Bring Forth the Kingdom
Last Sunday, I attended my home church in Denver. As a distance member living eight hours away, this was an uncommon and welcome visit. I find the services there inspirational and focusing for me, and this one was no exception. It began with all four verses of the hymn, “Bring Forth the Kingdom.”
This hymn reminds me that our calling is not just to find God, or to enter into a spiritual Kingdom after death, but to bring forth that Kingdom here and now. In Mark, Jesus proclaims, “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” The Cmmon English Bible translates this verse even more clearly: ““Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” If the Kingdom is “at hand,” that means we can reach out and touch it. It is here already. We can reach out and touch it. Or, more to the point, we can choose to be part of it.
Jesus’s message, from the story of the rich young man to the Beatitudes to his warning in Matthew that not all who claim him are his followers unless they feed and clothe the poor, it is clear that faith must include radical action and a new attitude toward those around us. The disciples thought so. Acts tells us that in the early community of Christians, “[N]o one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.” Moreover, “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
Can we imagine such a society? Could I possibly look at the after-tax money I take home not as “mine,” but as “God’s”?
Jesus and the Apostles did.
I’ve met people who believe that it is not the government’s role to help the poor, but that of individuals. Some, like Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker organization, took radical action to do so. She and her followers lived in poverty so that they could help the poor. But others talk of personal responsibility while doing little themselves to feed or clothe those in need.
The Kingdom is not just about making sure those in need have their needs met. It is about belonging, about celebrating faith together. Not everyone in the early community believed the same, as can be seen in the different approaches of John and James, and Paul’s conflicts with both. Yet there was a sense of wholeness, of being filled, that seems sorely lacking in modern America.
“Bring Forth the Kingdom” is a reminder that a society in which we don’t need government to help the poor requires a massive transformation on our part. It is a reminder, too, that Jesus calls us to just such a transformation. He asks us to help establish the Kingdom of God right here, right now. He offers us the opportunity to join together as family, loving and being loved, helping and being helped. I, for one, find that a worthwhile goal.