Announcing the Kingdom – Matthew 4.12-17
“The kingdom of heaven is like…..”
What is the kingdom of heaven like? I do not for a minute believe that it is a place in any physical sense, or even in any temporal sense: the-place-we-go-when-we-die. I do not believe in a place of perfect green rolling hills, gemstone-encrusted walls, floating angels, bright lights and celestial choirs. That sort of pseudo-folk-religion seems to me to have nothing to do with the Kingdom which Jesus proclaims.
So what is the kingdom of heaven?
It is the place where justice rolls down like waters.
It is the place where the light shines and the darkness cannot overcome it.
It is the place where we are led into all truth.
It is the place where we truly do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.
It is the place where perfect love at last casts out fear, and with it death and tears, sorrow and suffering. A place of peace and hope, justice and unity, and – above all – love.
And wherever and wherever and however those things are found, that is the kingdom of heaven. That is the kingdom Jesus proclaims, and the kingdom he commands us to pray for, on earth as in heaven.
The kingdom of heaven is so unimaginably different, such an upside-down world, such a radical vision, that Jesus knew it would be difficult for his followers to understand. And so he said, so many times, “the kingdom of heaven is like…..”, and he set out in parables what we could not understand more literally. He used the power of stories and images to convey something to great to be understood any other way.
And still we use images and parables and stories to try to understand the kingdom of heaven. Recently a child handed me a piece of paper on which she had drawn a picture of interlocking puzzle pieces, and written these words: “The kingdom of heaven is like a puzzle. If it goes wrong you try again, and soon it will be perfect.”
The more I have thought about it, the more I have realised how apt this is as a parable. The kingdom of heaven is like a puzzle. You need all the pieces to make it work. You can’t see what the picture is like until it is made whole. It reveals what is hidden and creates a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts.
I wonder what images, stories and parables can help us understand more about the kingdom of heaven?