The Kingdom of Heaven
October 4, 2023
An oft explored question in Christianity and in the Bible, itself is, “what is the kingdom of God (or heaven) like?” Jesus uses many parables and metaphors to illustrate it for us: a treasure hidden in a field, a mustard seed, a seed sowed in good soil, a king giving a wedding feast for his son, a generous landowner, etc.
I recently began reading a book titled, Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution, written by Rainn Wilson (yes, the actor who played Dwight on The Office). I am already hooked by the preface of this book and hearing about his upbringing as a member of the Baha’i faith and the life-long, spirituality journey he is on.
Very early in the book he shares a story from his childhood about the kingdom of heaven…
I remember one time, when members of a particular sect of Christian Protestant came to our house on a Sunday afternoon, my father asked them to describe their concept of the kingdom of heaven.
A well-groomed man with a Ned Flanders mustache said, sipping some coffee, “well, sometime in the near future, there will be a great rumbling from above, lighting will strike, and there will be terrible storms. The sky will open up, and down will come Jesus Christ…there will be an incredibly beautiful city with gold and silver turrets that descends with angels on it, and this is the kingdom of heaven. The good Christians will get into the city…to be with God…and the rest of the people will be left behind on earth to perish.”
My dad, a wise spiritual teacher and public speaker, responded, “well, in a lot of ways [the Baha’i concept] is very similar. There will be great storms and lightning and thunder, and the skies will open up. Down from a hole in the clouds doesn’t come a city or Jesus or anything but rather a bunch of bags of cement. Some shovels and hammers. Bricks and mortar and nails and lumber. And finally, at the very top, a note floats down on the breeze and lands on top of all the supplies. It reads: ‘Kingdom of God on Earth: Build-It-Yourself-Kit.’”
This is probably one of my favorite answers to the question, “what is the kingdom of heaven like?” because it makes our role, as people of faith, an active one. We are accountable. We are responsible for bringing the kingdom of God to fruition here and now, in this life, on this earth. We are not passive participants in some other worldly, exclusionary, apocalyptic event.
Rainn Wilson continues by saying, “Whether you believe in God or not, whether you’re Christian or Baha’i or anything else, we’re all down here doing our best to build a more loving, just, equitable, cooperative kingdom on this beautiful and sometimes difficult earth.”
In his words and in his story, I am strengthened and given hope.
God of all. You are known by many names, but your love is always the same. Continue to reveal yourself to us, through us, through the people we meet. Help us to remember from which we come, who and whose we are, the power we hold, the call upon our lives, and that we do not walk this journey alone. Grant us strength and courage. Amen.