..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Pearl of Great Price: Have You Tasted God's Kingdom?

I have felt led to engage upon a time of
spiritual inventory in my own life and
to implore those around me to do likewise,
but even as I begin to do this, I feel
an equally large caution within to not
undertake this as a checklist of things
that I should be doing more or less of,
depending on if they are vice or virtue.
All that feels so repugnant and I was
wondering why. I think I know why.

I am reading Gerhard Lohfink's  "Jesus
and Community"
and it striking such
deep chords within that I can't put it
down. I'm going to be writing a few articles
quoting some of what he says because it
is so rich and timely, and using it as
a challenge to the way we think about
how and why we serve God and engage
in spiritual disciplines.

He makes the most amazing point: that
the "reign of God which is now coming
to the world, which is actually in its
midst, is so appealing and fascinating
that it is not at all difficult to change
one's life and to live from now on
enthralled by what has been found
(J & C, pg 60).

Somehow, it is that point that I feel
that we so desperately miss when we
view and review our Christian life.
Jesus does not call us to live just
a disciplined life according to a
set of high standards. He calls us
to live a humanly impossible life
in the company of His kingdom people
ON EARTH. It is a life of complete
abandonment to God not in a
restrictive sense, but in a
discovery of what freedom in
God's life and kingdom is really
all about. Jesus tells us this
in the parable of the buried
treasure and the parable
of the pearl:

"The kingdom of heaven is like a
buried treasure which a man found
in a field. He hid it again, and
REJOICING at his find, went and
sold all that he had and bought
the field"
. Or again, "the kingdom
of heaven is like a merchant's
search for fine pearls. When he
found one really valuable pearl,
he went back and put up for sale
all that he had and bought it."

Lohfink notes that nothing in
these parables seems grim or
heroic. "The men do give up
everything and act in a radical
manner, but they do so without
bitterness or heroism, They behave
like men who have made a great
discovery and have had extraordinary
luck in doing so. The attraction

of what they have found overwhelms
them and permeates everything they do
(J&C,pg 60)

In other words, they are happier
than the "American Pickers" when they
find a junkyard of rusted vintage
signs and old motorcycles. It would
be like me going to an estate sale
and finding the whole house full
of every wonderful vintage item
I had ever hoped to find all
in the same place all marked "Free
if you take everything". My heart
would be racing and my joy would
be great! I'd be all over that!

Let me hammer the punchline now, "Do
you feel that kind of happiness
about your spiritual life?" I dare
to say that you might not. And
this is one of the great differences
between the early followers of Jesus and
us. We do not have that same fire
in our bones. We do not
recognize how full of ecstasy (even
with untold persecution) living
in the kingdom of God is because
we have not tasted it properly.

Somehow, the kingdom of God
has gotten equated with a bunch
of rules and regimens and not
about the discovery of God's
"unspeakable gift" in the kingdom
of Christ. Ah, but I see you asking,
"if I have never really tasted that
kingdom, how can I know that
kind of desire for it?"

Well, now we will see what you
are made of! That revelation must
come from God!  I ask you to prayerfully read
the gospels and ask God to reveal
His kingdom to you: a kingdom
built on love so selfless that human
hands cannot simulate it, a kingdom
of such brotherly and sisterly
affection that living and dying for one another
is an honor! Read the gospels in
the light of seeing what impelled
the early disciples to do what they
did joyfully and whole-heartedly

Brothers and sisters,
have you ever felt His Kingdom burning in
your heart? If you have than there is
enough fuel there for you to walk in
a heavenly life right here on earth.
A life that throws religious caution to the wind,
and makes total abandonment of every
lesser thing easy.

There is a pearl of great price, and 
field with a great treasure hid right
there where you are sitting. You ignore it at
your own sad loss and peril. There is
some chance that, even as a Christian,
you have never really experienced even
a glimpse of what Jesus
wants to hold out to us as His family.

You may have heard what you think is the
message; you may have heard
and not understood. You will
know how deeply you have heard
the message by how much joy
wells up in your heart when you think
of it, and how much you are willing
to let go of to keep it! Start your
spiritual inventory there!

What God's kingdom is really about
makes that choice a no-brainer and
a full-hearter! I need to get back
to this place in my heart and sit
with it.  I think Jesus calls it "First Love."
Its affect is amazing.

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