God’s Kin_dom Call to Community

Note: This is the text of the sermon, based on Mark 1.14-20, videotaped and shared with the people of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC, on the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany, January, 24, 2021.

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“The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God has come near.” I prefer the Revised Standard Version’s wonderfully fleshy image: “The kingdom of God is at hand.”

This is the essence of the preaching of Jesus. Jesus, God-in-flesh, brought, brings God’s kingdom this close, in the hands of his life and ministry!

Now, Jesus doesn’t tell us what the kingdom is. For the people of his day, God’s kingdom was central, crucial to their historical and theological self-understanding. Very little explanation was needed. For us, some definition is helpful.

God’s kingdom, a complex concept, at its simplest, is God’s reign or realm. Principally, not an earthly or a heavenly domain, but rather a state of being.

Over twenty years ago (truly, dating myself!), when writing a sermon about God’s kingdom, I, possessed by a spirit of egalitarianism, searched for a less monarchical, less masculine and more relational, more inclusive term. The word “kin_dom”[1] was given to me. (I cannot recall the source. Although I’d like to believe it was the Holy Spirit!)

The difference, for me, between kingdom and kin_dom points to the biblical meaning. For God’s reign is less about the dominion, much less the domination of Almighty God and more about God’s nature, God’s life. A nature, a life characterized by love and justice, unconditional benevolence and equality for all. For as God hath created all, all are God’s kin!

God’s reign, therefore, implies, requires the existence of a community of love and justice. For God’s reign is not about one being, even God, who is loving and just, but rather a community in which love and justice are the raisons d’être, the reasons to be for all.

So, it is that Jesus, again, God-in-flesh who has God’s kin_dom in his hands, stretched out his hands to call disciples to follow him, to be in community with him.

So, it is, reading on further in the Gospel of Mark, that Jesus, repeating that summons, would stretch out his hands to send his disciples on a missionary journey; never alone, but rather in small communities, two-by-two, to “fish for people,” to gather community.[2]

So, it is that Jesus’ call, then and now, is an epiphany, a revelation of a paradox – that which, I oft define, at first glance, makes no sense, indeed, to the human intellect, is nonsense, yet that which, at its heart embraces, embodies deepest truth.

The paradox?

The kin_dom call to community is an invitation to discover that, in our life’s pilgrimage to be who God created us to be, we become fully our individual selves never alone, but always and only in the company of other fellow pilgrims…

Therefore, the kin_dom call to community is an invitation to share in our search for the meaning of life…

Therefore, the kin_dom call to community is an invitation to live in love and justice, one with another, one for another; for that is who God, the Author of Life is and what God does…

Therefore, the kin_dom call to community is an invitation to carry this message into the world.

So, it is that the Christian church, generally, and, specifically, we, St. Matthew’s, in responding “Yes!” to Jesus’ call, “Follow me”, are a community of love and justice.

Even more, especially more, we are an epiphany! A visible, physical revelation of the realization of Jesus’ proclamation: “The time is fulfilled. The kin_dom of God is at hand.”

Still more, the kin_dom of God is in our hands. Jesus sends us out into the world of our families and friends and strangers, schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods, wherever we travel near and far to share with the words of our lips and the works of our lives his love and justice. Or, in the language of our Collect, to “proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation.”[3]

© 2021 PRA

Footnotes:

[1] “Kin_dom”, December 10, 2000

[2] See Mark 6.7-13

[3] Full text of the Collect for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany: Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Illustrations:

Jesus calling James and John, James Tissot (1836-1902)

Jesus calling Peter and Andrew, James Tissot

Jesus Sends Twelve Disciples on Missionary Journey, James Tissot

5 thoughts on “God’s Kin_dom Call to Community

  1. Dear Paul,

    I had several thoughts as I read this.

    First, I think I’ve told you before how much my mind and soul resonate with your phrasing of “kin_dom” rather than “kingdom,” which word has for a long time for me echoed the idea of earthly empire, a concept that acquires evermore abhorrent associations in our world, I think

    Second, it struck me consciously for the first time this morning how much I love the pictures – paintings and drawings – that you use to illustrate scriptural stories. I recognized today the feeling I used to get in Sunday school or when reading my illustrated Bible, that the letters and words in the thick, densely-packed book could after all arise from the pages and create visual scenes with real people living out the stories. I’m pretty sure that at least at some point in my childhood I was sure the pictures were photographs and captured exactly what the scene looked like, not someone’s imagination of how it may have been. It also struck me today how the pictures almost always capture people together, in community, conversing, working, traveling, praying, as if to assert that in those bonds is where God is to be encountered and experienced.

    My third thought relates to your point about the paradox of “kin_dom”:

    “The kin_dom call to community is an invitation to discover that, in our life’s pilgrimage to be who God created us to be, we become fully our individual selves never alone, but always and only in the company of other fellow pilgrims…”

    I somehow have the conviction that the point you make about we humans not becoming fully who God created us to be except in community with our fellow humans applies to God also. As perhaps best testified to by the fact of Creation itself, God is not and cannot be wholly God outside of communion with Creation, and particularly, at least from our perception, outside of community with human beings and humankind. And, as God encourages and enables each of us to become our fullest, deepest incarnations in love and kinship with our fellow human beings, so God also is enabled by those relationships to be fully God and fully love. We cannot exist outside of communion with each other and have any hope of knowing God as God most ardently means to be. Therefore, our task is to enable God to be fully and perfectly God by our assent to, desire for, and work for the creation of Beloved Community. God, I think, is both founder and, necessarily, member of that great ideal.

    Thank you, once again, dear Paul, for helping me ponder what it means and what is called for to be alive in the present moment and for encouraging me to take the step of committing to move with integrity and love into the next one.

    With deep gratitude and much love,

    Karen

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    1. Thank you, Karen, always and in all ways, for your heartfelt and soul-deep commentary. Particularly, this: “…God is not and cannot be wholly God outside of communion with Creation, and particularly, at least from our perception, outside of community with human beings and humankind. And, as God encourages and enables each of us to become our fullest, deepest incarnations in love and kinship with our fellow human beings, so God also is enabled by those relationships to be fully God and fully love…” For, in this, I read and feel a profound articulation of the heart of process theology. That is, that God becomes alongside the created order; aye, alongside us. This idea, this belief resides at the heart of my existentialist theological framework. I thank you for this affirmation…

      Another thought… As the God of Christian consciousness is understood to be Triune in nature, then, it seems to me that God, eternally in relationship, naturally expresses God’s Self in relation to all the Divine order.

      Again, dearest sister, my thanks and my love, and, in both, always and in all ways,
      Paul

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  2. Dear Paul & Karen,

    Thank you for the privilege of witnessing your soul-deep conversation on this powerful sermon. I read the sermon and both of your comments several times. I can’t add anything of substance other than to say “thank you” to you both. I very much needed to read these words.

    Much love.

    Like

  3. Ah, Loretta, we, the three of us, Karen, you, and I have formed a trinity of readers, reflectors, and responders. I am grateful to be a part of so august a group!

    Love

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can never hope to be in more grace-filled company. I am so grateful for both of you in my life, in my growing, in my learning, and in my heart.

      Much love,

      Karen

      Liked by 1 person

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