Part III in a continued series on the kingdom of God and the interfaith movement.
I can’t stop thinking about the kingdom.
Like I’ve discussed in my recent posts, it’s been on my mind ever since my interfaith work intersected with the church of my youth as I was reflecting on my relationships and experiences in light of North Park University theologian Scot McKnight’s ideas put forth in his book One.Life.
And I’ve been pulling out some books – old and new. On my desk in my office, you’ll find papers from Lab on a Chip intercalated with articles from Christianity Today and printouts of from the White House’s recently announced Interfaith and Community Service Challenge. You’ll find books on following Jesus stacked with an anatomy atlas and a box of cereal (because, yes, I do practically live at my desk on campus).
And as a good graduate student should, I am chipping away bit-by-bit at everything – skimming a bit here and there, thinking, reading, highlighting (and occasionally remembering to eat breakfast). And amidst the bustle, I am finding a pervading sense that it all fits together, though I am only slowly gaining the ability to articulate it.
But I’d even venture to say that the common thread in all these things has something to do with the kingdom of God. Today, I want to take another look at the kingdom message. As Allen Wakabayashi in his book Kingdom Come begins to explain the meaning of the kingdom of God, he draws on C.S. Lewis’ great allegory The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
“Four children stumble into a magical land called Narnia. The true king of the land is Aslan, a magnificent lion, the Christ figure. Yet at the time of the story, Narnia is under the rule of the White Witch, who has cursed the land so that it is perpetually in a bitter cold winter with no Christmas. But at one point in the story, Christmas does come as Father Christmas comes, dispensing gifts. Then springtime begins to melt, the trees release their snow covers, flowers bloom and birds chirp. What is going on? Father Christmas explains, ‘Aslan is on the move! The Witch’s magic is weakening!’ We come to understand that wherever Aslan draws near, springtime breaks out in the midst of the bitter winter of the White Witch.”
Just as the effects of Aslan’s movement are seen in the restoration of Narnia from winter back to spring, Wakabayashi suggests that the kingdom of God is about the “reinstatement of God’s intentions for his entire creation.” It is a continual process of renewal.
As a Christian, I have hope for the melting snow, blooming flowers, and chirping birds that signify the kingdom of God. They are things I have experienced in my own spiritual life: forgiveness, fulfillment, purpose. Yet they are also things I see God bringing piece-by-piece to the world around me, often administered through one person serving another. Perhaps it’s even reflected in the mess on my desk: technologies for promoting health, training that enables the service others, a personal search to further understand God.
This is also the message that I want to communicate through my interfaith work – especially through the structured service and storytelling I mention repeatedly: God is on the move.
Restoration has come and is coming. This, I think, is the message of the kingdom of God. It’s also the story I’m telling to others, with both words and actions, as a Christian in the interfaith movement.