Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A River Runs Through It

I have a hard time describing my experience of the Kingdom of God. Even the phrase "Kingdom of God" is not a very good translation of Jesus' teaching. It sounds static - not at all like the experience. "Kingdom of Heaven" works no better. The problem is the word kingdom.

Kingdom means something very different to a 21st century American than a first century Jew. The word feels like a medieval fiefdom or an ancient empire with a distant monarch. It conjures castles and knights. 

Reign of God or Realm of God works a bit better, but they still miss the sense of the light and joyful omnipresence of God. The Presence of God is best, but it still doesn't fully capture it. Probably no word can describe this indescribable reality.

Seeking to communicate beyond the limits of human vocabulary, the Book of Revelation uses pictures in place of words to speak of the Kingdom of God. Of all of the pictures in that book, the River of Life describes it best for me. A river runs through my experience of the Kingdom of God.

"A pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb." The river flows through the streets of a New Jerusalem situated in a New Eden. Picture a heavenly Venice and the saints in gondolas! On both banks of the River of Life grows the Tree of Life. The River is Life Incarnate - so full of Life that trees of Eternal Life sprout from its banks.

Take a dip in that crystal clear water of life. It is like swimming in the fountain of youth. It is liquid light that energizes body and soul. "God is light and in him is no darkness at all." Now this is heavenly!

The river flows. It is always present and never static. It is vital and alive. Heraclitus of Ephesus said, "You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you." That is the Kingdom of God! The kingdom is "always flowing on to you," always changing and always new.

That is my experience of the Kingdom. Leonardo da Vinci said, "In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time." Exactly! The Kingdom is always in the present tense. I know it is coming, but for me it is now.

The Kingdom of God is a river, flowing through time, around me and over me. I walk in the Kingdom of God like a swimmer swims in a river. I live in the Kingdom as a fish breathes in the water. The Kingdom of God is at hand.

 As the old hymn says,   "Like a river glorious, is God's perfect peace, Over all victorious, in its bright increase; Perfect, yet it floweth, fuller every day, Perfect, yet it groweth, deeper all the way." Come take a dip, and enjoy the swim.
Art is River of Life by Migrant Winds, 20x 25, Print on 80 lb paper.

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