No doubt you have heard countless sermons about the kingdom of God and no doubt it was something along the lines of, “The Kingdom of God is the reign of God in your heart” or something a bit flaky like, “The Kingdom of God is the reign of justice and peace on earth.”
Or maybe it was something Oprah-ish like “The Kingdom of God is within you, you simply have to look within to find your true self.” Yeh, but that verse from Luke 17 is not translated well. It is more likely that it should be translated, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst.” Jesus therefore meaning, the Kingdom of God is right here right now. It’s me.”
To be sure, Jesus does go on in Luke 17 to deliver one of his most enigmatic passages about the apocalyptic dimension to the Kingdom of God, and let’s face it, we never hear about that aspect of the kingdom which sounds a lot to me like Judgement Day.
But here’s another interpretation I’ve never heard, and it hit me over the head while preparing the homily for today.
Its this: Jesus really did establish a kingdom, and it is a kingdom here on earth with land, buildings, laws, rules, ministers, ambassadors, citizens and a steward who rules in the absence of the king.
Its called the Catholic Church. Think about it for a moment:
When Jesus called Peter he gave his the keys to the kingdom, and this is a reference to Isaiah 22:22 when the steward Eliakim is give the sash and the keys to the kingdom. As Eliakim was the steward or Prime Minister of the kingdom, so Peter becomes the steward and his successor holds the keys today and lives just a few yards from where Peter was martyred and buried.
Furthermore, this kingdom of Christ’s, unlike any other denomination, has rules and laws called Canon Law. It has officers and ministers called the clergy. It has embassies in outlying countries called your the nunciature and has outposts across the world where it own buildings and lands called dioceses and parishes. It has educational systems, financial systems and social welfare systems. It has a power structure and an international.
I find this idea pretty cool. Jesus’ kingdom is not just a spiritual state of being or a vague idea of a condition of peace and justice, nor is it simply a cozy feeling we have after a time of meditation. Nor is it what the other denominations have– a confederation of congregations.
It is a kingdom with real physical, historical qualities. It is the kingdom of Christ set up within human history and always running parallel to human history and yet transcending human history. Think about it. Governments come and go. Politicians rise and fall. Empires gather strength and wither away. Countries are here today and gone tomorrow. Kings and kingdoms appear and disappear.
But the Kingdom of God, like a mustard seed, is planted and continues to grow and grow until that day when, all at once in a flash, with a trumpet crash, King Christ comes riding home like Aragorn to claim his own. Then the steward will hand back the keys because the King has returned to his kingdom.