A return on God's investment...
What is the kingdom of God like? If we take Jesus' word for it, most of our assumptions about the kingdom don't relate at all to some of the more popular images of heaven. In our minds' eyes, the dominant images present a place we go to after our time in this life is done. Perhaps it is a place, and we go there to be with God and those whom we love, but see no longer. Perhaps it is a heavenly city? Or perhaps a lovely garden? You might imagine streets of gold and houses made of precious gems? It may just be a "happy" place, when pain and struggle are no more....
I haven't found yet that ideal being offered to us in Jesus' illustrations of what the kingdom of God could be likened to, not yet. Most of what I am hearing about relates to how we relate to each other in this life and how God seems to continually route us back to the choices we are making in the here and now. The kingdom is found in us living fully into covenant with God and each other today...and it has little to do with some aspirational resort in eternity where we get to put our feet up and relax, finally and for eternity.
The kingdom is an ongoing exploration of how we can best be open to the arrival of God, and our impending reunion with the Divine. It is a recognition that living in the kingdom means being attached and committed to an ongoing struggle of justice. It is an ultimate and mutual vulnerability that we tender as a gift back to God, allowing God to redeem that which God has created and loved for eternity...us.
In the same way that God, in the Exodus is calling the people into relationship with their Deliverer with the gift of Torah, Jesus is provoking us to look deeply for the presence of the Divine in each other, particularly in the faces of the poor and those in need. Most of the directions I read in today's Exodus reading do more to restore broken human relationships that they appear to offer in a direct connection to God.
Jesus' parables direct us to be vigilant (the parable of the bridesmaids and their lamps), willing to risk what God gives us (the parable of the servants and the coins) and finally to see and serve God in everyone in need (the teaching on sheep and goats).
Even the psalm, a song of praise to God, calls us into a present-moment relationship with the Divine.
What does all this mean? It means that relationship with God and the experiences we seek that will indicate that the kingdom of God is real are all going to be found in the present moment. The kingdom is a here and now reality, and our response to that reality is to exist in God, see the world (and our neighbors) with God's eyes and heart...and to act on that connection, becoming agents of justice, of peace and thus find our role as protagonists of faith. When did we see God hungry, or in need? When we do it for the least, we do it for and to God. When we seek reconciliation with our neighbor, we experience reconciliation with the Divine. When we discover the grace and peace of God in those moments, then the Covenant is true and complete.