See, the streams of living waters springing from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters, and all fear of want remove.
Who can faint while such a river every flows, their thirst t’assuage – grace,
which like the Lord the giver, never fails from age to age?
— second verse of hymn – Glorious things of thee are spoken, authored by John Newton, 1779; music by Franz Joseph Haydn, 1802
This hymn was going through my mind this morning (July 10) as I walked to Pancake House for breakfast with Wilma. It returned when I got home and so I looked it up. When I read “…streams of living waters springing from eternal love…all fear of want remove…” somehow my heart filled up and tears came to my eyes, something I’m prone to do. As I meditate on my response to this “word” from “the Lord the giver” I’m very aware of the “grace” of the Divine source of life and love that “never fails from age to age” – 55 – 56 – 57 – …
Indeed my heart is full with the blessing of friends and family as they celebrate my aging, my birthday is July 9/55. So far it’s been 57 years of breathing, plus a few months living off my mom in warm darkness. I’m sure it was peaceful most of the time. Thinking of being peaceful led me to think about Sunday’s sermon.
The preacher told us that the Kingdom of God, which Jesus referred to as good news in his first recorded words (“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news.” Mk.1.14 NRSV), was primarily a kingdom of peace. Over the years, I’ve searched for a definition of “kingdom of God” I could comfortable with – seems Jesus was. I never really liked the “king” part of it, too paternalistic, and usually kings, and queens – for that matter, are pretty controlling, and if we truly are “co-creators” – a kingdom doesn’t have a “good news” ring to it nowadays, at least to someone as sensitive to freewill as I am.
However I really want to do God’s will and use all that freewill God gave me. I also believe that God’s got the best idea how to be / live – based on an eternity of wisdom and experience. My simplistic understanding of God’s will is to act lovingly and people will act lovingly in response. That’s why we were created – to be loved by God and then love God and all God loves – completing the circle of love – God loves me so I can love God. That seems to me what John wants us to know about God (1 John 4.19). So because I want to “do” God’s will / love – be like Jesus, I guess that’s my way of being open / willing to be ruled / directed by a sovereign and be part of a system of directed social interaction. When love becomes the rule / the kingdom, it somehow makes it good news rule. With all that in mind, I can see why peace could be a good way of assessing whether I’m really being ruled by God, part of the Kingdom of God, or whether I’m letting myself be ruled by other things, like fear, which was what tormented poor King Saul after he rejected God’s way / rule, according to the preacher.
It sounds to me that what Jesus meant by repenting is changing my mind (according to the Greek ‘metanoia’) about what the “kingdom of God” is all about. There may be more options in the kingdom than peace or fear but it seems a good place to start assessing. If I believe the kingdom is about peace that would help me believe that God’s kingdom being near means that I / we can live peaceably right now. That sounds like good news to me. I could even believe that the kingdom of God could be good news to others, if I put it that way. The possibility of living together peacefully is the kind of good news I’m sure others would like to hear. Might to be hard to believe but it is the kind of news I’d want to share. Is this what being evangelical is supposed to be like? I really like the idea of inviting people into a kingdom where peace is the way to assess how it’s going, rather feeling that I need to scare them into repenting from all their misses (‘hamartia’) and get them to follow a bunch of rules – usually how I experienced evangelism. That seems more like dragging folk into a kingdom of fear, which according to the preacher on Sunday, is definitely not the kingdom of God.
Sounds more like “…streams of living waters springing from eternal love, well supply thy sons and daughters, and all fear of want remove.” Good news for my heart. Thanks Mr. Newton and Spirit.
check out Joel’s thot’s on evangelism @ http://thewetcanoeist.wordpress.com/