Jesus begins his ministry with the words, “Now is the time. Here comes
God’s kingdom!” As though he is saying today is the day. Too often we talk
about the kingdom of God as something that is not yet here, that is still to
come in the future. And I confess I have done that too. But that isn’t how
Jesus starts his ministry – he starts it saying, “Now is the time.”
I remember one of my professors asking the very provocative question, “When
does eternal life begin?” He was trying to get us to think about whether we had
to die before it started. Is it a future reality or are we even in this life
beginning that time of eternity? Jesus’ statement is much the same, “Now is the
time.” The kingdom is here, eternal life has begun, you are already stepping
into the new.
Of course, we also still have a foot in the old. This world is not yet
perfect. There are still tears and death and grief. There is still evil and violence,
hatred and rejection. We ourselves still have bodies that grow weak, and
spirits that are capable of sin. But even so we are also stepping into the new.
It is here, just not finished.
It is like at Christmas when you were a kid, and you unwrapped the present
that was just what you wanted. You were so excited, there it was, it was really
yours. But when you opened the box, there were those words you hated to see –
some assembly required. And so you had to wait while dad or mom got out the
screwdriver, the wrench, the hammer, the arc-welder, whatever was required and
put it together.
Funny story. Have you heard about the man who ordered a tree house over the
When the box arrived, it had printed on the top the words that have become
every parent's nightmare: "Some assembly required." I didn’t know
Ikea made treehouses.
The man began to assemble the tree house (but would you believe it?) as he
laid out all the parts on the floor and began reading the instructions, he
realized (to his dismay) that the instructions were indeed for a tree house,
but the parts were for a sail boat!!
The next day, he sent an angry e-mail message to the company complaining
about the mix-up. Back came the reply:
"We are truly sorry for the error and the mix-up and the
inconvenience. However, it might make you feel better to consider the
fascinating possibility that somewhere today there is a man out on a lake
trying to sail your tree house."
Fortunately, with the kingdom of God, we know that we have the right plans,
and the right parts, but what we need are the workers. I think that is what
Jesus was saying that day, “Now is the time. Here comes God’s kingdom. Some
assembly required. And I am recruiting assemblers.”
Now I know that Jesus uses a very different metaphor in the scripture
passage. He talks about recruiting fishermen and women. But the idea is the
same. Jesus is recruiting people to do the work of the Kingdom. In my example,
rather than fishers, Jesus is looking for assemblers who can put together the
gift that God has planned for us. And that’s what the disciples were, people
who started putting the kingdom together. And you and I are the next generation
that has been hired for the job, to keep the work going.
You see, some buildings take longer than others to complete. Construction
on St. Peter's Basilica began in 1506 and was not completed until 120 years
later in 1626.
That means that it is very unlikely that the workers that started on it
were the same ones that were there on its completion. Unless you had some kid
who started at six helping carry tools who was still there in at 126 putting
finishing touches on the decorations. In fact, during this time of construction
there were 17 popes. So the vision for the project and the person in charge of
the fundraising changed frequently.
We also know that the original architect was Donato Bramante, but when he
died just 6 years into the project he was replaced by Raphael Sanzio da Urbino,
who was also a famous painter. Raphael died in 1520. Worked stalled for a bit,
until Antonio da Sangallo the Younger became the chief architect and proposed
several changes, including strengthening the supports which had already begun
to crack. In 1547 Michelangelo became the superintendent of the building
program at St. Peters. He eventually handed the work off to Giacomo della Porta
and Domenico Fontana. And I am going to quit there because I quit trying to
pronounce all those Italian names!
As you can see, popes changed, architects changed, building supervisors
changed. I would also suspect there were many changes in the construction
supervisors, the work team leaders not to mention the building crews. The fact
is, such a large and complex work required handing off the responsibilities to
the next generation in order to complete the work. How did they do that? Well,
they left a few drawings, explanations and details, but the most helpful method
of keeping the final goal in mind was a large wooden model of the finished
product. It was understood from the beginning that the project was going to
take longer than one person could bring to completion. And they knew they
needed to pass on the information.
With the kingdom of God, That is what you and I are called to do and be as
well. We are the ones who have been handed the work, job by job and role by
role from the very hands of the disciples.
We are the current assembly crew, and we are also the one’s training the
next crew that will replace us in the task. It is a little humbling to realize
that each of us will be replaced, that our plans may not be the final ones, and
that our names will probably be forgotten. (I mean who remembers who cut the
stone that is the 5th from the left and 6 up in St. Peter’s
basilica?) But we still do the work to the best of our ability, to the best of
our knowledge of what will work best. At the same time we teach the next
generation how to use the tools of the trade.
And we have a model, in the form of the teachings of Christ, and we have
the work that has been done in the twenty centuries since Christ, so we aren’t
building from nothing. Yet we also know the project is far from completion. And
sometimes there are cracks in what has been done before us, and we have to
patch and fix it along the way. But still Jesus says, “The kingdom is here.” He
didn’t say it is coming, but it is here. The gift is sitting on your floor like
the Christmas gift you’ve opened.
And like those before us, we must pull the pieces out of the box, and
strive to put it together. Thankfully the master has given us instructions on
how -- but he still expects us to use
our hands for the work. As he says, the time is now!
So just for a moment consider, what is your role in the assembly of God’s
kingdom? What is your contribution? Are you a designer with an eye for beauty?
Are you a nuts and bolts person who understands the practical parts? Are you
the organizer who helps bring people together to get the work done? Are you the
financier who helps pay for it? Are you a little of all of these things?
As I was driving this week, I was listening to a book on church leadership,
and I heard to story of Hal and Gus. These two men attend church together every
week. Hal is in a wheelchair, and Gus is blind. Gus pushes Hal, and Hal tells
Gus which way to go, where to turn, etc. Together they are a great example of
the church. We each have limitations, but we also have abilities that we can
share with others. Alone we might not get where we are going, but together we
can. So your skills are important, each of us is needed to assemble the
Kingdom. Designers, construction crew, organizers, and financers.
Because Jesus is calling all of those kinds of people to keep doing the
work. And he needs you. He can even train you to be the next link in the
important chain that brings the kingdom of God to completion.
Networks, Inc., ChristianGlobe Illustrations, by James W. Moore