrive as a gentle aha moment; it may arrive as a strong sense of purpose; it may very likely be overwhelming, and it may even be frightening; no matter how we sense God’s call we can’t ignore it, we can’t allow ourselves to walk away from it, even though that is the easiest thing to do, because walking away means we are rejecting God, we are rejecting the call to spread the good news, and we are rejecting the kingdom. The Kingdom of God is perfection, it is creation in its purest form, and it is here; it is here, but it is hidden. It is hidden by what we have done to creation and God’s call to spread the good news is a call to return to God, it is a call to a life without greed, without poverty, without racism, without classism, without ageism, without pollution, without hunger, without neglect, without pain or sorrow. Restoring creation is hard work, it requires us to reflect, to accept the truth, and to reconcile ourselves to one another and to God. The good news is that the kingdom is near and that by God’s grace we can bring it closer; we can help God reveal it to others and ourselves through our willingness to do the hard work. If there is an injustice in the world that has broken your heart, then God is speaking to you and God is asking you to respond, God is asking you to stop being a feelgood spectator and become a part of the solution. If there is not an injustice in this world that has broken your heart, why is that? What is stopping God from breaking through? And what are you going to do about it? Amen.