Kingdom of Heaven, now, here.

Dear Friends,

Well, hello! I have been away the past few weeks enjoying theater here and in Stratford, Ontario (four plays in two days!), reading novel after novel after glorious novel (Lydia Millet’s Dinosaurs and Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead were standouts in the field), watching movies (hurrah for Wes Anderson’s latest!), hanging out on the other side of Lake Michigan, and just generally enjoying friends and leisure and nature and culture. How grateful I am for that long, slow time! Huge thanks to Courtney, Colin, Edward, and all of you who ensure that worship and fellowship and pastoral care continue day in and day out. What a grace to be part of a healthy, loving parish like this one!

That all rather puts me in mind of the Kingdom of Heaven, the current topic of the readings we have from Matthew’s Gospel, at least last Sunday and the next two. I know many of us think of another place or realm, a place we might “go” after death, when we hear “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven,” but that’s not really what the Jesus is getting at when he talks about the Kingdom of Heaven being like lavishly scattered seed, or a good sower, or a hidden treasure, or a merchant seeking out a treasure, or, or, or . . . . The language in Jesus’ parables both reveals and conceals, surprises and confounds, sort of like poetry or a koan. You think you understand it and then, suddenly, you realize the meaning exceeds the words, your grasp, our intellect. 

And while there is a realm beyond this one, when Jesus invokes the Kingdom of Heaven, he is talking about now, here. We live within it, though we may not realize it. It is breaking into this realm, yet is not fully realized. We catch glimpses, then lose sight of it. 

Thinking about all of this reminded me of a poem that Marie Howe wrote about her brother who died of AIDS:

The Gate, Marie Howe

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world

would be the space my brother’s body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man

but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,

rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.

This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?

And he’d say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?

And he’d say, This, sort of looking around.

Hope to see you in church where we get glimpses of the Kingdom of Heaven on the regular, what we’ve been waiting for.

Faithfully, Suzanne+