Jesus begins his ministry with the a simple invitation. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15 NRSV)
I want to talk about where to find God's kingdom rather than when. Many people over the centuries have been focused on the timing of God's Kingdom. They see that when Jesus uses the word near he was talking about time, but what if Jesus was using the word in its other sense in order to talk about space. What if Jesus meant that the Kingdom of God is close? It's right here, you can find it if you look.
When Jesus spoke about God's kingdom being not from this world he appears to be explaining that the nature of it is different than anything else we experience in this life. We can infer this because Jesus himself asks a rhetorical question about God's kingdom “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?" (Mark 4:30 NRSV) He then uses a variety of parables from a variety of life experiences to help us grasp the mystery. It is the fact that God's kingdom is such a singular phenomenon that we might miss where we can actually find it.
One thing we can not do is bring about the kingdom on our terms. We must find the kingdom on God's terms. It is God who gives the kingdom. A parable such as the seed growing secretly points this out. "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how." (Mark 4:26-27 NRSV)
Some may say that we can not find it in this life, it is in the afterlife. But when I read a verse such as “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 NRSV) this limited view of the kingdom seems to make little sense. Instead, from my reading of the Gospels I see that kingdom includes both this life and the next. The next life, like this life is a component of God's kingdom. So, part of the good news of the kingdom is that we do not have to wait until we die to see it.
So where can we find the kingdom? The answer is simple, find the king and you will find the kingdom. We know that king is found wherever the body of Christ is found. In other words, the kingdom is not so much a place as a people. Jesus explains Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13:29 NRSV).
The two metaphors for the kingdom fully experienced (which is what heaven really is) are the great feast and the great worship. The feast was Jesus' primary metaphor for the complete kingdom. John of Patmos gave the church the vision of worship as a metaphor in the final book of the Bible. The thing that holds these two visions of the kingdom together is the faithful gathered. A great church service in this life can be a "foretaste of the feast to come." Now I realize that church services (even at my own church) are not always great, however one can always catch glimpses. One can grab hold of the reality that the kingdom is close.
Additionally. worship is only one of many ways that the faithful gather. We gather for study, fellowship, and service as well, and the kingdom promise works when or wherever the faithful gather to love God and neighbor. The hope that the kingdom is near to me, you, and anyone in this world is good news in the midst of the strife that we experience in this world. I invite you to come along with us this November and find how close God's kingdom really is.