The Kingdom Within Us

The Rev. Bradford Ayers Rundlett

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1st Corinthians cialis 20 mg canada pharmacy 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

It was in the early Summer of 1972. I had graduated from The University of Georgia and got a job teaching young children in a small private school that also offered afternoon and evening child care.  It was warm and the sun was shining when I left the school and went to the gym to workout. I vaguely remember seeing dark clouds gathering just before someone burst into the gym and shouted “There’s a tornado headed this way!” I looked out the window again; the clouds were the biggest, darkest, and meanest I had ever seen. My first thought was of the children and teachers at the school.

I ran to my motorcycle, jumped on, kick started, and zoomed off toward the school. The wind drove the rain sideways. Leaves and branches were flying through the air. I whipped around fallen poles and power lines; toppled trees, and windblown debris. A thought about my own safety came and went, pushed aside by the single-minded determination to get to the school. I arrived in record time and ran into the building. The teachers looked desperate; the children were terrified. There was no basement so we herded all of the children to the center of the building, away from the windows, and waited. The adults exchanged anxious glances, reading the same things in each other’s eyes; would we be hit? Could we protect all of these children? Would any of us survive? How long would this horror last? Threat and terror filled the air as we huddled together.

The roar of the wind was deafening. Windows shattered; the ceiling creaked and fractured, but the roof held. I had a transistor radio. I turned it to a news channel and moved far enough from the children so they could not hear. The announcer was raw with panic. I listened as he reported one tornado, then two; no, three; it can’t be! There are four; then O my God there are five tornadoes rampaging through town just north of us. The closest was less than half a mile from the school.

Then it was over.

The storm finally passed.

The air was charged with ozone. There was nothing left of the raging whirlwinds except a faint breeze . . . and devastation everywhere.

Tornadoes are hit and run storms. The circular winds can be 72 to 380 mph!. And they can race across the landscape at forty-five miles per hour.

Looking around I saw that power was out everywhere, poles and live wires were down. Roads were impassible; damage and destruction was everywhere. Hours went by before parents made their way to the school. They raced to their children, smothering them with hugs and kisses. Not one of us in the school had been hurt. But, we learned later, the tornadoes ripped a mile wide strip through town just north of the school. Nothing in that zone was standing; nothing. Everything had been obliterated.

“The terrible day of the Lord” the ancient prophets called it.

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down” Isaiah shouted to heaven.

“so that the mountains would quake at your presence–

as when fire kindles brushwood

and the fire causes water to boil–

to make your name known to your adversaries,

so that the nations might tremble at your presence!”

The people of God prayed and waited for Judgment Day, the day when God the Mysterium Tremendum would come down from heaven like a huge churning wind tunnel cutting a swath of death and demolition through their enemies.

But it didn’t happen. “Yeh, you whipped us today but you just wait; tomorrow The Great and Holy Yahweh will take you out like last week’s trash.”

They prayed and waited. All of the Jewish prophets said it would happen – a day of liberation for God’s people; a day of vengeance for their foes, and a lesson the world would never forget.

They prayed and waited, prayed and waited, prayed and waited – while they were enslaved by the Egyptians, conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Muslims, and Christians. When they were expelled from Spain, France, England, and Portugal. And when they hey were severely persecuted by the Russians and Ukrainians.

For three-and-a-half millennia they have prayed and waited for the Promised Day. It would be terrible! But when it was over, the peaceful reign of God would begin, and go on forever.

Paul wrote to Jewish Christians in Corinth “our Lord Jesus Christ . . . will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Jesus told his disciples, “In those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see `the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

And when, exactly, Jews and Christians have wondered, will this monumental event occur? When they wanted to know would their great relief arrive – as every person who suffers, who is sick or injured, violated or persecuted wants to know. When will The Almighty jump into the fray? When will The Holy One make things right?

Jesus responded, “About that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come  . . . What I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

On that note we have begun the season of Advent, the season we remember the promise of deliverance and redemption. We pray for war to end, the killing of children to end, the enslavement of women to end, for poverty to end, racism to end, for everything that threatens us to end.

We pray for the reign of God to begin, everlasting peace to begin, the superabundant blessings of God to begin.

We pray, and we wait. We pray, and we wait.

And we do not lose heart. We know time is nothing to God. And as Jesus demonstrated, God can heal all injuries and disease; God can raise the dead.

But when is a question not easily dismissed.

We did not expect the Messiah, the Savior of the world to be born in a cave in Bethlehem. We did not expect Jesus to die on a cross, resurrect, or ascend. We did not expect his Spirit to flood the disciples and in time a great portion of the world.

We have a Cecil B. DeMill imagination. Everything God does must be on a grand scale with wondrous miracles. Could it be that our Savior comes to us, has been coming to us, in the bonds of love and friendship, in the gift of generosity, in forgiveness, in the wildly extravagant beauty of this world, in every newborn child, in patience and good humor. . . in Baptism, Confirmation, bread and wine, Marriage, inspiration, Christian communities, second chances, in grace that comes in so many kinds and colors, and blessings we could spend all our life counting but never come near the end?

Not for vengeance, but for the creation of a global community with love, shelter, food, education, healthcare, jobs and dignity enough for everyone.

Maybe not in a great scale on some future day; maybe here, and now, if our hearts and minds are open to our Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier. Perhaps God is already present in ways we do not anticipate. And maybe God has come to heal, and to build The Kingdom within us.

Jesus warned us to be alert, perhaps not for something that will be, but for something that already is.

Amen.