Thinking Anew – Kingdom of God exists in everyday situations

Shakespeare recognises the potential power of even the smallest act of kindness or decency: “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” Getty Images

Shakespeare recognises the potential power of even the smallest act of kindness or decency: “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” Getty Images

 

‘New and Improved” is a phrase often used in the advertising world by businesses wanting to promote a particular product. One commentator said that she had figured out that often the only improvements she could see were “less product and new packaging”.

The word “new” may have lost much of its force in the business world but not so for St Paul who writes in tomorrow’s epistle 2 Cor 5.17: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

While this sits well with the message of Easter and Pentecost, the fact is that the morning after that first Easter Day people were waking up in the same old world where little seemed to have changed.

In one sense that remains so today, leading some to question the basis of the Christian faith but that is to misunderstand the mission of Jesus which was never intended to be a light-switch moment when the people of the world suddenly chose to be good rather than bad.

The “newness” that Paul has in mind is the transformation of each person who as an expression of a day to day, living relationship with God, models his/her life on the self-giving love seen in Jesus. Christians make that choice with confidence believing that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has affirmed for all time that God’s loving purposes will prevail, that good will overcome evil and that life will overcome death.

Philip Yancey, a best-selling Christian writer in America, sees the role of the Christian in this way: “The people of God are not merely to mark time, waiting for God to step in and set right all that is wrong. Rather, they are to model the new heaven and new earth, and by so doing awaken longings for what God will someday bring to pass.”

That does not necessarily mean hitting the headlines but rather in the ordinary everyday opportunities that come our way in the home, the workplace, and the community.

The saintly George Herbert put it this way in one of his hymns: “A servant with this clause/ makes drudgery divine;/ who sweeps a room, as for thy laws, / makes that and the action fine.”

In the Merchant of Venice Shakespeare recognises the potential power of even the smallest act of kindness or decency: “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”

And so every good deed, every act of kindness, no matter how insignificant has potential, a point underlined in tomorrow’s gospel reading about the kingdom of God: “It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

In his book Living Faithfully, Bishop John Pritchard suggests that the kingdom of God exists in everyday situations. “We could always be on the lookout for signs of the kingdom with which we can identify and support. It’s important to emphasize that they don’t need to have a Christian label. God doesn’t go in for labels but for realities. It may mean less churchgoing but more gospel living, and that’s entirely to be welcomed. Christians are always deeply involved in the work of local and national charities, but I find it’s too easy to buy off my conscience with the direct debit. What matters just as much as giving money is taking an informed interest, praying and getting involved . . . Our task is to help to repair the world and like any community project it has its own rewards.”

As (Rabbi) Lionel Blue delightfully puts it: “Do something for the sake of heaven and heaven appears.”

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