We don't go on vacation until the end of the week, and we'll only be in the hill country for three days, but in some ways vacation has already started. On Thursday Don and I will be at a small cabin near Vanderpool Texas, celebrating our 15th anniversary. We were at the same place last year for a few nights -- just a scattering of small cabins near the river, accessible to both Garner and Lost Maples, and a short, beautiful drive to Leakey. As I anticipate our upcoming trip I can almost smell the fresh hill country air, see the sun rising over the treetops, and hear the cooing of the doves.
When I've felt tired in the office this morning I've refreshed myself with thoughts of napping during vacation. I've escaped the sound of traffic rushing past my window by imagining those peaceful trails in the park. Vacation has already begun, here in my office, breaking into my daily routine with its own unique reality. It is coming. Soon there will be rest, enjoyment, long minutes and slow-moving hours of freedom. Because vacation is drawing near, its coming affects me today.
The kingdom of God is like that, too. Jesus initiated the kingdom of God on earth through his life, death, and resurrection. But it isn't fully here yet. We know that by observing the world around us. There is still pain and suffering here; there is still injustice and corruption here; we do not yet live in peace and harmony with one another. Where God rules as sovereign there is no hunger, no war, no crime, no disease, no death. When the reign of God comes everyone will have work to do (meaningful work), everyone will be healthy and well, and we will all treat each other with respect and kindness.
The world is not like that now, however. Nations are quick to go to war against one another, age old conflicts continue with newer, more modern weaponry. We work hard, buy things, invest money in the hope of retiring one day, yet others cannot find work, people are losing their homes to foreclosure, some are hungry, and many are frustrated. This is not how life is in God's realm. It is discouraging to see the disparity between the life God intends us to live and the one we do live. According to God's vision, there is enough for everyone - enough money, enough food, enough houses, enough work, enough friendship, dignity and love. Some day life will be like that, God's way, but that day has not yet arrived.
God's kingdom is not here in its fullness. But it has been begun in Jesus Christ and the completion of God's reign is coming. On that day when our Lord returns, things will change as dramatically as summer gives way to fall or winter to spring. Every person will live with dignity and humility - confident in his own worth and honoring the worth of others. Jealousies will vanish, grudges will disappear, wounds and scars will be healed. We will live honest, productive lives; our relationships will be truthful and loving; we will share habitually with friends and strangers alike and there will be no need to fear anyone. Creation itself will be restored - mountaintops alive with healthy trees, skies clear and radiant, waters flowing strong and clean.
As we await the fullness of God's kingdom we can already feel the effects of its presence. Throughout the world people are calling for justice and freedom; hope is stirring the air around us. Habitat for Humanity recently reached 500,000 houses built for low-income families - ordinary people working together have made that happen. More and more people are finding ways to recycle and to reduce their waste, striving to make the earth healthy and whole. And although traditional churches may not be as full as they once were, people young and old are looking for ways to encounter God, to know God, and to live in communion with God. The kingdom may not be here yet, but we can feel its presence, we can see its affect on our lives, we know it is coming soon and we are getting ready.
Jesus urges us to live how he did - as though the kingdom of God was already fully established. There may not be justice everywhere around us, but we can be just and fair to one another; we can expect justice in every situation. Where people are hurting, hungry, neglected we can respond with concern -- our hands ready to comfort and our ears to listen. We can trust that there is plenty of time, plenty of goods and money, plenty of room for everyone and so we do not have to rush or horde or oppose one another. By trusting we demonstrate that Jesus is lord of all. We can pool our resources, donate our time, and work to make a positive difference in the world. God's kingdom is near! Its nearness is rubbing off on us and on the way we live.
May the kingdom of God touch you and brighten your life. Look for signs of its presence here, now. It won't be long before God's kingdom comes and the whole world sings God's praise.