Reflections by Jerry Webber

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Going Away to Receive the Kingdom

Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Makes purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:32 - 34)

The "kingdom" is not an outer, physical realm, but an inner stance of soul. It does not deny or denigrate the physical or the social or the mental; rather, it informs all of life.

The kingdom, as offered by God and as demonstrated through Jesus, permeates all of life. It is the core from which life is lived in all its physical, mental, and social dimensions.

Jesus told his followers that it was God's "good pleasure" to give them this stance of being in the world. It's what God wants, what God desires for all beings created.

So what are Jesus' next words? God wants to give us this kingdom, this way of seeing life, this way of being in the world . . . then his next words are "sell your possessions" and "give alms." It sounds like we have to clear out some space for what God wants us to have. God wants to give us good things, full life, meaningful existence, but our hands are too full of our own stuff to receive what God gives. There is a requisite "selling" and "giving," in short, an emptying that is part and parcel of kingdom-life.

This is where God can start to rub most of us the wrong way. We had thought that God was about helping us get ahead, helping us have more, helping us have a better life, helping us get things situated to our liking. Many of us came to faith -- or some kind of religious expression -- for just this reason: It promised to make a better life for us.

So when someone says to us that first of all we must empty, "sell," or "give away," we can get defensive. This is not the kind of religion we had bargained for.

There is a reason that the Gospels tell stories about persons who "leave" their nets (work) behind to follow Jesus . . . about sons who leave the safety and predictability of home in order to wander into "far countries" before returning home in a different way. There is a reason Jesus says that you have to lose your life in order to find it . . . that he shocks listeners with words about leaving or going away from family and work and all things well-controlled in order to find your life.

Those who receive the kingdom -- the kingdom God wants to give -- are those who are willing to open up, let go, leave, and go away from what is known, consolidated, and hoarded. In some stories, like the Prodigal Son, it is a literal leaving home, going away from what is known into that which is unknown. It means letting go of what is secure and comfortable, giving away of what one has in openness to what is ahead.

This is the difficulty of the kingdom. It is why many hear the words, but few enter fully into it. I am invited to leave what I think I know for what I do not yet know . . . leaving where I am for where I am not yet . . . leaving who I think I am for who I might be or who might yet arise from within me.

This going away or "selling" in order to receive the kingdom is hard. It takes courage to leave, to walk into something that puts me off balance, something I cannot manage or control.

From time to time it is helpful for me to rehearse my own leavings. In what ways have I left home?

For me, leaving one religious framework for an unknown framework was a leaving home . . .

Taking up a deliberately soulful life-path was a leaving home . . .

Taking on new life-questions -- without having them answered! -- has been a leaving home . . .

Walking away from a job, with its salary, position, and identity was a leaving home . . .

Challenging my underlying assumptions about life's fairness and the place of soul has been a leaving home . . .

Daring to ask tough questions about light/darkness in faith and Holy Scripture has been a leaving home . . .

Living more soulfully, guided more organically by my sense of Spirit than by external codes has been a leaving home . . .

Have these times of "going away" from consolidation and that-which-I-know helped me to receive the kingdom that God wants to give? I cannot say. That's yet another unanswered question I'll have to live with.

I can say, however, that there is an inner tug toward this path, toward the mystery, toward the longing of my soul for this kind of life. In short, something about it feels right and seems authentic. My hope is that it is not simply a stroll into mystery, but that it is a path toward receiving the kingdom that God is pleased to give.

1 comment:

Katy said...

Wonderfully said. Thank you for sharing this.