Thursday, August 4, 2011

Imaging the Kingdom of Heaven

"When you enter into my Kingdom." --Bible, Matthew Chapter 18

Many write, speak and think of the "kingdom of heaven" as a concrete afterlife place; they believe that the Christ's teaching was geared to the how and why of getting there. In doing so, many miss the perhaps most obvious and subtle of points. Jesus, the Christ was a Jew and the Jews of the time did not espouse a concept of heaven as a place. Their spirituality called for good works performed on earth, and earth as the kingdom of heaven. Indeed it is the place where the Bible describes the Garden of Eden.

Must we work on earth so as to ascend to a place called heaven? No, suggests author Thomas Moore, in his book, Writing in the Sand: Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels. Moore writes of the kingdom of heaven as the center of the gospels intention, and of Jesus' teaching. He writes, "it is woven into all the stories and teachings."
Your response to those teachings, or lack of it directly corresponds to your understanding about living the kingdom. In reading the bible stories one learns that Jesus' view was that the kingdom "is at hand," that we are surrounded by it. This is to say that the Kingdom of Heaven is on earth, in keeping with the beliefs of Judaism.

In Judeo-Christian belief, what we learn about the kingdom through our life experiences, is what we then share and live in both a mystical and everyday way through our actions, and behaviors as well as our prayer. The Kingdom in this view is in you. "When you enter into my kingdom" is a strong message to all who consider the Christ message. It does not suggest if or maybe; it suggests when and it suggests life. We all learn lessons of love and pain; there is bitterness and joy in all lives. We seek our meaning in life, and we share our fruits with others.

If one does otherwise and expresses a tendency
to zealotry, "not just about religion but about everything in life, he is easily thrown into deep confusion and depression... there was hope for them when they could laugh at the contradictions in their lives," writes Moore. He explains that when we doggedly hang onto our usual ideas and images of our self and our lives, passionate to find ways of making sense of it all, some do forget that life is complex, subtle; our spirituality needs to reflect that. Otherwise we may find our self in a very brittle position, neurotic and pained.

Many do not appreciate the extreme, radical nature of the Christ's call. It's a call to be more than to believe, and that's hard to do, especially in the modern world. The potential believers do not image it, they do not see who Jesus stood for or why he stood at all. These are radical questions that millenia has grappled with. The mystery of Jesus is the equal mystery of the kingdom. In Jesus' world, the kingdom is on earth, it is living, breathing, real, the now. It calls for all, demands all, gives all and forgives. In Jesus' kingdom Moore writes, there is " a place of bliss and idealistic values. The Gospels suggest it is more important to enter that kingdom than to [simply] live a good life."

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