By Brittany McDonald-Null
What is God’s kingdom like? To what shall I compare it?
“God’s kingdom is like a newborn baby, perfect and beautiful,” states one student.
“The kingdom of God is like a lost child; once you give her a chance, she will open up so many door and new adventures,” says another.
God’s kingdom is like the sky, the forest, the ocean, a calm child among the terrible; the comparisons continued as middle school students reflected on what the kingdom of God like. Once their voices subsided, I interjected my own musings: “The kingdom of God is like Snapchat; you catch a glimpse and then it’s gone. Be sure to take a screenshot when you see it.”
Perhaps a little too proud that three and a half years of a theological education brought me to this conclusion, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander at how true this rang for me.
This already present but not-quite-yet kingdom of God is never as I imagine. The glimmers I catch in conversations with students, quiet walks and inward reflections are both overwhelming and never enough. Yet, it is those moments that I cling to when all other hope feels lost.
“Jesus asked, ‘What is God’s kingdom like? To what can I compare it? It’s like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in a garden. It grew and developed into a tree and the birds in the sky nested in its branches.’ Again he said, ‘To what can I compare God’s kingdom? It’s like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through the whole.’” (Luke 13:18-21, CEB)
Through a small seed and a pinch of yeast, we are reminded that the kingdom of God may not always seem grand and triumphant. That more often than not, the kingdom of God is realized through individuals and communities who refuse to count out the small gestures.
The kingdom of God is snuck in when, on the Sabbath, a hunched over woman is told to stand straight after 18 long years. It is snuck in when a black woman refuses to give up her seat on the front of the bus to a white man. It is hidden and then realized in Mahatma Gandhi, who promoted peaceful protest in the face of harsh treatment, inspiring the Indian people and then others like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. The kingdom of God creeps in when communities cry out for reconciliation instead of retribution. And most of all, it is slipped in when Jesus refused to let death have the last word.
Though you and I may not be familiar with planting mustard seeds or mixing yeast with flour, we have seen the results of God’s kingdom many times over. Though small and hidden, the kingdom of God grows until creation can rest in it and it rises until it affects the whole.
Unfortunately, we continually discredit the small but subversive acts of humankind. We assume that our actions are not big enough to make a difference. We catch glimpses of a small, and seemingly unimpressive kingdom, and assume that God is not at work.
If we can learn anything from these parables, it is to not count God out of this equation.
With God, small beginnings can transform into huge endings. God is at work through our small but revolutionary acts that seek righteousness and reconciliation. Jesus chose two very practical and earthy images for God’s kingdom. I think this can serve as a reminder that the Kingdom of God is not some lofty idea, but a reality, which is already among us waiting to be discovered. The kingdom of God is not something that we passively wait for, something that only comes when we die, it is now. The trick is – it is not always revealed in the way we expect. We must look for it. And when we catch those shimmers of God’s action in the world, we need to name it for what it is, join in, and don’t forget to take a screenshot.
Brittany McDonald-Null is a CBF Leadership Scholar and is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity from Logsdon Seminary at Hardin-Simmons University. She serves as the Associate Youth Minister at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church in Abilene, Texas.