July 26, 2008

The Reign of God

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, in a sermon preached on July 20 at St. Patrick's Church in Detroit, provides a focal point for understanding Jesus' Mission when he states:

Jesus is instructing us, and has instructed us last week and now today and next week, through parables. He's trying to teach us about what is really the meaning of his mission - why he came into the world, why he gathered a community of disciples, and then at the end of his life, sent them out to continue his work. It's all about the reign of God. That's why Jesus came.

Sometimes you hear preachers, especially in a very strong evangelical tradition, telling us, "You have to be saved. Salvation is what it's all about," and sometimes people will experience, "I am saved!" It's over. They're saved. But that's not the way it really is with Jesus, and that's not really why he came, to save each one of us individually.

No, as he said at the beginning of his public life, "The reign of God is at hand. The reign of God is right here, ready to break forth, it's at hand. Change your lives; begin to transform yourselves so you can enter into that reign of God." Then ultimately he will tell us, "Go and change the world, transform it into the reign of God." It's the reign of God that Jesus is proclaiming, why he came, to make that reign of God break forth.

What is the reign of God? Sometimes we call it the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God, and when we do that we tend to think of it as a place. No, that's not it - it's not a place. The reign of God is the dynamic rule of God's love in our world. The idea of Jesus proclaiming this is that we all need to come under that rule of love. That's what makes the reign of God. It's God's order for the world, for all of the universe, under the dynamic of love, God's dynamic rule of love.

When that happens, you see, our world will be transformed. It will be the reign of God when all of us transform our lives so that we enter into the dynamic of God's love. When that happens in its fullness will be the end time when Jesus will return. The reign of God will come in its fullness.