Imagine The Kingdom (Monday)
Today's devotional comes from "Falling Into Goodness," a book of Lenten reflections by Chuck DeGroat. You can purchase the entire book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 3:1-2
“All I heard was repent-repent-repent growing up,” my 25 year old friend said. I was probably 30 at the time, and wanting to be relevant and edgy I said, “I hate that word, too. It just conveys to people that they’re bad.”
I hope I didn’t steer her too far afoot. You see, I get the visceral and painful response to the word based on her fundamentalist background, but nevertheless I’d tell her today that, indeed, she must repent.
Yet, in a way she hasn’t yet imagined…
Imagine the Kingdom in our midst. Paradise here and now. Freedom for captives. Food for the poor. Homes for refugees. Infinite delights in the mystic sweet communion discovered in contemplative silence. Who wouldn’t want to repent?
Repentance is a tricky word. While it’s been used in tragic and abusive ways, it is quite a simple word picture – turn around. If I were to say, “Hey kids, Disney World is near – turn around!” it’s a safe bet they would. That’s exactly what John the Baptist is doing here.
Turn around! Well that requires attending to where you’re going right now. And I will venture a guess that, like me, you’re trying to find heaven in a romantic relationship, paradise in an all-night binge, security in a lottery ticket. Where are you turned towards? What has captured your imagination?
The reality of God-dwelling-within is this: we are often turned to the periphery of our lives, and not to the center. King Jesus is home on his throne, waiting like the patient father for you and for me – prodigals that we are – to turn around. The infinitely patient God is no further from you than the heart beating in your chest, and yet you’ve tried to find him in a chocolate donut, a one-night stand, a shiny new car.
I’m not trying to guilt you. If you’re feeling it, though, it might be an opportune time to ask this question – what was I really looking for? Believe me, Jesus isn’t waiting to scold you, he’s waiting to embrace you. But he can’t receive you if you’re not looking.
Recently, someone I’ve been spiritually directing said to me, “Chuck, it feels like when I tune into the reality that God dwells within me more close to me than I am to myself, my whole body vibrates with an energy that feels better than anything I’ve ever known.” I believe the Bible calls this “delight.” And it was a word frequently on the lips of the Psalmists, early church theologians, medieval mystics, Puritan contemplatives, traditional hymn writers, and always little children – who have that stunning capacity to see beauty and goodness where the rest of us don’t.
Repent, for the kingdom is near. Turn around. Take a look. Exercise a bit of your sanctified imagination. What goodness might you find and fall in to if you dared to look?
God in whom I delight, I want to taste and see a sweetness and a beauty in you that I look for in a thousand other places. I realize you’re not looking to scold me for looking elsewhere – you’re just longing for me. I believe! Help my unbelief! Amen