When I was a child, one of my great delights was to play outside with the large group of children who lived on the block. Play sessions often began when a friend came and knocked on the door, then asked whoever answered, “Can Susan come out and play?” The knock was always an invitation to come out and, unless I was sick or engaged in some consuming project, I would go.
Those memories of childhood have recently prompted me to see an old, familiar picture in a new way. Prints of Jesus knocking at the wooden door of a stone house were popular in nineteenth century Germany and England, where the theme was painted many times. My childhood understanding of this image, an old copy of which hung in a Sunday school classroom, was that Jesus knocks and waits patiently for us to let him into our hearts. Of course, that is true; Jesus desires to enter our lives and change us forever. Recently, though, I had the “aha” realization that Jesus knocks in order to beckon us out. Jesus knocks to invite us out to play, out to make friends with others, out to see and serve a world in need. Jesus doesn’t knock so that we can let him in and slam the door shut with him inside. His very knock is an invitation for us to come out.
As soon as we step out and engage with Christ in the world, we are connected in the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God, for which we pray every time we say the Lord’s Prayer, is not remote and far off. True, it is not yet here in all its fullness, but the seeds of it, the broad outline traces of it, are here. As Jesus himself said, “The Kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:21.) God’s realm of justice and peace is already among us. God’s dream of joy and fullness of life for all people is already alive. We see it in glimmers and glimpses and fleeting glances whenever one person treats another with Christly love, whenever our hearts are lifted by the smile of a baby or the glory of a sunset, whenever we act for the sake of another.
We are not in this life of faith alone, after all. No one can be a Christian in isolation. Being a Christian, by definition, means being in community with Christ and with everyone Christ loves. (And that means everyone!) When we choose to follow Christ, we get the community as well – that’s the deal. It is, in fact, a very visual image. Picture your relationship with God in Christ as a vertical line, the way we often see the connection between heaven and earth. Next, picture your relationship with others as a horizontal line, like arms stretched out to embrace another. Now bring the two lines together. Where the vertical and the horizontal meet, there is the cross of Christ. Where the vertical and horizontal meet, right there at the intersection of Christ and the world, there is the Kingdom of God.
We in the Diocese of Virginia are connected in the Kingdom. We are connected to one another as we are connected to the whole of this magnificent and groaning world. In this fall season, “Connected in the Kingdom” is the theme for our diocesan stewardship ministry. Connected in the Kingdom will be our theme for the upcoming Diocesan Council. (Yes, the name is still Council until we adopt a constitutional amendment on second reading and change it to Convention in January.) Bishop Peter John Lee of the Diocese of Christ the King in South Africa, along with other visitors from his diocese, will remind us of our connections in the Kingdom beyond lines of nationality and race and ethnicity. “Connected in the Kingdom” is also a central theme of the season of Advent that is fast upon us. Look for the series of short videos on Advent* that will help us connect Kingdom thinking with our preparing for the coming of Christ.
Christ is standing at the door and knocking. The Kingdom is standing at the door and knocking. Will you come out and play?
By: The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff