Tuesday, April 16, 2013

An Image Of The Kingdom

I have been leading a class at church since last autumn. The class meets on Tuesday nights.  We're using Abingdon Press's "Jesus Collection", a series of studies centering on various aspects of Jesus' life and ministry.  The volume we are using in this, our last section of our study, is entitled The World-Shattering Ministry of Jesus, written by Anne B. Crumpler and John O. Gooch.  Tonight, we're studying sin through the lens of Matthew 9:9-13.

On pp. 29-30, the authors offers the following thought-experiment:
Imagine.  Walk down a city street at night.  Gray buildings fade intro gray sidewalks.  The streets are wet with rain.  Streetlights turn the clouds an eerie pink.  No one's in the city at night.  Businesses are closed.  The theater crowd's gone home.  You hear the clatter of your own footsteps.  Up ahead, light from a window floods the sidewalk, like a porch light welcoming you home.  You walk closer and peer in the window - your nose on the glass of an all-night restaurant.
Inside, a group of people sits at the table.  A woman sits drinking coffee, briefcase open, going over reports.  Nearby, a couple who have apparently just left the theater treat themselves to a snack.  A man with his son, still in his sports uniform, laugh over sundaes.  Good; a safe place.
You go inside, only to see a man with a knit cap, his skin slick with rain and lined with dirt, shoveling in a plate of eggs.  A woman makes a pass at him.  An old man sips on a bottle in a brown paper bag.  A teenager with Coke-bottle glasses play cards; his companion lays a gun on the table.  A man sits with one foot on the edge of the table, talking to a woman in black with a rose tattoo on her breast.  A man in a blue tattered suit pulls up a chair.  A waitress leans over a counter, watching.  Do you go back out or stay there?  Tell the ragtag bunch to leave?  Sit only the the "nice" folks?
I can't imagine a more beautiful description of the Kingdom of God.  Precisely because it challenges me to think what those three words really mean, this little sketch demands we ask ourselves uncomfortable questions.  Questions such as, "Am I one of those 'nice' folks?"  Questions like, "Who has turned and walked out of church because of something I've done/said/how I appeared?"  Questions like, "The Bible says Jesus probably would have been right at home in a scene like this; why am I not at home here, too?"

I'm really looking forward to my class tonight.  And, boy, am I glad the volume I wanted to use is in between printings.

Virtual Tin Cup

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