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Ruminating on another glimpse of the Kingdom

Recently, Rev Abi posted a link to Can, a YouTube video featuring scenes of the father-and-son marathon team Dick and Rick Hoyt set to the music of Mercy Me’s I Can Only Imagine. (I strongly urge you to watch the video, even if you don’t read the rest of this post.) What sets this team apart is that Rick, 44, was born a spastic quadriplegic, cerebral palsy, non-speaking person. Through strong family support, he’s asserted his independence, graduated from Boston University and takes part in community activities—particularly the marathons and triathlons he and Dick, 65, have participated in together over the last 35 years.

You can’t watch the video without seeing the love between these two men—a powerful, transforming, exploding, solid and deep kind of love. But I wonder if we shouldn’t be seeing something else as well: their love is a powerful image of what Kingdom life looks like. I don’t know if the Hoyts are Christians, but I do know the father-son love they demonstrate reflects the Kingdom. This is here-and-now Kingdom life.

Unfortunately, this kind of love is all too rare. It should be pouring out from the lives of those who follow Jesus, but too often it doesn’t. And that’s not the way God wants it to be.

How can we start loving this way? How can we be a part of releasing the Kingdom—a Father’s love of his children—into the world?

While there are probably many ways, two basic ways come to mind.

First, we need to break down the walls of the church. Dick loves Rick with a father’s love. Dick's walked beside his son day-in-and-day-out since birth. He’s held, fed, touched, laughed and cried with Rick for 44 years. Dick knows him intimately. And this kind of intimate relationship and love is what Jesus calls us to with each other—and every person we encounter. This kind of relationship and love should characterize the church.

But we’re caught up in a lie: We’ve come to see “church” as those four walls we sit inside once or twice a week. This not only binds us, but binds the Kingdom. It tries to stuff it into a tiny box that’s peaked into a few times a week.

But the truth is we—you and I—are the church. Everywhere we go, we are the church: our homes, the neighbor’s front yard, our children’s classrooms, our cubicle at work, the freeway, the grocery store, the drycleaners—the list is endless. When we realize the church goes way beyond a building, we begin to see the world the way God does. We start to see the people in front of us. We begin to spend time with those we encounter. We begin to operate out of compassion rather than obligation. When we live this, the Kingdom is loosed, the possibilities limitless and God’s love spills out from us and into every crack and crevice. The walls of the “church” crash down and we are loosed.

But more foundational than breaking down church walls is something else: I don’t see how we can love like this unless we know how much we are loved by God. Do we really get how much he loves us? I know I don’t—or, at least, I’m only just starting to.

Over the last few years, God’s rent my world with images of his love. Like the father of the prodigal son rushing to meet his longed-for boy while he was yet a long way down the road. An unbridled child running to a love-brimmed father. A swirl of strong arms enveloping abandoned joy. Love. Acceptance. Right-ness. Oh-so-indescribible and abounding grace.

I don’t think we get that when God walks into the room we don’t fall to our knees in unworthiness but run to him like a joyful child to her smiling father. We don’t get that all’s right, forgiven, bold and beautiful, right and pure, perfect and righteous. We don’t get what it means that we call him Abba, that we live and belong in wide open spaces of his grace and glory, that we are new and free and loved beyond measure.

All too often, we see God as someone ready to thump us on the head with a disapproving look every time we miss the mark. But that’s not reality. When we embrace and trust the Message—that Jesus fixed it all, that he lives in us, that we are deeply rooted in him, that we live him (Col. 2)—we “throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise” (Romans 5:1-3 Message). That reality doesn’t change when we miss the mark. Oh, we need to recognize and confess that we’ve crashed and burned—and we will do that often—but there’s no need to hesitate to run to those arms that are always waiting, eager and loving. That is where we live now. That is the way it works in the Kingdom.

If we live in constant awareness of love like that, we can’t help but spill that love everywhere we walk. Why? Because it’s too much for us to contain. It’s the love of God.

If you, like me, are new to living in this reality, know that God’s ready to make it real if we but ask. It’s like the old chorus I sung as a child: “Seek and you shall find/Knock and the door will open/Ask and it will be given/And the love comes a-tumbling down.” He’ll show us. He’ll transform us. That’s who he is.

That YouTube video of the Hoyts was one of the things God used to again show me what his Kingdom looks like and how much he loves me. Can the Kingdom look like that here-and-now? Can we really live like this? O Lord, let it be.

(Images: Rick Hoyt from Can; Church photo by janerc at flickr.com; father and son photo by Tarzen at flickr.com)

Comments

David said…
Carmen
I love this post, I haven't seen the video (yet), but can imagine. I really agree that we need a view of the Church which is wall-less. Something Brian McLaren said at a conference recently was 'when someone draws a boundary which excludes me, I try to draw one that includes them.' Too long the Church has been about exclusion and meeting the criteria to get in, but Jesus wasn't like that. He included women, Samaritans, tax-collectors and said that the Kingdom was for them. We think that the Kingdom operates only in the Church, but God's activity is all around us.
Carmen Andres said…
"we think the Kingdom operates only in the Church, but God's activity is all around us" -- well said, david. and thanks for the visit. blessings.
Kari Z. Murphy said…
I am so glad to have found your blog through the CWO blogring. I greatly appreciate your authenticity and insight. I'll be back often!

In Christ alone,
Kari

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