Here’s the second “Act” of the piece I wrote for Sunday night’s heavenly choir concert, “The Kingdom.” I called Act I “Jesus,” and called this Act “the Church.” Faithful readers of this blog will recognize the poem by Ann Weems, which was published in a previous post.
Thanks for reading,
I believe Jesus believed that God’s kingdom really could come on earth as it is in heaven. That’s what he told his disciples to pray for, that’s what he told them to work for. He spent those years training them, in part, so that when he finished his work on earth they could take over. As he was leaving them he said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
And that’s just what happened. On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell upon those believers and sent them out into the city of Jerusalem, out into all of Judea and Samaria, out to the ends of the earth. Everywhere they went they preached the good news about Jesus, and his message of a Kingdom where the lost are found, the last are first, and the least are great. It was a reversal of most of what people had heard, most of their lives. Some of them received it with joy, while others did not. “These people are turning the world upside down!” the authorities grumbled, where somewhere Jesus must have smiled, because turning the world upside down is what the Kingdom is all about. “Every valley will be exalted,” Isaiah said, “and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.”
Sometimes it happens, and if it’s going to happen anywhere it should happen here, in the church. We, of all people, should be the ones to set an example for the world by letting God have his way with us, by throwing ourselves like a wood chip on the water of his will, and getting carried away by the current. When that happens the kingdom comes, in church as it is in heaven, and it looks a lot like this poem by Ann Weems:
The Church of Jesus Christ
The church of Jesus Christ is where a child brings a balloon…
is where old women come to dance . . .
is where young men see visions and old men dream dreams.
The church of Jesus Christ is where lepers come to be touched . . .
is where the blind see and the deaf hear . . .
is where the lame run and the dying live.
The church of Jesus Christ is where daisies bloom out of barren land . . .
is where children lead and wise men follow . . .
is where mountains are moved and walls come tumbling down.
The church of Jesus Christ is where loaves of bread are stacked in the sanctuary
to feed the hungry . . .
is where coats are taken off and put on the backs of the naked . . .
is where shackles are discarded and kings and shepherds sit down to life together.
The church of Jesus Christ is where barefoot children
run giggling in procession . . .
is where the minister is ministered unto . . .
is where the anthem is the laughter of the congregation and the offering plates
are full of people.
The church of Jesus Christ is where people go when they skin their knees
or their hearts . . .
is where frogs become princes and Cinderella dances beyond midnight . . .
is where judges don’t judge and each child of God is beautiful and precious.
The church of Jesus Christ is where the sea divides for the exiles . . .
is where the ark floats and the lamb lies down with the lion . . .
is where people can disagree and hold hands at the same time.
The church of Jesus Christ is where night is day . . .
is where trumpets and drums and tambourines declare God’s goodness . . .
is where lost lambs are found.
The church of Jesus Christ is where people write thank-you notes to God . . .
is where work is a holiday . . .
is where seeds are scattered and miracles grown.
The church of Jesus Christ is where home is . . .
is where heaven is . . .
is where a picnic is communion and people break bread together on their knees.
The church of Jesus Christ is where we live responsively to God’s coming . . .
even on Monday morning the world will hear . . .
an abundance of alleluias!
Note: After reading the poem I said, “I might add that the church of Jesus Christ is where people bring bags of rice and cans of tuna to feed their hungry neighbors.” And then, as we sang a hymn, people came forward and stacked those items on the communion table until it overflowed, and then stacked them on the chancel steps all around, hundreds of pounds of rice and tuna for the refugees from Nepal we have been ministering to, many of whom were at the concert that night. If I could have put a caption under that picture it would have read: “This is what life in the Kingdom looks like.”