The Kingdom of God Has Come Near to You

Tonight’s Lectio Divina at St. James Mission came from Luke 10:1-11, 16-20.

As one member of our community pointed out tonight, it’s more than a little unsettling that Jesus tells the seventy to “rejoice that [their] names are written in heaven” rather than celebrate the tangible good that was accomplished during their ministry.  Isn’t that just one more example of Christian indulgence in irrelevant escapism?  It certainly seems so.

It doesn’t help that most popular images of heaven involve pearly gates and golden streets on clouds with angels and harps.  Could anything be more divorced from real life?

Someone suggested another image of the afterlife: you and me in the ground, becoming part of the vibrant ecosystem that exists underground.  What if we could somehow sense the presence of the worms and flowers that transform our broken bodies into sources of nourishment?  We might even be able to reconnect with the creative harmony that was lost when we left Eden.

This image of the afterlife is certainly more engaged and engaging than antiseptic visions of “pie in the sky when you die”.  Not only that, but I think it is more consistent with biblical visions of the prophet Isaiah and John the Elder, where the New Jerusalem is portrayed as an international garden-city.  With gates wide open 24-7 (just like the Waffle House), the nations of the world coexist in a multi-cultural rainbow of celebration.  Instead of an eight-lane highway running through an industrial wasteland, there is a tree-lined river.  This biblical vision of harmonious heaven-on-earth bears more resemblance to the teeming underground ecosystem than it does to clouds and fat babies with wings.

I think we get a foretaste of this biblical vision in today’s gospel text as Jesus commissions the seventy disciples to go and tell people, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”  Look at what the disciples are doing as they proclaim their message: they are inviting others to participate in an ever-widening community of healing and hospitality.  The Kingdom of God starts here and now as followers of Christ venture out to get dust on our feet and dirt under our nails.

Maybe we can rejoice after all that we are included in this dynamic, organic, and vibrant community?

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