My title is a small tribute to the great Seamus Heaney, but also what I want this site to be – dispatches from this particular country. Whether I’ll ever achieve this, who knows.
Jesus didn’t change my life
Jesus didn’t change my life. He changed my world.
This is what I want to say. It has a ring of truth.
But is it true?
Can you really change the world?
You can change how each individual experiences the world. Or, I would contend, Jesus can. And does. In an almost infinite number of ways.
I think it starts with what he called ‘kingdom’.
Which starts with who is king.
If Jesus is king, then the citizens (not subjects, note) of his kingdom do not owe their allegiance to Herod or Caesar, King James or Queen Elizabeth. Nor to The Man, money, success or power.
They are actually free. Free to live in the way of Jesus. Free to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God.
And so it is that they find the world already changed.
Right here, right now
Jesus came telling people that the kingdom was right here among them, and ever since Christians have been living with the disconnect between the Good News that God’s kingdom is here among us, and that, looking around, it really doesn’t feel like God’s set-right, peace-filled world is any more than a pipe dream.
This is why it seems to me this kingdom is the state of lived imagination.
Jesus came telling people to act like a child.
For a child does not need to square the circle of the world imagined and the world as adults tell her it is in actuality. For the child the bedsheet, blanket and clotheshorse is a tent, or a castle, and the garden or the living room is a desert or a kingdom, even if when you pick up a blanket and ask what it is, she will tell you it is a blanket.
As Walter Brueggemann surveys the role of the imagination in faith (Texts Under Negotiation: Bible and Postmodern Imagination, Fortress 1993, pp13–17) he suggests we must not see the world as if the kingdom was in place, but as the kingdom come, with different rules already in place – and further, not just to see it as the kingdom come, but to take it as the kingdom come, acting not as if, but acting as citizens of a kingdom that has broken in, or exploded out.
In the child’s lived imagination, she takes the clotheshorse as the castle and the garden as the kingdom. Must we not do the same?
Living in this state will have two markers. It will make people uncomfortable because they will feel the dramatic gulf between what we call “the real world” and the set-right, peace-filled world God has imagined. It will also give people hope, because they will taste on the tips of their tongues the promise of that imagined world made real, “on earth as it is in heaven”.