We recently returned from a very enjoyable musical event in Rhode Island called, “Pat McGee’s Ocean State of Mind…” or OSM. It was our second year, having attended their inaugural event last year. It is a series of concerts in small venues over 4 days with many opportunities for intimate interactions with the artists. Pat also arranges for visits to local attractions which include artists involved at a very personal level. Each artist brings their unique style and personality to their performances’ and as a musician, I appreciate both the level of talent as well as seeing these artists interact with each other on stage in pubs and restaurants, and pubs and corn mazes, and pubs, etc.
On the last day of the event I had a moment of insight… It dawned on me that what I kept hearing from the artists that touched me deeply were messages of love. Not romantic love or something trivial, but a deep expression of love in their lyrics and instrumentation. It was displayed not only on stage (which might have been attributed to a performance) but also in the non-public moments that a keen observer might oversee. I commented on this to one of the artists standing outside between sets… he looked at me for a moment… then he simply wrapped me in a hug and thanked me. I found it ironic that this intimate display of fellowship is so often lacking in the church.
In our passage Jesus is asked by the religious leaders when the Kingdom of Heaven would appear. I would argue that they were not looking for a kingdom filled with peace. They were looking for a God who would use supernatural force to establish their own dominance over others. Jesus tells them that the Kingdom of God is not coming in a way that is physical… but that the Kingdom of God is “among” them. The word that is translated “among” can also mean “within” which many scholars argue is a better reading for our text. [By the way, when individual words in the bible have various meanings you will often see an asterisk “*” indicating that there is a footnote describing the possible variant.]
I wonder why institutions like the church tend to bring out politics of power. If the Kingdom of God described by Jesus is truly within us then acts of charity and love should be our defining nature. Why then are we in the church so often seen by those outside as judgmental and hypocritical rather than welcoming and transparent about our own struggles? Maybe the real kingdom that we should be seeking is the ability to simply love others… in spite of our differences in lifestyles and beliefs. Maybe then we would be truly welcoming the Kingdom of God into the world!