Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The kingdom of Jesus

One of my favourite passages in the Bible was the gospel reading for Sunday, Mark 1:14-20.

Pithy, direct, active. Jesus preaches (a very short sermon!) and calls without preamble or ceremony his first disciples.

In the brief message is everything Jesus will do and say (all about the kingdom of God).

In the call is the call to all who hear the message: Follow Jesus.

The "me" in "Follow me" is illuminating. Jesus has no ego yet calls people to follow him alone, even giving up, as the fishermen do, everything that has been their life and livelihood.

Connecting the "me" with the "time is fulfilled" and have a very Jesus-centred kingdom.

When Jesus comes, the kingdom has come.

What Jesus does is the kingdom breaking into the world as Jesus takes charge of the world.

Jesus is the king.

The kingdom of God is the kingdom of Jesus.

Followers of Jesus join with Jesus in kingdom of Jesus work.

As servants of Jesus we obey Jesus' rule and thus do the things which assist the growth of the kingdom.

As servants of Jesus we may be tempted to think the kingdom's future growth depends on us and is exclusive to our good obedience to the king. 

No, the kingdom is greater than us and God in Jesus continues to do kingdom work in the world with servants we may know nothing of (and who may not realise they are serving the kingdom!).

While we can never know all that God is doing in the world - providence - we can be confident, because of passages such as Mark 1:14-20, that God is doing those things in the world which fit with what we see of Jesus' words and deeds in the gospels, including those things which Jesus-centred disciples say and do in obedience to Jesus.

So, yes, the kingdom is greater than the church but never less than the church.

The church, in the long run and for the most part, because of promises of God concerning the Spirit-led, Spirit-gifted body of Christ, will visibly demonstrate the kingdom in the world today.

But errors in teaching and in behaviour do occur in the life of the church and thus the church can frustrate the growth of the kingdom.

If we want to not be frustrating then we do well to read and re-read and respond and re-respond to Mark 1:14-20.


Father Ron said...

Today's message from Pope Francis on humanitarian (via The Church?) Unity:


"The world will not believe because we will convince it with good arguments, but rather if we will have borne witness to the love that unites us and draws all of us near. During this time of serious hardship, the prayer that unity may prevail over conflict is even more necessary. It is urgent that we set aside particularism in order to promote the common good, and our good example is fundamental to this: it is essential that Christians pursue the path toward full visible unity. In the last decades, thanks be to God, there have been many steps forward, but we need to persevere in love and in prayer, without lacking trust nor tiring. It is a path that the Holy Spirit gave rise to in the Church, in Christians and in us all, from which there is no turning back. Ever onward!"

Pope Francis

Question: How does this fit in internal Church squabbles?

Anonymous said...

Answer: Although relationships with schismatic bodies are ecumenical, rather than denominational, they should not be frosty.

But, Father Ron, nearly all the church squabbles today are *external*. They reflect culture wars and power-struggles with a worldly origin.


Father Ron said...

Greetings to ALL,

I just had to post today's message from Pope Francis:


"“We have books in our hands, but the facts before our eyes”, said Saint Augustine in speaking of fulfilment of the prophecies found in sacred Scripture. So too, the Gospel comes alive in our own day, whenever we accept the compelling witness of people whose lives have been changed by their encounter with Jesus. For two millennia, a chain of such encounters has communicated the attractiveness of the Christian adventure. The challenge that awaits us, then, is to communicate by encountering people, where they are and as they are."

Pope Francis

Anonymous said...

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”


Peter, St Mark i 14-15 particularly intrigue me as an oblique reference to the Holy Spirit. So oblique is it that any of your readers seeing this are wondering what word in the text could possibly be signaling the Third Person.

But the signal is in, not in a label, but a suggestive coincidence-- the hopelessness of St John in prison; the advent of precisely his hope. The locking of a door allows a window to open in the dark. This is the sort of thing that only the Holy Spirit does.

Long ago, the rabbis drew a line, not so much against Jesus's Second Throne in heaven (cf Daniel vii 13-14) as against a Third that they could not find in the Judaic tradition. The definition of the Holy Spirit's divinity in 381 has led some to think that it was a post-biblical afterthought, tacitly agreeing with the rabbis.

But the first chapter of the first gospel shows that from the beginning following Jesus was trusting the Holy Spirit to open ways to the Father's purposes through seeming impossibility. And what in Israel's tradition could have led the first disciples to follow Jesus at such a hopeless time? Again, not so much a proposition in holy writ as Israel's escapes from impasses that later made sense in light of the Father's will for humanity.