I’d always wondered what it meant when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God coming near to the people he was with. What was he getting at? What did it look like? Does the Kingdom of God ever come near to me?
Recently, I’ve become convinced that it does.
If you asked me what it looks like, I would tell you about Christianenburg.
On Thursday afternoons, we pile in the Avanza and drive into Clermont to run an after-school program at Christianenburg public school. There’s a group of about 40 orphaned and vulnerable students that stay after school each day and receive a hot meal; we do educational programming with them once a week. Christadelphian Meal-A-Day also contributes to the feeding program.
We pull in to the school as most of the students are streaming out, heading home. They jump, and point, and shout at our car. “Zombuso Kankulunkulu! Zombuso Kankulukulu!” (Kingdom of God! Kingdom of God!).
We park and head in, and met by 40 running children, their faces beaming, piling in for a round of hugs. We draw them close and ask about their weeks and they point at our shirts, “Zombuso Kankulunkulu! Zombuso Kankulunkulu!”
We circle them in, run them through a warm up, and divide them into groups for the day’s activity. Recently we’ve been doing a lot of football- (soccer) based lessons. They run after us up and down the field, leaping, giggling, joyful.
We run them through drills, emphasizing a spiritual lesson from what they’ve just done. Dribbling is about controlling the ball, just like we need to control ourselves. Shooting is about keeping your eye on the goal, just like we need to focus on the Kingdom. Passing is about teamwork, communication, and supporting your friends. Under-over is about the ups and downs in life, and how we have to keep going, even when times get tough. And they press in, and nod their heads, listening.
They’ve come to know that the people who show up in the Kingdom of God car will work with them, and listen to them, and shower them with attention and affection. They know the car. They know the signs. They know about the Kingdom of God. And we’ve come to know that it’s not about us– it’s not about the individuals in the car. Those faces change as volunteers cycle through, our individual contributions are just part of a whole. We get to be part of a process, a movement, and a domain that began before we did, and will carry on longer than we do.
This is part of something bigger.
This is about being ambassadors, workers, servants, and citizens of the Kingdom of God.
And it has come near to us.