Today we conclude our section on the themes and threads of the Scripture. So far, what I’ve shared is in no way comprehensive. However, we’ve explored enough at this point to alert you to be on watch for themes and threads that hold together the entirety of Scripture. Over the last couple of days we’ve been discussing the theme of tensions and the way in which those tensions display the character of God. I would like to peer into one more tension, though this one is a little be different than the others. Those tensions found on day 15 and 17 primarily are found within the Scriptures, themes that appear at first glance to be at odds with one another. Today’s tension if found within US as we read the Scripture.
When Dorothy landed in Oz, she looks at Toto and says, “We aren’t in Kansas anymore.” The same might be said when we crack open the Scriptures. “We are no longer where we used to be.” The Scriptures, as I’ve stated on other days, offer us a strange new world, a new land that we must orient ourselves to. Now, here’s part of the tension. You can take Dorothy out of Kansas, but it’s awful hard to take the Kansas out of Dorothy. Again, the same could be said to us. Often when we step into the Scriptures, we step into this strange new world still clinging desperately to the world that we are leaving. Some of us flat out go kicking and screaming. Others are a bit more manipulative. We try to force our world over the world of the Scriptures and use the Scriptures as justification for our perceptions, beliefs, and the way we enjoy the status quo.
The Scriptures weren’t written to baptize our status quo. They were written to call the status quo into question.
The World of Scriptures creates a tension. It pits the Kingdom of GOD against the kingdoms of US. The Kingdom of God is the space where God gets His way, where God’s purposes are fulfilled. The kingdoms of US, well, that’s like Dorothy’s Kansas. It’s the space where we are comfortable, everything fits and makes sense, we know the lay of the land, and understand the rules. When you crack open the Scriptures our kingdoms are called into question. No longer can we cling to our kingdoms! What types of kingdoms are we talking about?
The kingdom of self: This is the kingdom where I define what’s most important. Everything around me is designed to serve my needs. I stand at the center of my little universe and everyone else is simply visitors to it. None of us would like to confess that we reside in this kingdom. However, it shows up in our pursuits, our ambitions, our neglect of others, our breaches of integrity in order to serve our needs.
The kingdom of greed: This is the kingdom of our culture. It’s the incessant desire for more and more at any cost. It’s the belief that the person who stands holding the most at the end wins. The kingdom of greed establishes value based on the capacity of a person to earn lots of money and buy lots of toys. Jealousy and envy are the handmaidens to the kingdom of greed because we live in a state of constant comparison.
The kingdom of power: We like to be top dog. In fact, we grew up playing King of the Mountain, standing on some big pile of dirt pushing other kids off the top of the hill. We live there. We like to ensure that no matter how little power I have, I have at least a bit more than someone else. This kingdom shows up in our homes. Instead of teamwork and cooperation defining the atmosphere, there is a constant jockeying for position of authority. It shows up in churches, who has the power to make the call. It is defined by position, title, degrees, or status.
The kingdom of superiority: This kingdom is one of the most insidious. It suggests that as long as I am a part of the “right” crowd, then I am among those better off than others. That crowd could be the “right” religion, political party, race, ethnicity, social class, economic class, etc. I might be at the bottom of the ladder, but as long as I am one rung above someone else, then I still have someone I can stand over.
Ok…this is not an exhaustive list. You get my point. This is the Kansas that we live in every day. We don’t even realize it most of the time, because it is so thoroughly embedded in who we are. But its there…all the time, it’s there. Then we read the Scriptures and everything is turned upside down and inside out.
This is the tension. When you leave behind Kansas, Oz no longer looks the same.
- In the Kingdom of God, the least qualified and those without “power” (as the world defines it) are those most often used in extraordinary ways.
- In the Kingdom of God, the greatest is the least and the least is the greatest.
- In the Kingdom of God we are told that our lives are not about the accumulation of goods, but instead it is a life spent giving itself away to others.
- The Kingdom of God makes love of God and our neighbors the priority, with a special emphasis on the least, the last, and the lost (those most vulnerable) instead of self-serving agendas.
- The Kingdom of God calls into question politics that caters to the elite and protects the status quo.
- The Kingdom of God calls into question religious systems that go through the routine but lack the substance of deep faith and compassion for others.
- The Kingdom of God creates space where all our silly divisions are undone by our identification with Jesus Christ who makes all, one.
- The Kingdom of God turns our belief that strongest, toughest kid on the block is the one that gets to call the shots on its head. In the Kingdom, God reveals the impotence of the bullies through the power of His love and faithfulness.
- The Kingdom of God teaches us that there are no forgone conclusions, lost causes, or towels to throw in. The Kingdom of God is about the hope of God’s redemptive design being realized no matter how many odds are stacked up against it.
The Kingdom of God looks different than our Kansas. Until the Scriptures are set free to turn our worlds inside out, we will cling to the old kingdoms and miss the power of God’s call to transformation. That’s the tension. It’s resides deep within us. Will we allow all that I once knew, understood, and was comfortable with to be called into question? Will I allow the disruptive world of God’s new Kingdom to usurp and overthrow my little kingdoms?
Back to Luke…
You ready to jump into Luke 13 now? Just to give you a little bit of insight here…things are turning very serious for Jesus very quickly. The tone of his teaching is taking on a new urgency. Within a couple of chapters, Jesus will be setting his path toward Jerusalem and the cross and He’s not messing around. We saw that in his warnings yesterday, but it will be picked up again in Luke 13 and 14. Yesterday, thousands were following Jesus. You will notice that as Jesus calls into question our kingdoms in attempt to establish THE KINGDOM, the crowds will get a bit smaller. So dive in, walk around, find your place and listen to Jesus challenge some our ideas about the Kingdom and what matters most to God.