Fred and I have been attending a little Anglican Church in our neighbourhood. For Lent we joined a group that has been gathering after church to discuss Brian McLaren’s new book, We Make the Road by Walking.
One chapter focused on the kingdom of God. In it McLaren writes,
Today as in Jesus’ day, not everybody seems interested in the good news that Jesus taught. Some are more interested in revenge or isolation or gaining a competitive advantage over others. Some are obsessed with sex or a drug or another addiction. Many are desperate for fame or wealth. Still others can think of nothing more than relief from the pain that plagues them at the moment. But underneath even the ugliest of these desires we can often discern a spark of something pure, something good, something holy–a primal desire for aliveness, which may well be a portal into the kingdom of God.
So often when I meet people who are in difficulty, all I see is the tangled mess they’re in. I wonder how I could possibly help them welcome God into their lives. But McLaren invites me to believe that God has already placed a divine spark of the kingdom in everyone. My job isn’t to help them address the smothering mess but to give some air to the spark that is there.
I remember a pastor friend doing that at an outreach lunch we had. The man sitting at the table beside him launched into a rant about church people being hypocrites and how he hated hypocrites. The pastor could have been offended and pointed out that this fellow was in a church, and the meal he was eating was made by “hypocrites,” but he didn’t. Instead, he matched the man’s intensity and said, “Me too. Preach it, brother.”
The pastor found a portal into the kingdom. He saw how this man and Jesus were alike: both wanted people to stop being “white washed tombs” and get real.
I didn’t hear what was said after that, but I saw the men’s body language and heard the tone of their voices as they interacted. They were relaxed, animated and laughed easily. My friend had kindled a spark of something holy.
I love the place where your glory dwells. — Psalm 26:8
Questions for your Lenten journey:
- What overwhelms you right now? It could be the dismal state of a friend’s or your family’s situation, the destruction of our planet, or the unfair distribution of power. Ask God to show you a spark of something holy in it.
- How might you fan into flame this spark of the kingdom?