Tuesday, 23 April 2013
How can we respond to Boston?
How can we respond to the bombing in Boston?
Dedicate a marathon? Done.
Do we pass judgment? Done.
Start a conspiracy theory? Done and Done.
Give blood? I guess…
I was involved with my Tuesday afternoon “Progressive Christianity” Discussion Group when this question was raised. I answered the question in the moment, but continued to think about my best response as the rest of the afternoon transpired. I thought about it as I did the dishes (we like to eat in our discussion groups); I thought about it as I drove home (hands at 10 and 2 even if my mind was elsewhere…) and now I’m ready to answer. This answer won’t get me great marks in a Systematic Theology exam… it may not even get me through the night… but here it is:
How do we respond to the bombing in Boston?
We give blood.
We adopt a world vision child.
We call a lonely friend.
We volunteer to read to the blind.
We write letters to protect our water.
We raise awareness of the looming environmental challenges.
We speak kindly to strangers and smile at scowling people.
In short, we invest ourselves in the Kingdom of God.
Now, I appreciate that the term “Kingdom of God” is fraught with peril. It is paternalistic. It speaks to empire and oppression. It is exclusive for many and it does not convey clearly what Jesus meant… I know. We've lost the sense of “satire” that would have been evident in the first century when it was a phrase meant to challenge the Roman Empire… Some would suggest that Jesus would speak of a "Parliament of God" if he were in Ottawa today, challenging us to wonder what a government would look like if Jesus were running things… (would forgiveness be guaranteed Mike Duffy?) Some have suggested that Jesus might have called it the “Insurgency of God” in our modern context. I think that both examples, as well as the popular “Commonwealth of God” lose some of what I value.
In a Kingdom there is a shared identity, a sense of common purpose, defined by the Monarch – everything in the Kingdom is defined by or connected to the Ruler, including that lovely Georgian table, Victorian lamp and Louis XV desk. It is that commonality and connection that I value in the expression “Kingdom of God”. The Kingdom of God was preached by Jesus as a reality that was imminent; present for those willing to see and live as if it were so. For me, the Kingdom of God is evident when I pour myself out for another, when I connect myself to God’s agenda as I have seen it in Jesus: visit the prisoners; feed the hungry, reach out to the marginalized, love the unlovable and invest in what the rest of the world says is foolish and impossible. (when they say that it is impossible, I turn the other cheek).
And like a Kingdom, everything is interrelated. Connected through the King - so when I wonder what I can do about a place far away out of my reach or context, I can still respond by being part of the Kingdom. My call to a lonely friend may not directly affect someone suffering from the effects of the explosions in Boston, but it does affect the Kingdom… and there is growth in the Kingdom, compassion grows and my response has value and effect. When I give blood, it may not be given to someone in the Emerg' at Massachusetts General Hospital, but the Kingdom is advanced; fullness of life nurtured for one person and therefore for the whole of the Kingdom.
What this does for me, in a very real way, is keep me from becoming overwhelmed, shutting down and despairing. I don’t know what to do for my brothers and sisters in Somalia today… I can write a letter, make a donation… but I can also fight for the rights of workers all around the world and know that it is a worthy response. Worthy because it is all connected by God for all humanity to experience fullness of life. Some may see this as a way to give $10 to the Humane Society and say that “I've done my part for Palestine” – but I see it more as a way of recognizing the reality that I cannot be everything to everybody; I don’t have the wisdom or resources to take on every cause or injustice… but I don’t have to. I've been invited to work for and with the Kingdom of God that connects and touches us all and as I do what I can, I know that others are doing what they can… and together, we can realize the Kingdom in this time and place.
At least that’s what I was thinking on the way home…
That, and instead of the “Kingdom of God” maybe Jesus should have called it the “Internet of God”… that would communicate the pervasiveness and the connectedness… except ads and pop ups would probably ruin it.