Thursday, July 14, 2016

the kingdom of God is in your midst

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come,
Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed,
nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
-Luke 17:20-21

I want to keep up on what is happening in the world, so the home page of my web browser is set to a news source. I can always see three or four articles instantly without having to scroll down the page and they almost always feature troublesome content.

Every day we are tempted to despair. So, why do we hope?

The words of Jesus in Luke 17 give me cause for hope: “…the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Every weekday I say a prayer with my wife that is adapted from Saint Patrick. A portion of the prayer asks Christ to “be in the heart of each to whom I speak and be in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.”

I like this prayer because it is a prayer of childlike faith--but when I first began praying it, that portion in particular grated on me. It raised my awareness that Christ is not always on my lips and, sometimes, I did not encounter Christ in others. I went through a season that, when I prayed that particular portion, I felt a sense of dismay and hopelessness. I wondered, “Why keep praying it when it doesn’t happen?”

That is when I realized: the prayer is not about what I or others do; it is about what God does. Specifically, the prayer is a way of remembering that God is with us, whether we realize it or not. He makes himself known to me in the words of another, through the presence of others—I just don’t always know how to listen.

That’s what Jesus said: “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” We can’t say “Here it is” or “There it is” because it is all around us, everywhere. We just need to look for it, raise our awareness of it.

That is why that portion of the prayer (that I struggled with for so long) began to be my favorite part.  It is a prayer asking God to help me be aware of how he speaks to me through others. It is a “looking” and “listening” prayer, reminding me to look and listen for the presence and voice of God in others. And it is a prayer that asks God to use my words, my presence in the same way. That part reminds me to practice inner silence so I can hear what God wants to say to me and through me.  When that kind of silence is practiced, I find that our words spring from a silence that is full, not empty—and then return to silence that is the silence of full, loving, joyful presence. We need more of that, I’m convinced. I need more of that.

So, my prayer today for our world is that more and more people would see with increasing clarity: the kingdom of God is in your midst. 

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