The kingdom of heaven:
Saint Matthew’s designation
for when God and God’s ways permeate all in all.

The words of the Our Father state it most memorably.
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.”

John the Baptizer stands on the banks of the Jordan River
shouting in the wilderness,
that the kingdom of heaven has come near.

Jesus doesn’t wait for people to come near to him.
But travels all about the countryside
proclaiming what the kingdom of heaven is like.

Proclaiming it in parable.

Indirectly conveying deep meaning.
Rather than speaking directly to it.

Exploring a multitude of images.
Rather than using exact equivalents.

Encouraging creative thought.
Rather than limiting understanding.
We need more parables in our day in age.
Much like Jesus’ original hearers
and the community of Saint Matthew’s Gospel.
needed parables in their day in age.

Because we are increasingly inundated
by people and programs that tell us what to think.
Narrow our imagination.
Limit our sense of possibility.
Reduce our curiosity.

The result in the first century
is not all that much different from the result in the 21st.

Heightened sense of difference.
Disregard for neighbors,
especially ones different from us.
Growing isolation.
And insularity.

Among first century people.
These trends led to the pointless division of
Jews and Christian Jews.
Our synagogues and their synagogues.
Both in Jerusalem and in other parts of the Roman world.
Like Antioch, where Saint Matthew’s Gospel is probably from.

Division, instead of uniting in the face of Roman pressure.
Which led to strain, fracture of
community, society, any sense of togetherness.

We see it a world away in Israel and Gaza.
And right here in New York City.
Girls in Nigeria.
Y.M.C.A campers on a bus in Oracle.
Or the migrant children they are confused for.

Which makes me think of especially of Jesus’
words of putting stumbling blocks before one of these little ones.

Our communities are fractured.
Our society cracking.
Our sense of togetherness dissolving.
As we lob insults and missiles.
Use the plight of children for political gain or loss.
To say nothing of the more ordinary
but no less extraordinary harm
so many children endure in our cities and countrysides.
It is directly to situations such as these,
—when from elected leaders on down,
we show little ability to speak directly with one another.
With honor.
And dignity.
And humility—

that Jesus proclaims the kingdom of heaven,
its ability to overcome all things,
and what any of us would do for it
to be on earth as in heaven.

If a pearl is like resolution to our discord,
of course a merchant on finding it,
would sell everything and buy it.

We’d plant, and water and cultivate even the smallest of mustard seeds,
if it provided shelter for all.

Keep on adding flour
knowing that whatever little bit of leavening we have
will make the whole batch rise.

No price is too great for treasure
that comes as a complete gift
when nothing else seems possible.

This treasure.
This leavening.
This mustard seed.
This pearl.
Is what God gives.
To establish the kingdom of heaven on earth as in heaven.
To establish it among us.

Gives life itself.
On a cross.
So that where there was once death,
life is restored.
Where discrod had its way,
unity prevails.
Where fracture rends people asunder,
healing begins.

For, unlike all of our problems near and far,
small or large,
and all our disagreements in overcoming them,
God has no political stake,
has nothing to gain.
Except us.

And to God,
you are,
we are,
the whole creation is worth everything.

Worth everything.
And is everything.
In the kingdom of heaven.

Which makes the kingdom of heaven
not something simply to aspire to or to pray for.
But to rely on.
To insist on.
In confidence.
Our whole life long.

In the whole of scriptures,
it Saint Paul who speaks of this confidence most eloquently,
and most resolutely.
“For I am convinced,” he says, “that
Neither death nor life.
nor angels
nor rulers
nor things present nor things to come
nor powers
no height
nor depth
nor anything else is all creation.
is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”

Live life this way, Saint Paul suggests,
and the kingdom of heaven is assured.
Present among us.
Effective among us.
Not simply to calm fears.
But to establish peace in our hearts.
And among nations.
And in all creation.