31 Mar 2015

Holy Week 3: the kingdom is in your midst!

I asked a few dear souls what this week, this season means to them:

Holy Week is a yearly time for me to take a journey inward, to let His light give illumination on some area of my life that needs His redemptive love and lift. Last year He whispered, "Choose what gives life.". – Kenny Chee

Over the past few years, I've come to understand and observe Lent as a season of identifying with Jesus who experienced the tension between his humanity and divinity, in seeking to relate with humanity. It is like standing between two mirrors: one reflects my pre-Christ human condition, which from time to time attempts to reach out from the flesh and seize control; and the other reflects my in-Christ condition, which I continue to grow in and into. Lent is thus the remembrance and observance of the preparatory journey in the inner man to the Cross and the Resurrection. - Ronald & Ethel

Holy Week serves as a timely reminder to us to "practice the presence of God" in our daily life. We try to slow things down, de-clutter our routine and be more mindful of God-appointed moments. All this in order to ponder again and to be renewed by what Jesus has done for us on the cross and what he is doing in us along the journey of life. — Aaron & Namiko Lee

Do you see it?

Their responses describe it so well. Holy Week is not just a rolling of the hours for some remembrance on Good Friday and then a trump of smallish victory at Easter service.

But -

with our eyes socked right in front of our skulls, we tend to look ahead and outward. Yet we have another way of seeing; one we need to learn to use and get used to. It is the look inward. This season, this week, we must use this other way of seeing; where we turn our gaze inward - to where the deeper things lie.

If you want to know --

why you react the way you do;
what truly motivates you
what matters to you
what grieves you
what has mastery over you

you need to look within.

The religious elite, the disciples, the crowd; they all looked outward. They set their attention of what Jesus did; and how it benefited or threatened them. They tried to interpret his actions, maybe even hoped to crack the code so they can do likewise; or otherwise ensure they don't lose out on the miraculous and the action they hope would come when Jesus stands down the Roman powers and ushers in God's kingdom.

So many missed it.

"The Kingdom is in your midst!", Jesus had pronounced.

How would you respond if you were a humble bread maker whose earnings were meagre, or wife to a fisherman who comes home each evening smelling of sea and fish? Would you sneer if you were an up-and-coming young rabbi who has been praised and selected to mingle with the religious big wigs?

We reason it: why, the King is walking about! The potential for the kingdom is always at hand.

But God is not looking for us to explain anything; and of course most of the time our reasoning is meant to convince ourselves!

Of course there have been miracles. Of course the teaching is enrapturing. It still is today. But we can - like the crowds and the leaders; even the disciples - still sort of miss it. 

Jesus was inviting them, and us today; to consider Him as-the-king right in the middle of not-quite-obviously-Kingdom. Jesus was inviting them, and us today; to look into our hearts and find that the Kingdom is what we long for: peace, rule, stability, kindness, compassion, one-ness, purpose...

And as we look, really look. we may find that our Kingdom notions are hazy. We will most certainly with honesty, see that our longing for the Kingdom is being challenged and perhaps undermined by other loves and loyalties.

This week is our appointed time to lean into our Kingdom longings, to feel deeply and really pay attention. 

Here in Singapore, we just lost a father to our nation. With the outpouring of grief and the demonstrations of consideration; we are feeling the rise of a new day. Like the crowds in Jerusalem; we mutter softly, "what if..".  But "what if's" never brought in anything solidly new.

In fact, the crowd, through bribery, coercion and the failures of individual hearts in the end turned on the One they had hoped would bring in the new day - because - they would not identify that God's kingdom must come by God's ways.

A new day for our own lives, families, and for Singapore won't come any other way; for God's ways are unchanging as they are rooted in His character.

If we want a new day to come, we want the kingdom of joy and peace; then we must accept that it comes by the way of the Dolorosa - the long road of cross-bearing and finally, death.

Bonhoeffer, the Kingdom dreamer who would pay for his dream with his life said,

"When Christ bids you come, he bids you come to die.".

A few years ago I began a habit of wearing black and being plain on Good Friday. I mourn not for Christ; for He is risen, but for myself. I am a reluctant die-er. I mourn how my dying is slow. I cling to a false life easily. It sounds crazy to stay hooked to a limited tank of oxygen when one is being invited to a clean, oxygenated garden of delights. But this is me. I am guessing this is you too some days, many days. So I mourn and repent.

But every time, I see that I am even more an eager live-er. I want to really live! So -- I am willing to die.

The kingdom of God, like God himself, is hard for us to get.
We won't quite grasp it with those eyes looking outward.
We need to look within.

And we shall find it lives there, brilliant and dazzling, enthralling and absorbing; and it is pulsing with Life. If we care to open our hearts to others and really receive; we find that it is alive and growing in the spaces between us, binding us to each other.

When we touch it, the Life flows into us and renews us. We get up another day and fight on, live on, laugh on, dream on -- as the Kingdom takes shape in, through and beyond us.

and perhaps this old, meaningfully-worded song: Jesus, God's righteousness revealed {click} as you look inward for a while.

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