Enacting the Kingdom

12Oct06

In house church we’ve been pursuing this perplexing question for the last several weeks…

“What is normative for a group of followers of Jesus? Are there norms? If there are norms then where do they come from, how do we discern them, and how do we enact them?”

Last week we talked about how Jesus was something of a Performance Artist for the Kingdom and how we are called to be the very same.” This week we continued the conversation. I suggested that what is normative for followers of Jesus is that we enact the Kingdom. We looked at Matthew 10:7-8:

“Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!”

Jesus instructed his disciples back in the day and still does for us today. We are to do the same… announce the Kingdom and enact it. Live it out. Healing the sick, raising the dead, curing leprosy, exercising demons, eating with “sinners and tax collectors”, etc… those things and more so. That’s what is normal for Jesus followers.

Ryan Bolger’s post gets at this too:

Clown_1 I’ve been doing a good amount of reading on culture this quarter for the class I’m teaching. I ran into this writing on carnivals by Mikhail Bakhtin. He wrote that in the medieval carnival, there was no separation between performers and spectators. In fact, performers were really not performers at all; instead, they lived in this carnivalesque space. Much more than a performance, the carnival was a life lived. Both ‘spectator’ and ‘performer’ held their roles lightly in this newly shared space.

Bakhtin went on to explain that all the oppressive conditions of everyday life — and there were plenty in medieval Europe — were suspended during the carnival. Revelry replaced terror, laughter replaced gloominess, abundance replaced scarcity, freedom replaced all restrictions. All social inequalities, hierarchical structures, and rules of social distance were set aside as well. The carnival space combined “the sacred with the profane, the lofty with the low, the great with the insignificant, the wise with the stupid.”

When I read this, I immediately thought about a comment I heard from Karen Ward, how her community “plays in the kingdom”, i.e. practices heaven. In their church life together, they are more than simply performers — they participate in a life lived under a different logic, they indwell a different time and space, a future time, the ‘now and not yet’, the rule and reign of God.

I wondered, as followers of Jesus, how we might create these free zones, these spaces where the oppression of the world does not reign. I was thinking not only in our times of meeting together but separately as well, in our workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, parks. How do we create this alternative space where hierarchies are not observed, where everyone has a voice, where people experience liberation, where laughter is frequent, where the terror is lifted, even for just a few moments? What if our ‘witness’ is not a performance but the creation of an alternative space, a space that does not yield to the powers of this world but strives to point to the next?

What would it look like for a church – a group of followers of Jesus – to enact the Kingdom or to be Kingdom Performance Artists? Or, to look at it a different way, what would it look like for a church to create “free zones” where folks could “play in the Kingdom” – like how kids play in a sandbox? Honestly, what excites me most about that is not that we simply do it on Sundays or when the church gathers, but when the church scatters. How can we Play at work, at home, in the drive-thru, in our parenting, in the grocery store, at the local coffeeshop, or out on a date with a significant other. This reminds me of Newbigin’s thing about how the local church is the hermeuntic of the gospel and that its job is to be a sign, instrument, and foretaste of the Kingdom of God.

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