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: 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.

1 comment:

Chip Huber said...

It strikes that we are recognizing the reality that God is at work in so many unexpected places already...whether in the poverty of Zambia, dirt fields in the inner city of Cleveland, or a wrestling room filled with Hispanic teenagers playing indoor soccer with white WA football players who feel out of place everywhere else because they "field" a ball with their feet first rather than their is probably now cliche, but it is clearly our job to join Him in the march of the Kingdom that is taking place, maybe not as clearly in our country as in other parts of the globe these days, but still evident when we look and ask for the privilege of seeing and living it out...a great first entry...thanks for taking the risk to leave DuPage County and Chipotle for "the mistake by the lake" where God called you to join Him...