Matthew 4:13-17; 23-25
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
When I heard the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” as a little girl, I imagined something fluffy and pretty – a castle in the sky, like the one at the beginning of Disney movies! A vaguely Tinkerbell-esque angel flitting about and a bright light right at the center was…God? I clearly didn’t get it. And to be honest, that phrase (and its companion “Kingdom of God”) is still hard to grasp as an adult. Is it now? Is it later? Here? There? Can I touch it? Can I be a part of it? And the answer to all those questions is…confoundingly…yes.
The Kingdom of Heaven is not yet (haven’t we all whispered in horror, “Come, Lord Jesus…” as we watched the news on any given day?), but it’s also present in real-time. Right now. Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand right after fulfilling the words of Isaiah: “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light.” The darkness wasn’t gone, but the light had arrived. We absolutely witness darkness in our world today. We grieve the brokenness of humanity and our collective mistreatment of each other and the earth. There is much to repent of. The darkness is not the Kingdom of Heaven, but there is light – joy – that seeps into the darkness, and the Kingdom resides there. After every natural disaster, we hear stories of strangers becoming neighbors. In seasons of personal grief, we have friends who sit with us on our living room floor for as long as it takes until one day, quite unexpectedly, we find ourselves laughing instead of crying. In the darkness, after a common criminal is executed, the curtain of separation in the temple is ripped in half and sin itself knows its days on earth are numbered.
The Kingdom of Heaven is coming, but it’s also already here, and friends, we are invited into Kingdom work! In scripture, we read that Jesus healed by touching the broken bodies of folks in pain. We heal by listening to those in pain of all kinds. Jesus spoke forgiveness over sins; we speak up against systemic sin wherever we find it. Jesus invited himself into the homes of sinners (but our mamas taught us better manners than that!) so we open our homes and hearts to anyone who is not used to a warm welcome…you know who your heart breaks for. The Kingdom of Heaven is no castle in the sky. It’s here. It’s now. We can touch it. We can be a part of it. The answer is confoundingly, “Yes.” God invites us to put our fingerprints all over it.
Jesus, we’re so grateful to serve a God who ascended into heaven but whose name is God With Us. Sometimes we get confused by the logistics of your Kingdom, but we’re grateful that even as you promise the Kingdom of Heaven is coming, you invite us to work in it right here and now. We ask you to open our eyes to see where our hands are needed to do your Kingdom work, and then we ask you to give us the courage and a holy nudge to get to it! Amen.