This space is again freshened up with an updated back-end (WordPress 2.5) and a new look. How important it is to take a fresh look at everything familiar! On the day of this upgrade, with much attention being paid to the fortieth anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., I’m reflecting on the urgency of every day of life, and the fact that ordinary people, people like you and me, can make a difference. Had he lived, King would be an elder statesman by now, 79 years old. I wonder on such an occasion if it would have done more honor to the man and his legacy to annually remember the day of his death rather than the day of his birth. Less than 24 hours before a bullet ended his life, with uncanny prescience he mused upon mortality, and spoke in near-regretful tones of his own life and legacy: “I‘ve been to the mountaintop, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you…” A full generation later, that promised land of full equality still eludes us. Some, no doubt, have passed beyond the Jordan, and more yet have gazed from atop Mount Pisgah at what seems still so near, and yet so far: a place where the great ideals are not just respected but acted upon, where all God’s children can live together without being afraid of seeing each other take away what we have worked for. MLK spoke vociferously against the tripartate evils of racism, poverty and war, and understood that all three work against the freedom we hold dear. Racism is less entrenched, today, at least in law and public expression; but all who say so are quick to add that much more still remains to be done. Less boast can be made about poverty, and today the hope of eliminating war seems laughably out of reach. But here in this space, we will speak of the kingdom of God, the place where everyone is able to invite his neighbor to sit with him “under his own vine and under his fig tree, where none shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).
Jesus came proclaiming that Kingdom within reach, “at hand” — a kingdom where no one is hungry, so he fed thousands on a few loaves and fishes; a kingdom where health prevails, so he healed all the sick who came to him; a kingdom where love and reconciliation is the rule, so he taught about a Father who is merciful and expects his children to be the same; a kingdom where forgiveness is required of each subject, and not left as the optional prerogative of a stern monarch. Wherever he went, that kingdom came. He sent his apprentices out to proclaim in village and town, even where they were rejected: “Be sure of this, that the Kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:8-11). He taught them, and through them all of us, to pray for that kingdom to come, and in the fashion of Hebrew poetic repetition to repeat the sense of that prayer by saying (Matthew 6:10) “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The authorities thought that by destroying that king, whose kingdom was already in the world, though not of it, they could drive it out; but by triumphing over the ultimate means of destruction available to this world’s authorities, namely death, the good news was made available that the Kingdom has not retreated to a distant heaven or a far-away future, but is still here, breaking in to this world’s affairs wherever there are courageous people who are willing to bring Kingdom characteristics into their own lives, their own surroundings, their own world. Forgiveness, peace, the sharing of abundance, remain the means God has chosen to overcome hatred, prejudice, war, greed, and shortage.
In its fullness, in its final manifestation, the Kingdom has not yet fully come. But it is here, for those with eyes to see: