I am fond of Jesus’s first preached words in his ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15 NRSV). It’s the heart of Jesus’s message, and through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus demonstrates that the reign of God has truly come near.
The reality of the reign of God coming near has always been difficult to comprehend because we understand it as a “already/not yet” reality. The reign of God has absolutely come near, and it’s effects are felt in the present. But it hasn’t yet been fully realized–there is still more to come. We’ve only gotten a taste of it.
Pastor Katherine Finegan, in her article for my synod’s newsletter, gave me the perfect way to describe the reign of God: Spring in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
According to astronomical/solar reckoning, the Spring Equinox (March 19-21, depending on the year) is, in many northern-hemisphere cultures, the start of the Spring season. In some cultures, it is the mid-point of spring (which makes more sense to me). Either way, at the Equinox, Spring, the season of new life, of growing plants, flowers, and warming weather, is definitely here.
On the other hand, even as I look out my window today, there is still a tiny bit of snowdrift left from last week’s snow. Yes, up here, it frequently snows in late April. There isn’t a lot of green yet. The temperatures only just got out of the freezing range. The calendar said it was Spring–and it was. But the ground, the air, the water, it all said that we were stuck in winter. It was, in a sense, “already/not yet” Spring.
Oh, there were signs–now that the snow is nearly entirely gone, even in the shade, the grass has gotten greener. It’s been in the 50s and 60s this week. But, it was easy to look at the snowy April ground and believe that Spring had missed the memo and forgotten to arrive. But it was here. Under the snow, things were starting to stir. Warmer air was blowing in. The presence of Spring was being made known even as Winter clung to the ground.
So it is with the reign of God. It is here. It has come near. But it doesn’t always look like it. Take a cursory glance at our nation’s news for the past couple weeks and you’ll definitely feel like the reign of God is nowhere to be found.
But it is here. The reign of God has certainly come near. It is already here, but not yet fully visible. Even in the snow, flowers grow, when Spring has made its mark.