The church is where the kingdom of God takes shape on earth, but the kingdom extends beyond earth, beyond humanity, and throughout creation. Saturn and Jupiter, the Milky Way, the Horsehead Nebula, MACS0647-JD (the furthest known galaxy) are all under God’s rule and within his kingdom. The kingdom includes humans but also every other creature: bears and birds, elephants and mosquitoes (God haste the day when they are sanctified!), mice, whales, angels, cherubim, and seraphim.
The church and the kingdom do not possess a one-to-one correspondence. Think of it this way: the local McDonald’s is not McDonald’s Corporation, but it is McDonald’s. It does McDonald’s: Big Macs, fries, Egg McMuffins, Coke. It is a local expression of McDonald’s Worldwide. Similarly, the church is a local expression of the Kingdom of God Universal. The church is kingdom. The Church does kingdom.
Imagine going to a McDonald’s and ordering a Big Mac, fries, and a Coke. The young person behind the counter says, “Yeah … we don’t have those.” You’d say, “What kind of McDonald’s is this? You may call yourself a McDonald’s, you may have golden arches out front, but you are no McDonald’s.”
Just so, people can buy a building, put up a steeple, and erect a sign with the word “Church” in big letters but if they don’t do kingdom, they are not a church. McDonald’s has the Big Mac, fries, and Coke. What does the church have?
The church has Jesus. He is Lord. The church does not have a U.S. president as Lord. If it does, it is not a real church. The church does not have the so-called Almighty dollar as Lord. If it does, it not a real church. The church does not have a pastor as Lord. If it does, it is not a real church. Jesus is Lord. The church is kingdom (though there is not a one-to-one correspondence) and Jesus is king.
It is not that way outside the church. The workplace does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Nor does the government. The Elks, the Moose, the Rotary, do not confess Jesus at the beginning of their meetings, nor do most schools start their day by praying in his name.
But we do. We have Jesus over us and the Spirit within us; and that makes us different. We are what Chris Wright calls a “contrast society.” We are not like everyone else. We confess Jesus as Lord, both as individuals and as a group. We do things the Jesus way.
What does that mean – we do things the Jesus way? For one thing, it means we love each other. Talk about a contrast society! This past week (really, the past several decades) when Americans were fighting each other in the Capitol, hurting each other, screaming at each other, the church has an opportunity to show a contrast by loving each other. It is in the darkness that the light shines brightest. This is our moment.