I will fully admit that there are a good number of days when I feel like I am not anywhere NEAR being close to the Kingdom of God. Some days I feel frustrated by my own shortcomings, or the shortcomings of others. Other days I’ve felt like the sum total “good” I’ve done…at my work, in my life, with my relationships, etc. hasn’t been enough to fill even a thimble. In those moments and on those days I feel like I’m neither closer to the Kingdom, nor am I very close to God.
In the gospel passage assigned for the Eucharist Lectionary today, Mark tells of an encounter Jesus has with one of the scribes. At the end of the encounter, the scribe says, “‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength’, and ‘to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’” Mark then reports that, “When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.”
I think in those moments of my own frustration or irritation I lose sight of the fact that the Kingdom of God has come near to all of us. Our nearness to the Kingdom is difficult to keep in mind when we are in the throws of disliking ourselves or someone else. That is an important insight to remember in this season of self-examination called Lent, in those moments when we either don’t feel very loved, don’t feel very lovable, or don’t feel like loving the other person (whomever that may be).
But in truth, none of us is far from the Kingdom of God, even though it may feel like we are a long, long way off.
The Kingdom of God has come near to all of us, is near to us right now. And, the Kingdom of God may look and feel different for each of us, may be a wholly different experience than what we expect. The Kingdom of God may be found in that moment when people say that, “everything feels right with the world,” or when we are overcome with the absolute vastness of the world (or our universe–watch any of the new episodes of the new “Cosmos” series), or perhaps we can feel our closeness to the Kingdom of God when we experience the beauty and ingenuity of something that our fellow human beings have created that use the God-given talents and gifts God has bestowed upon us. But more than that, as Christians, we know that the love of God has been revealed to us in the person, witness, ministry, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. God has offered to us salvation from all of the things that want to make us feel like we are miles away from God’s Kingdom.
This is The Good News, my brothers and sisters.