“Those first Christians were all wrong. They expected the end of the world at any moment. How can we take anything they wrote and make sense of it?”
“The end of the world is near! Any day now, the rapture will happen and all the believing souls will be sucked away into heaven!”
It’s tragic that these two streams of thought seem to weasel their way into conversations about Christianity. Last night at Barnett’s Pub, both of them reared their ugly heads. I did my best to dissuade our group of these beliefs. I tried to explain how the Kingdom of God has indeed already come, and is coming into the world, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll fly off to heaven as God zaps the earth. In other words, the Kingdom of God comes with a casserole.
First of all, I don’t think that the first Christians (of course, this phrase carries its own baggage) were expecting “the end of the world” as we conceive that phrase (with explosions, destruction, etc.). Rather, they were hoping for the end of things as they currently stood. I seriously believe that what the first Christians hoped for was God to become King and for the Christian community to become the first citizens in God’s Kingdom. Of course, that would have meant the end of things as they stood.
Then there’s other weird beast – the rapture. This perverse idea has taken American Christianity by storm. All the righteous people (however you define that) will be sucked away to heaven to live with God for ever as the earth is blown to bits. Let’s get this straight – that’s a shadow of Christianity, and it’s nowhere near Anglicanism. Remember, we follow the Lord who loves this world, who took on flesh and entered this world, and who was raised on Easter and walked again on this world. God is very much concerned with creation.
So we’re stuck in the middle; which is right where we want to be. We can see God’s Kingdom right here and right now, we don’t have to wait until we die. But we also hold fast the hope that one day the Kingdom of God will come in all its glorious fullness (“…thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven…”).
This is why I think the Kingdom of God comes with a casserole. When our brothers or sisters in the Lord are sick, and we bring a casserole to their family, we are participating in the Kingdom of God. When we create a piece of art that glorifies God, we are participating in the Kingdom of God. When we welcome the poor and the homeless into our churches, we are participating in the Kingdom of God. The Church is the forerunner, the foretaste of God’s Kingdom. Sure, we’re not perfect, that’s obvious. But at our best, we give glimpses of what it’s like to live in fellowship with one another in the name of the Lord.
We, as participants in the Church’s mission, are showing the world what the Kingdom of God looks like – caring for the sick, helping the poor, creating beauty. Look around you. The Kingdom of God is all about us. So bake a casserole, help a homeless dude, and you’ll find yourself in the Kingdom of God.