"You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.”
"Pray like this, […]
'May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
-Jesus (Luke 17:21, Matthew 6:9,10)
The other night I walked into the house and I heard our digital piano being played. This is not an everyday occurrence, though it’s a beautiful one. My wife is the only person who really plays it, though our kids have recently taken an interest in pounding out “Heart and Soul” over and over again. And over. Again.
In our family, when my wife plays the piano, it means one of two things. Most often, it means that shalom is here. Shalom is the Hebrew word for “peace," but it means more than that. It means wholeness and rightness in every facet. It means that things are healthy and at that moment, we are truly well. There is no yelling. Bellies are full and homework is either done or happily occurring. True contentment reigns.
When we have family moments like that, and we are at peace, the piano is a way that Bethany expresses it. The music fills our house almost as a metaphor for the rightness of the moment. Her beautiful voice creates a blanket of comfort that extends through both floors, full of lyrics reminding us of God’s goodness and love.
But there are other times (OBVIOUSLY). Those are the times when she sits down at the piano to sing not because things are right, but because precisely because they aren’t and they need to be made right.
These are the moments when shalom has been broken. There has been too much stress in the house. The kids have been fighting and bugging each other. The week has been heavy. We are exhausted and grumpy. We’re heartbroken about whatever the latest act of hatred on earth has been. Even turning on the tv or looking at our phones is so obviously hollow that it’s unbearable. And so she sits down and sings. And she begins to make us right again.
Sometimes the things that we do to express the beautiful are the same things we need to do when it all seems ugly. We need to sing what is true until it becomes so.
This is the story of the God's already/not-yet kingdom, isn’t it? This is how Jesus can tell us one moment that the kingdom is already here— within us and available— then tell us that it’s somewhere out there, coming in the future, and to pray for it. It’s a paradox until you start to experience it. So Jesus people learn to declare that the kingdom is here in one breath, and then we look around and pray for it to come in the next. Because it all has been made right, and yet nothing is right. Sometimes it’s one, sometimes it's the other. And that’s ok to admit.
But if we are being shaped into the image of Jesus, the practices that characterize us will not change based on if things are well or not. If we are overwhelmed by beauty and justice and love and compassion around us, we name it and recognize it as God’s goodness. We declare that the kingdom is here. We lean into it, pray and fix our eyes on the creator and redeemer to find rest in that beauty.
If we are overwhelmed by ugliness and injustice and hatred and selfishness and brokenness around us, we name it and declare what God’s goodness looks like anyways. We pray for the kingdom to come, and we declare our commitment to being a part of that ushering-in process. We fix our eyes on our creator and redeemer and rest in the hope that true life is possible with Jesus, even in these moments, and that goodness will ultimately win out.
And wouldn’t you know that when we do that, the kingdom does come— in one little way— on earth as it is in heaven. We sing it into being, so to speak. And God uses that to change us, and to change those around us. It’s like a street violin piercing through the din of the city bustle. It causes the world to stop and take notice.
When we see God’s goodness around us, let’s declare it fully.
When we are missing God’s goodness around us, let’s declare what’s ultimately true until we see it.
Jesus, give us eyes to see your kingdom today. And give us feet to work with you to bring it tomorrow.