We already talked a few weeks ago about new metaphors for Jesus’ message. Today let’s consider some more.
Rachel and Ruth were talking after work. It was 3am and it had been a long hard shift for the two prostitutes. They ended it with a cup of coffee in a local doughnut shop.
Also in the doughnut shop that night was a pastor staying in a local hotel. He was suffering from jet lag and unable to sleep, so he had popped out for a coffee as well.
He listened as the local hookers talked.
Rachel said to Ruth, “You know what? It’s my birthday tomorrow. I’m going to be 39.”
Her friend snapped back, “So what do you want from me? A birthday party? Huh? You want me to get a cake and sing happy birthday for you?”
“Aw come on,” Rachel replied. “Why do you have to be so mean to me? Why do you have to put me down? I’m just saying that it is my birthday tomorrow. I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should I have a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my entire life. Why should I have one now?”
The girls left and the pastor sat there thinking for a moment. He spoke to the owner and learned that the two hookers came in every night after work, and together they hatched a plan. The two men and the owner’s wife conspired together to throw a party the next day.
They got decorations and a cake and candles, and by 3am the next day the doughnut shop had been decked out with all the birthday decorations. The pastor, whose name is Tony Campolo, was doing this for a complete stranger, someone he had seen only once and never spoken too. Someone who lived a sinful life as a prostitute.
When the two street walkers came in the next night, there was a shout of ‘Surprise!’
Rachel could not believe her eyes.
Everyone in the doughnut shop sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and she cried so hard that she almost couldn’t blow out the candles. Instead of cutting the cake, Rachel asked if she could take it home and just keep it for a while. So she could savour the moment.
Tony led the party guests in a prayer for Rachel, after which the owner of the doughnut shop expressed his great surprise on learning that Tony was a pastor. He asked Tony what kind of church he came from, and Tony replied that he came from the kind of church that throws parties for prostitutes at 3am.
The guy wouldn’t believe him.
“No you don’t,” he said. “There isn’t any church like that. If there was then I’d join it. You bet I’d join a church like that.”
Isn’t it sad that there really are so few churches like that? But if we truly understand the message of Jesus, there will be more.
Now imagine this.
There is a virus that causes insanity and physical sickness. It has infected everyone on earth. In some people the effect of the virus is to make them aggressive. They are aggressive and hostile toward other people, and toward anything that upsets them. They are easily upset.
Other people suffer from a desire to be violent, still others cannot stop themselves from lying about anything and everything, while yet others experience paralysis, and so on and so on. The insanity and the physical sickness ruin lives of individuals, families and entire communities. National leaders with the virus start wars. Corporate leaders with the virus abuse and oppress their workers.
One man, a doctor, has found a cure for the virus. Because everyone has the virus, most people don’t know they have it. But the doctor comes to you and offers you some of his medicine to cure you. After you take it and have been cured, he asks you to help him give the medicine to others so he can cure the entire world of the virus.
And each person you heal, you are to tell them the same thing, that when they are healed they should share the medicine with others so that they can also be healed. As each person is healed he or she become a healer for others, and the healing is passed on around the world until everyone has been healed of the virus.
The disease spread virally and now the cure spreads virally, from person to person. It is ‘the healing mission of God’, where you are healed and then heal others, and bring them into the kingdom of heaven. Where no one is healed for himself, and we all live for each other.
Jesus often compared heaven to a party or a feast or a banquet. We could say that God is inviting people to leave behind their gang fights and come to a party, to take a break from their workaholic lives and come to a party, to leave their loneliness and isolation to join a party, to leave their exclusive political parties and join inclusive birthday parties for prostitutes. Stop complaining and competing and start celebrating the goodness of God.
Heaven is a party. Heaven is healing.
Heaven is … a revolution.
It is the revolutionary movement of God. It is the fight against injustice, corruption, oppression, racism, and all forms of social evil. It is a metaphor that easily flows from our recent metaphor of ‘the dream of God’.
It states that we, human beings, have created a regime of lust where people are reduced to sex objects or exalted into sexual predators.
We human beings have created a regime of pride and power where some thrive at the expense of others, or to the exclusion of others.
We have built a society of ageism, classism, nationalism, elitism that labels some people inferior and others superior due to age, race, social status, educational status, place of birth, size of bank account. We have built a world in which greed and consumerism say it is OK for people to be slaves to their jobs, for people to be bought and sold as consumer goods, and where God’s creation exists solely for our consumption, where time is money and so life is money.
The revolution of Jesus cannot use any of the means and methods used by these corrupt regimes. Or else it just becomes a contest for who is the most corrupt. One corrupt regime would just be replaced by another. The revolution has to use revolutionary means to overcome the evil of the world. It has to use heavenly means.
So God’s revolution is not just any revolution and we must put a modifier in front. We need to call it ‘the peaceful revolution’, because it uses such different tactics. Or we need to call it ‘the reconciling revolution’, ‘the spiritual revolution’, ‘the justice revolution of God’ and then we are getting closer to what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of ‘the kingdom of heaven’.
It is a conspiracy to overturn the world. It is a conspiracy to overthrow the rulers of the world and unseat them from their thrones. These are the kinds of metaphors that will get us persecuted, these are the kinds of metaphors we need to find when we talk to our friends and neighbours and local prostitutes and gang members.
The kingdom of God is like a dance. Once upon a time at the beginning of time, all of creation danced a cosmic dance of great beauty, but then men started to tread on each others toes and ignore the rhythm and reject the grace and want to be the star and all in all generally made a mess of things. But God sent Jesus into the world to teach us how to hear the rhythm of God’s music and dance in harmony with all of his creation.
Jesus came to restore the beauty and revive the dance.
The kingdom of heaven is like …
We are to follow Jesus example and be creative in our communication of his message.
Let’s find ways in our own lives to do this today.