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Finding the Kingdom in small everyday items

14 September 2012

These may point the way, says Paula Gooder, but are far eclipsed by the glory they hint at

Like this, and unlike it: yeast, which is compared to the Kingdom of God

Like this, and unlike it: yeast, which is compared to the Kingdom of God

I regularly find myself entertained by what are, to my mind, unnecessary warnings that appear on packaging. So, for example, on take-away coffee cups you might find the warning: "Caution, contents may be hot"; or on a set of kitchen knives the advice that the blades may be sharp.

On both of these, I feel that I might have been able to work this out for myself. In a similar vein, however, whenever I say the Lord's Prayer, I ponder whether it should have a health warning stamped across it.

We are so familiar with the words that it is easy to miss the radical, world-changing nature of that for which we pray. Every time we say the Lord's Prayer, we pray, appar­ently fervently, for the coming of God's Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, and I wonder how much we mean it.

Of course, in principle we do, but in practice are we prepared for the disruption, the life-changing consequences, and the challenges that always accompany God's Kingdom? Are we ready for the way in which God's Kingdom will disrupt our lives, turning our comfortable certainties upside down? Are we ready for the kinds of people that God's Kingdom will attract?

Before we pray the Lord's Prayer, we should take a deep breath, proceed with caution, and be absolutely sure that we really mean what we say.

One of the striking things about Jesus's parables is that, like many of his "I am" sayings, they involve ordinary things such as seeds, yeast, and a net. It is hardly surprising that the Kingdom of our everyday God is best described with such everyday things, but it is.

God's Kingdom, like God himself, is not reserved for the important and well-heeled of our world, but for the outcast, the marginal, and oppressed, and it is right, therefore, that it is compared to everyday things.

The Kingdom of our everyday God is characterised by overwhelming generosity, and is always present when genuine celebration, which flows out of love, takes place. The nature of God's Kingdom can be best discerned and understood when we compare it to the things of our everyday lives, but we must never lose hold of the fact that the Kingdom is as much not like these things as it is like them.

The Kingdom might be like weeds, but it brings life rather than destruction to those things growing around it. It might be like yeast, but you cannot kill it by turning up the temperature. It might be like finding unexpected treasure, but you cannot steal it.

The Kingdom is like all of these things, and it is not like them. It is much, much more than them. Most of all, the Kingdom cannot be tied down, defined, labelled, and boxed. It is not for nothing that New Testament scholars struggle to define exactly what the Kingdom of God is.

The Kingdom of God can be likened to a seed, but most definitely cannot be held in the hand.

This is the last of four edited extracts from Everyday God by Paula Gooder. It is published by Canterbury Press at £8.99 (CT Bookshop £8.10 Use code CT252 ); 978-1-84825-116-8.

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