Jesus, the Subversive, Part 1 of 4

Reflections on Matthew 13.31-33, 44

Jesus launched a movement, going out into his first century world to share in word and deed the nearness of the kingdom[1] of heaven. Truly, the presence of God.

The Christian church, founded on Jesus’ life and labor, is an institution.

Throughout human history, whatever the endeavor, in the transition from precipitating origin to permanent organization, something can be lost. At times, I wonder whether the church has domesticated Jesus; and if (or as) so, has lost sight and sense of his radical, revolutionary nature.

Jesus, as all good storytellers, employed familiar, readily recognizable ideas and images. Yet he frequently edgily, outrageously, subversively turned those ideas and images on their proverbial, parabolic heads, catching people unawares, arresting their attention.

I picture Jesus leading us to a comfortable chair in which a long, sharp tack is embedded, inviting us to sit, all the while hoping we have not lost our sensitivity to new ways of thinking, of seeing the world and our lives.

More to come…

© 2022 PRA

Illustration: Jesus teaching the disciples, James Tissot (1836-1902)

#whenamovementbecomesaninstitution #movementsmove #institutionsselfpreserve

[1] The word “kingdom” is a fair translation of the Greek basileia. However, Jesus’ contextual and metaphorical use of the term points to less a geographical (and, even less, a political) domain. Rather for Jesus, heaven’s (or God’s) kingdom was…is the realm of God’s life, that is, who God is and what God does, which I tend to define as the sphere (the presence and action) of love and justice. Moreover, I also tend to supplant the word “kingdom” and its hierarchical and monarchical overtones with the more relational, familial, equitable term “kin_dom.”

2 thoughts on “Jesus, the Subversive, Part 1 of 4

  1. This really spoke to me Paul!! I’m having a really tough day, as if I did indeed sit in a tack in a chair that Jesus placed for me! While I was feeling really uncomfortable, I also thought those who are so much worse off than me and their stories. I do try to think in advance of every morning who I am going to help that day and what their story is. I hope I feel better tomorrow but I also hope I’ll be able to help someone else too!



    1. Amid our toils and troubles there comes a light from beyond us. That light, often, I believe, is the glare of the tribulations, far greater than our own, of others.

      Bless you, my dearest sister, for remaining vigilant and responsive to others, even and especially when engulfed in your own misery.



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