Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Kingdom happens in "we's"

“On a cool Friday night in May, we came together over some pizza and ice cream. We reminisced and shared stories with each other. Because I had to leave the next day, we kept on sharing until after midnight. “
-Acts 20:7

One of the cooler parts of my job is that I get to travel to different parts of the country for our games. Ok, so maybe travel is a loose term because we do it in 15 passenger vans. Regardless, a couple of weekends ago our team was playing out in the Washington D.C. area. Because I wasn’t playing the following day as well as the fact that I had in my possession one of the van keys, I drove the thirty or so minutes southwest into the nation’s capitol to see some great friends I went to College with.

Located in the absolute heart of the city, these three bachelors (one of which I played soccer with in college; the other two were the best and biggest fans in the program: they drove from Chicago to PA for ONE game!) lived in a 3-room apartment with another guy about a 15-minute walk from the capitol building. As far as cool stimulus goes, this place had it.

Joining us was another college teammate who was on a ministry furlough from Africa. He was in the area doing some fundraising as well as some catching up. And finally was another college friend whose heart for others and for the poor is literally unmatched. She is chasing after the kingdom with reckless abandon with no regard for things that have been or could be road barriers.

It was pizza night, and as I entered the apartment there were literally 6 or so different kinds of pizza ranging from Hawaiian to Deep Dish. After the obligatory hugs and hellos we made our way out to their back porch. Now the porch was hardly that. It was actually the concrete top of their garage that extended off the back of their apartment. It had a picnic table and some lights strung around it. It was perfect.

We stood, sat, listened to music, laughed, cried, and shared what had been going on since we had last seen each other. At one point in the conversation I was listening to yet another joke at our alma mater’s expense when the thought of God’s kingdom came into my head. You see, I think things like this too, are part of this revolutionary Kingdom of God!

I don’t think we were EVER meant to do this alone…

Again, this RSV above may not deserve a second mention but there does seem to be something about gathering together. Paul writes often about gathering together and breaking bread. There’s something almost magical about that isn’t there? Something about being together that more times than not brings out the best in who we are; in who we have been created to be.

It doesn’t always take a large community. As a matter of fact the New Testament says that as long as two or three are there then you’re cooking. I am actually continually amazed at how good we have become at not staying in touch. In a world where high school students text six thousand times a month! (No lie; I know one who did) And cell phones are like post it notes, we have become ever more lonely and isolated from creations best offer; each other!

In a society that suggests you have to eat or be eaten, it seems the kingdom calls us back and against such a notion. In a world where all that matters is number one, and only one, the King himself is constantly found in community; in and amongst his people. This certainly doesn’t mean it will be an easy thing. It may take long phone calls, or early coffees, or something entirely different. But that is what I am discovering this paradoxical kingdom is all about; something that may in fact take all of us in order to give back more than we could ever dream.

Friday, May 9, 2008

'IT' Appears in Strange Places

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like Irvante who, wearing jeans with old shinguards over them along with worn down untied Iverson basketball sneakers scored a goal for his team and erupted in wild celebration. “
-Matthew 13:44

I am currently living in Cleveland, Ohio and recently a friend of mine posed an absolutely phenomenal question:

Can anything good come from there?

I laughed when he asked because to be honest, I had to wonder myself. Recently recognized as the poorest major city in America in a 2004 survey, Cleveland’s inner city seemingly exemplifies just that.
The reason I am here actually is to work with a professional soccer team. The tag line of the team is “Serving the City & Changing the World.” Anyone who has any type of appreciation for sport or the world knows that soccer is king. Recently one of my best friends actually wrote a piece from his own experience showcasing how soccer does in fact explain the world. (Check it out: www.chiphuber.blogspot.com) And although the game takes a backseat to Lebron and his Cavs here in Cleveland, we nonetheless try and use it as a tool to in fact serve the city.
Quite recently, we had the chance to work with the department of recreation to help organize well, some recreation. We had about eight of our players show up along with a couple front office staff. In all we were more than prepared for another one of our patented clinics.

What we didn’t know is that all 10 centers had teams coming, with at least 11 kids on each squad. What we really didn’t know was the reality of it all; that was until they showed up. It was like out of a movie. From every corner kids came running. From vans, busses, cars and on foot. Chaos is a polite term to describe the scene. Within minutes over 180 urban kids showed up running and screaming with no real plan of action or desire to do anything but cause complete and total madness. They succeeded.

What commenced was an amazing display of patience and love as we tried to organize nine different games amongst 180 children with reckless abandon. As games began our players and staff either took a team under its tutelage and called it their own or stayed at one individual field and monitored individual games as best as possible. As urban kids and pro soccer players found their way to fields (and I use the word field very lightly) I couldn’t help but think of all the other opportunities that have existed for me in the past. I could be working for some hedge fund, or coaching at a private school. I could be at a million “better” places. So many of my college classmates were eating at better restaurants, wearing nicer clothes and driving newer cars. And yet as I spanned across the uncut, unkempt surface of screaming children and ‘fronting’ teens I couldn’t help but think to myself…

This is the Kingdom of God!

Don’t hear me incorrectly. The Kingdom can and has been found in boardrooms, nice restaurants, and in fast cars. As a matter of fact, I am thinking we need to bring the kingdom there more than ever. But with that, I couldn’t help but think of what Luke says when he notes that Christ came to heal the sick. This was an example of the early church, this, as Matthew said, is what Heaven is like.

And isn’t that interesting. Whenever Christ teaches in parables with comparisons he notes that Heaven is LIKE something. Heaven is LIKE a man who found a field with treasure in it. Heaven is LIKE a mustard seed. In all these examples we are never told exactly what Heaven is. This could be because we have yet to see face-to-face, and anything less is simply a reflection. It could also be that Heaven isn’t here for just one place at one time or period of time. And while I don’t propose that the above RSV (Ryan Souders Version) is correct or deserves a second look it does seem to appropriately display this Kingdom Jesus came proclaiming. It seems that this kingdom shows up in the weirdest places, amongst the people that seem least likely to inherit anything; let alone God’s kingdom! And yet there it is; exploding through basketball sneakers and worn down jeans. Showing up in the unlikeliest of places.

One thing is for sure; this Kingdom isn’t all that easy to grasp. Quite the paradox, huh? In this instance it took ‘giving up’ a fantastic dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants. For others it has been at the expense of careers, families, or even their prized possession; fishing nets.

And while it may not always be a victory lap celebrating a dynamite finish, seemingly those who chase after this Kingdom always find it, and maybe more importantly are never disappointed with it.

Chasing after the Kingdom

     I want to welcome all 4 of you that will be visiting my new blog.  So I'm way behind the times in this whole 'blogging' thing, but I figured I would try and start one.  The idea behind all of this is trying to desperately chase after the Kingdom of God.  I will attempt to write and post and link things and ideas in any type of relation to this.  In no way do I consider myself to have answers.  In reality all I am wanting to do is begin and maintain discussions that a radical rabbi started nearly 2,000 years ago.