Matthew 4:12-17

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

New York City-- September 11, 2010--Saturday 9/11 spending the ninth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks documenting a day in the life of New York City. Photo/Bob Karp

Photo/Bob Karp

The end of the world has always been a hot topic in Christianity. It is not a new phenomenon. What saddens me is that we make “the kingdom of heaven has come near” into the same thing as “the end of the world is coming.” We most often associate these words of Jesus with people standing on street corners and yelling into megaphones. On the face of it, “the kingdom of heaven has come near” sounds like bad news.

But it’s not. The in-breaking of the kingdom of heaven is undeniably good news. Do a quick Google search of “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” The pictures and sites that pop up depict the fires of hell and give severe warnings about your fate if you don’t fully believe in Jesus. This, to me, is a sad and perverted image of the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is the time and place where the poor are fed, where the impoverished are raised up, and where hope is made real for all people. Furthermore, I believe the kingdom of heaven is here and now. We are participating in glimpses and hints of that kingdom every time we pray, when we give a meal to the hungry, and when we give of ourselves to the downtrodden.

The kingdom of heaven is not coming. It has come near. The kingdom of heaven is around us.

Where have you seen the kingdom of heaven today?

The Rev. Jimmy Abbott