THIS BEAUTIFUL MESS: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God
Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei church, writes about the paradoxical life Christians are called to live while on earth. Calling it a "class of opposites," McKinley thinks that today's believer has lost the meaning of Christ's gospel message. Citing back to an early childhood memory of visiting a local dump with his father, McKinley introduces the contradictory phrase "beautiful mess," so saying that Christ in the Beatitudes declared, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." In other words, those who are lacking have the most. There is an awful lot of loose-ended ugliness operating in the world today; still, Christians infused with Jesus's love and purpose can offer glimpses of beauty through their loving service toward the broken.
First, though, believers have to seek the treasure before them, Christ, and embrace the truth that the kingdom is here, right now in the present day. McKinley also believes that many theologians have missed the mark in understanding what the kingdom of heaven is; they've reduced, spiritualized or postponed it. He admits that Western minds want to quantify everything, including Christ's teachings. Rather than embrace Christ as Savior and King, many believers fall into a "self-based" faith devoid of the power and the biblical theology that life on earth will include suffering, sorrow and pain. The author offers a way back to understanding the real calling Christ proffered to His followers; understanding it begins with the re-visioning of life in the kingdom.
Seeing with new eyes tempered by repentance starts the journey. As with much of this text, McKinley recounts his own personal experiences and those of his church family and friends. Here, he talks about re-igniting a desire to follow Jesus when he and church community members spent six months on their knees confessing and begging God for hearts to care. Gradually, in small steps, McKinley says that they began to change from the inside out and started being kingdom people instead of doing the expected Christian stuff without the inner heart change. And the author reminds readers that Jesus Himself said that the kingdom of God already "is," so God doesn't require our help or aid to fix it, keep it running or make it over.
Being rather than doing is key, and yet McKinley paradoxically concurs that believers must live out their faith by recognizing and responding to the needs of others in their own community and the world at large. He calls them signposts along the road of life --- those signatures of love that believers can leave behind in practical service through use of money/material goods, proper attitude toward creation and an inviting welcome to all people. Everyday, McKinley says, is another gift of time to present a broken, messy world, the ultimate treasure to be found in Jesus.
"Recognize the opportunity and seize it, for the kingdom of heaven is here," challenges McKinley.
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