The time has come. The kingdom of God is near.” Mark 1:15
I’ll admit it, I kind of like Twitter – I kind of like it a lot. In fact, I kind of like the entire notion of all things digital, real-time, and social: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Skype, even *old school alert* SMS (aka “texting” for my online-challenged pals), phones. Apparently, given the entry of “Tweetstorm” into the modern lexicon, I’m not alone. Just listen to cable news any morning for breathless reporting of that latest 140 character missives from at least one very well-known social media aficionado.
Many of my friends, especially those people a little *ahem* older than me, don’t “get” the Social Media concept. “Seems like a waste of time,” says one. “Just another form of stupefied TV watching,” opines another. Or this one: “Twitter’s a glorified altar of narcissism from which voyeurs and provocateurs alike can shout ‘here I am! Look at me right this second!’” They clearly haven’t figured out I’m in that business.
To be sure, a casual romp through the Twitter Public Timeline can produce a mind-numbing litany of apparently meaningless chatter, a kind of digital “white noise” punctuated by voices emptying any and every immediate thought into the virtual stream of consciousness that is the online world.
Yet Social Media concepts like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr and others offer another face to those who look just a little deeper. For the emerging class of the online fluent, these and other sites are opening new doors on communication in the 21st Century, and redefining our very understanding of relationships.
The immediacy of these tools, their “now-ness,” creates a real and altogether novel form of intimacy lost from our past, when we used to gather in market places every day for one-to-many interactions. Unlike email or its gray-haired daddy snail mail, Social Media provides an opportunity to instantly connect with like minds anywhere, all the time.
In a sense, Social Media is like a pervasive, omnipresent force into which all of us can tap at any time and connect – like, say, electricity.
Which brings me to a sermon I recently heard based on the passage above from Mark. In his remarks, the pastor compared the Kingdom of God to electricity – something tangible, right here, right now, available for all Christians to “plug in” to.
I’ve thought a lot about that message. It seems intuitively “right” to me. Indeed Jesus’ entire message and ministry has always seemed to have an immediacy about them, a sense of doing more than just “believing” in an invisible God.
The Kingdom of God is already here, surrounding us, within us, in our midst. Like electricity, it flows through us, available to everyone.
At the core of the Gospel, at the very center of the message preached by Jesus, is a simple yet simultaneously confounding concept. The Kingdom of God – that unfathomable promise of Salvation and Grace bestowed on creation by a loving and benevolent creator – is not simply some distant, beyond-the-stars destination we’ll get to one day with our First Class Ticket on the Salvation Express purchased by the blood of a martyred prophet. The Kingdom of God is also already here, at this moment, actually present in the “now” of our lives. Surrounding us, within us, in our midst. Like electricity, it flows through us, available to everyone.
Quite different from the notion that we should repent out of our sins in exchange for a free upgraded suite at The Hotel Paradise after checking in with St. Peter down by Pearly Gates Junction (try finding that on Yelp).
Time and again Jesus demonstrated that his Kingdom ideas were verb-ish, rather than noun-ish. Over and over he describes the Kingdom of God in terms of doing something right now rather than a destination to pursue: a farmer sowing seeds (Matthew 13:3-8); a man planting a mustard seed (Luke 13:19); yeast worked into dough (Luke 13:21); a man separating weeds from wheat in his fields (Matthew 13:24-30); a fisherman pulling in a net overloaded with catch (Matthew 13:47-50); casting out demons by the Spirit of God (Matthew 12:28); sending his disciples to preach the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:2); healing the sick so that the Kingdom of God has arrived (Luke 10:9). To Jesus, the Kingdom of God seems to be something we live here and now. There is an urgent immediacy to his teachings.
Viewed through this lens, how different might our response be to God’s Kingdom invitation? Think about this a moment. Really pause (you online addicts, I know how hard that can be) and consider. What would your life look like if you lived in the Kingdom now, not at some future time after you leave this existence? What would be different? How would you interact with your family and your friends and even those who are not so much your friends? What if we were already citizens of the Kingdom?
Something jumps out me in reading the New Testament, something that screams out in every act and deed Jesus performed, and seen throughout the Acts of the Apostles. God’s plan is to work through the body of His Church – you and me. His plan is for us to do unto each other every day.
How many of us learned in Sunday school that we should believe in God and not commit sin because that’s how we get into Heaven when we die? “Sin management,” some folks might call it. What if we take a different view? What if we believe in God because we already live in the Kingdom and Kingdom citizens have a responsibility to connect with each other and those in need right now – not after we all die? In other words, what if we focused on the outcomes of our relationships with God and each other rather than the rules and regulations of religion?
Try something new this week. Instead of waiting for Sunday to “do church,” find an opportunity to “do church” on your morning train, or at the grocery, or at your kids’ football game on Friday night. Talk to someone. Ask how they are doing – and listen when they answer. Share your own story with them if they invite you. Live as though you are already in God’s Kingdom. Plug into the electricity of God’s love and feel how connected you are to everyone, all the time.
And in the meantime, make time to meet some new friends. They’re all around you in the Kingdom.