by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
“In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, for I live and you will live” — Alleluia!
I listened to the monks of Conception Abbey chant these words of Jesus. I felt a peace settle within me: it’s the end of Easter – seven weeks after the Resurrection, then the next day is Pentecost (this year, May 31st).
“Go and make disciples…” says Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel. We call this The Great Commission, but I think it should be called The Great Permission. Jump to Acts chapter 1 (verse six) and we find the disciples asking Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
The disciples wanted the kingdom to come, on earth as in heaven. They wanted Permission to GO – to make it so. The disciples were still, even at this last moment before Jesus’ ascension, still thinking of “empire and conquest” – “Now Jesus, will you kick out the Romans and restore King David’s reign when we were top nation?”
“Yes, the kingdom is come,” Jesus replies. “But not how you think.” The telling TURN comes next. Jesus ascends. Two men dressed in white stand there beside them. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky…?” The two men say Jesus is coming back. But you’ve got work to do: GO! The disciples don’t need to be told – like a shot, they are off to Jerusalem, the political, social and religious capital.
Fifty days after the Passover comes Pentecost and the Holy Spirit comes with tongues of fire. The church explodes.
Much of the time I feel like we are standing staring at the sky. We seem to be confused about “what time it is.” Like the disciples, we ask “Is this the time…?” Then we fill in some lame self-conscious answers like… “fix my life, grow our church, straighten out my kid, end my addiction…” I suppose these are legitimate prayers. But they do not answer the question “What time is it?”
What time is it? It is time to collect the building materials for the kingdom of heaven on earth. What are these materials? Beyond redeemed souls, the kingdom of g-d according to Jesus is made up of energetic “greedy” children, the rich who share lavishly and live like everyone else, those who pray for peace, work for justice, take massive risks to life and comforts. Like King David, we are to be stockpiling materials so the next King (Solomon) can actually build the temple. David made plans and drawings, gathered the money and materials, but he never actually saw the temple built in his lifetime.
I believe Jesus comes back (we don’t go away – we go to meet him and bring him here). When Jesus arrives what he should find are faithful obedience vineyard workers; investors who can say ‘see Master, your one asset (talent) has increased tenfold!’ I believe we should be fluent in the language of the kingdom of heaven BEFORE the kingdom comes in full.
Get on with the work. Beyond just a “commission,” we have Permission. It is time to fight the right fight for justice and love, and walk away from materialism and consumer comforts.
You kingdom come, your will be done on earth during our lifetime with our lives as though heaven is realized for what it really is: heaven is all around us NOW.