All posts tagged: Kingdom of God

Building the Theandric City: Liturgy and the Consummation of Humanity

In the beginning, God placed human beings in the world and commanded them to build a city. Before the Fall, that city had already been born. The city is the mode of humankind’s communal, liturgical, and economic life in the world, and its essence was contained in the telos given by God to humanity—to rule and to use the world justly, to tend the garden, to name the world, and to fill it with images of God. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28)—these are God’s first words to humanity, the exordium of the blessing that gave to them the entire world.[1] All the just elements of the village, the town, and the city are simply an unfolding of this primordial mission. God made human beings a political animal, ruling and using the world in community. As creatures of both body and soul, they were also the mediators between God and matter. This was to be a priestly polis. By craft, speech, and relationship, humankind would integrate all people …

The Urgency of Salvation

The final chapter of the Book of Isaiah describes how Israel will draw all nations to itself, redeeming the entire human family. The nations of “Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan” (present-day Spain, Libya, Turkey, and Greece) will hear for the very first time about the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob (Is 66:19). Members of the tribes of each of these nations will stream toward Jerusalem, the holy mountain. Not only will they worship God as the people of Israel do but “Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the LORD” (Is 66:21). Those once outside the covenant will become those responsible for priestly ministry of this covenant. Yet, in the Gospel of Luke, a starker story is told by Jesus: “‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough’” (Lk 13:24). Jesus is noting that there are many attempting to enter into the Kingdom of God, milling about in front of the …

The Sword of Division

The stark reality of Jesus’ words in the Gospels should often shake us to our inner core. Jesus didn’t come into the world to preach the Gospel of niceness. Rather, Jesus proclaims today, “‘I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!’” (Lk 12:49). The imagery of fire in the Gospel is connected to the final judgment that Jesus has come to enact upon the world. It is the fire of Pentecost and the final threshing alike. This moment of divine judgment requires an ultimate decision on our parts. Has Jesus come to enact the Kingdom of God in our midst, or is he just another wordsmith assembling pretty prose for us to savor? The answer is decidedly the former: “From now on a household of five with divided, three against two and two against three . . . ” (Lk 12:52). Jesus does not come to enact a kingdom of quaint domestic peace. If you say yes to Jesus, then there could be enmity between father …

Come and See

A city isn’t just a group of people living closely together. It’s a place with pride, with a vision of what it means to belong together. New York City is the city that never sleeps. Los Angeles is the city of possibilities (and of constant outdoor recreation). They have different visions of human happiness, of what it means to live together. Jerusalem is a city with a vision. A vision of all humanity redeemed in her midst, worshipping the living God. A city with the ultimate vision. The Book of Isaiah describes this redeemed city, restored to its glory after the Babylonian captivity. In Jerusalem, all will receive the grace of comfort (cf. Is 66:13). They will delight in the prosperity brought about through the glory of God. For in Jerusalem, all the nations of the earth will offer praise to God for his wondrous works (cf. Ps 66:4–5). In the Gospel of Luke, the seventy-two disciples (or seventy depending upon manuscript tradition) go out two by two to invite everyone to move to this …

The Cost of Discipleship

The cost of being one of Jesus’ disciples in the Gospel of Luke is steep. As we learn on the Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, to follow Jesus may require us to leave behind everything. Last Sunday, we heard that Jesus’ messianic mission is directing him toward a sacrificial death for the sake of the nations. Today, Jesus is moving toward the city of Jerusalem. His ministry in the rest of the Gospel will be defined by his mission of self-giving love upon the Cross. Jesus’ mission is not always successful. He walks through Samaria, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, “but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem” (Lk 9:53). The peace of the Gospel meets the resistance of an old dispute between the Judeans and the Samaritans. They cannot welcome the Lord because his mission does not align with their own. Out of the hostile crowd emerges a voice, “‘I will follow you wherever you go’” (Lk 9:57). Jesus is normally the one who calls disciples, and yet …

The Way of the Pilgrim

When I teach Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in my literature survey course each semester, I need to take a certain extra amount of time to explain to my students just what these characters are doing by going on a pilgrimage: it is not something that younger people are often familiar with or find attractive, and yet I think that for Christians the idea of living the pilgrim life can be a very rich way of looking at the way we move through our days. In medieval times people undertook religious pilgrimages for a reason, ordinarily supplication or thanksgiving, although some people went out of simple piety. Whatever the reason, people wanted to show God or one of the saints how serious they were about their prayer for this or that. Depending on whom they were praying to or honoring, the pilgrims would choose a particular shrine from among dozens of possible sites, from Santiago de Compostela to the shrine of St. Ursula in Cologne, or even the Holy Land. They would ordinarily travel on foot, without …

Kings of the King

This isn’t the behavior of a Messiah. You can almost hear the crowd gathered around Jesus murmuring this to themselves. They haven’t followed this prophetic miracle-worker, this teacher extraordinaire to watch him die. He’s supposed to be the king, the Messiah, the anointed one, the Christ who has come into the world to rid Israel of Roman authority, to restore the Temple to pure worship, and gather all the nations in Jerusalem. That’s what Peter calls Jesus: “The Christ of God” (Lk 9:20). He’s the king, after all—God’s Son, who is chosen to rule over the nations. You know David? Think bigger. You know Solomon? Think even bigger. “‘The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised’” (Lk 9:22). This is not, at least upon initial hearing, bigger. Jesus in the Gospel of Luke is re-interpreting for the disciples what it means to be the Messiah. His throne is not upon the temple mount but …