I believe the Kingdom of God is more upside down than we realize.
Where down is up, the last are first, slaves are free, enemies are loved, and the weak are strong.
Where streams flow uphill…
This upside down Kingdom.
The Kingdom is full of surprises. Again and again in parable, sermon, and act Jesus startles us. Things in the Gospels are often upside down… Things are reversed. Paradox, irony, and surprise permeate the teachings of Jesus. They flip our expectations upside down. The least are the greatest. The immoral receive forgiveness and blessing. Adults become like children. The religious miss the heavenly banquet… Things aren’t the way we expect them to be. We’re baffled and perplexed. Amazed, we step back. Should we laugh or should we cry? Again and again, turning our expectations upside down, the Kingdom surprises us.
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And this upside down Kingdom certainly has an upside down King. Think about it: born of a virgin, welcomed to the world in a stable, on the run as a refugee, poor, humble, easily missed and overlooked. His greatest act? Death.
What other king is like this One?
Quoting Kraybill again…
Sometimes it’s hard to see Jesus because he comes to us through the filters of twenty centuries of church history. Our images of Him may come from storybooks, bumper stickers, or theological words we hardly understand. In many ways, Christians have domesticated Jesus, taming Him to fit our culture and time.
But when we peel off some of the filters, we often discover a very different Jesus than the one who came to us in Sunday School. He may be a Jesus we never knew before.
The Jesus we find may startle us. He’s somewhat irreverent, certainly not a sweet shepherd walking beside the still waters. In fact, He’s not carrying any sheep and He stirs the political waters so much that He gets the Roman electric chair.
But this is the Jesus who, according to the Gospels, discloses God’s will and nature for all time.
Jesus does not portray the Kingdom on the margins of society. He doesn’t plead for social avoidance or withdrawal. Nor does He assume that the Kingdom and the world split neatly into separate realms.
Kingdom action takes place in the world in the middle of the societal ballpark. But it’s a different game. Kingdom players follow special rules and heed another coach. Kingdom values challenge the taken-for-granted social ruts and sometimes run against the dominant cultural grain.
But don’t misunderstand. Kingdom people are not sectarians protesting the larger society just for the sake of being different. Kingdom values, rooted in the deep Love and abiding Grace of God, seed new ways of thinking and living.
* * * * *
Yes, this Kingdom is more upside down than we realize.
Here in this Kingdom, down is up, slaves are free, the poor are rich, enemies are loved, outsiders are in, and success isn’t what we ever imagined it to be.
The title picture of this post comes from this video, Upside Down, Left To Right: A Letterpress Film, about the 500 year old upside down process of letterpress printing. Maybe I’m just weird, but I love watching stuff like this.
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