Tag Archive for: Kingdom Within You

Heaven Up?

Today is Ascension Day. It is 40 days after Easter. In Armenian, it is called “hambartzoum.”

We read about the event in the first chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The author is the Evangelist, St. Luke, whose Gospel narrates Jesus’ earthly life from his Conception to his Resurrection. In the second “volume” he begins with the Ascension, and thus, he chronicles the development of the Christian Church.

St. Luke writes, “In my former book… I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

“…After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

And so begins the journey of the post-Resurrection community. It begins with them looking up! Up to the sky! And thus begins the notion that heaven is somewhere in the sky, in an upwardly direction, not necessarily North, but up.

Much of our concept of heaven comes from this particular passage. Most of us are familiar with a world map or a globe you find in geography classrooms. At the top is the Arctic circle and at the bottom is Antarctica. If you’ve even seen this map flipped, you know how odd it seems. Its oddity is in the fact that we are not familiar with the image.  Likewise, the concept of heaven is engrained in us from images that have been projected in movies, stories, and even in Scripture.

Heaven is not only up, it is also around, within and without. St. Luke marks this occasion, “When Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation;  nor will they say, ’See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Today is Ascension. The disciples were looking up. Where are we looking?

Tomorrow we look further in that direction.

Applied Theodicy

Armodoxy for Today

Applied Theodicy

We have dedicated this week of Advent to exploring theodicies, that is, what does it mean to believe in a good and just God, especially in the face of evil. We were prompted by the lesson of the week from Luke 13.

Today, we apply theodicy and decipher a practical theodicy. Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” We begin to understand ourselves as part of a process, part of God’s royal family, and in so doing we begin to understand that the kingdom is not about prestige and honor but about accepting a responsibility of being human and created in the image of God. In other word, solutions that are found outside of us, reduce or nullify a very important component of our humanity, namely the ability to interact and share in the love is God. We pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is more than a wish, it is the understanding that we are the inhabitants of earth and therefore, if His will is to be done, it is with our participation.

The world around us is filled with the much pain, and suffering is everywhere. The evil we experience in life has many causes, some brought about by people, others by life circumstances. The Christian is called to be Christlike. Jesus came across people who were suffering from illness as well as those in deep pain over losses brought about by tragedies in life. He reached out, comforted, healed and restored. We would like to do the same, of course, but are not confident of our ability to do so because we are overwhelmed with the magnitude of evil in our lives.

Reach out. Comfort. Heal. Restore.

Applied theodicy is about applying what we have learned as an answer to evil. Before Jesus healed and restored, he reached out and comforted. Reaching out is the first step a Christian is called to do, and each of us is capable to doing so.

During the Advent Season, we have a very special evening dedicated to the remembrance of one of the greatest evils, namely the death of children. On the second Sunday in December, we gather and remember those who have passed before their time to live. “Children’s Memorial Day” is an opportunity to come together, offer ourselves, and bring semblance in a time of disaster. For a parent that has lost a child, whether to illness or to accident, comforting them may seem impossible, so then begin with the first step, reach out. It is simple action that mimics the actions of our Lord. He reached out. Comfort will follow and begin to understand how God uses people, in this case you, to bring about healing and restoration. You begin to understand that indeed the Kingdom of God is within you, and as a member of that Kingdom you are honored with responsibility.

Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

We are only half-way through Advent, and already the pieces are coming together. Each day builds on the lessons of the previous day. To be Christlike is to accept responsibility to overcome the hardships, the evil, of this world.

We pray, the words taught to us by Christ, “Our Father who is in heaven, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory. Amen.”

We continue our Advent Journey next time and I look forward to doing so with you.