“If a kingdom is divided against itself, it cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself that house will be unable to stand.”
In today’s Gospel, we hear God’s call to us to be a united Kingdom, a united house. It seems to me that there are two ways to live toward a united communion, a united Kingdom.
The first way is to seek out folks that are alike and to “circle the wagons,” if you will; include in your kingdom only those who are like you in some way. We have seen this throughout human history because as humans we have created nations with borders, imaginary boundary lines on geographical maps, hierarchies of power and privilege, denominations of “same beliefs,” and even gated communities and segregated neighborhoods.
This way of building a kingdom through uniformity leads to warfare and bloodshed; it leads to racism and segregation, and it leads to isolationist nationalism. It places value on some lives, but not on all lives. It leads to children being separated from their parents and being kept in cages---and this in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” This very human way of “uniting” has only led us to brokenness, to sinfulness, to evil---perpetrated in the name of safety, under the guise of patriotism, but all driven by fear. Fear of the other---this fear that is so very much our American history, very much our human history.
But there is another Way---a truer way to build a united Kingdom. It is the way of common identity. But not basing identity on geographic origin or ethnic origin, not basing one’s identity on genetic factors or common languages, common customs or even common beliefs. But identity based on one simple fact: that God is the Creator of all life.
When we realize that our unity comes from the One who Created---then we begin to realize that we are not only connected to all of humanity, but also to all of Creation. And then, Beloved, then we can live lives and create societies and systems that places value on all life---humanity’s and Creation’s. In this way of building Kingdom unity, we recognize that each of us is only a piece of the whole, and that we are connected to all of Creation, so then we must be committed to honoring, building, and sustaining those connections, our connections to all of humanity and to this fragile earth, our island home. This is how Jesus builds Kingdom; this is how God binds us in communion.
Mother Theresa once said: “if there is no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another.”
Baptism is a proclamation of this second way of Kingdom building—this Way of Jesus. For in Baptism, we are saying yes to God’s claim on our lives. In Baptism, through the grace of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the love of Jesus, we are declaring that we are connected to all others. And in Baptism we make radical promises:
Baptism is the invitation and entrance to an alternative community, a community that lives out this Jesus Way of a United Kingdom. Where we are all bound to one another because of who God is—our Creator---and because of whose we are----God’s beloved. But not only us here in this place, not only people who look like us or sound like us or believe like us---but all people—All people, no exceptions---and all of Creation. This alternative community we have joined through Baptism doesn’t look or think or behave like the world around us that continues to place value on some lives, instead of valuing all lives. This alternative community of love, of the beloved, is based on the will and the way of God, not humanity’s.
Maybe you think it’s all a pipedream---just nice words to put on a postcard or a T-shirt: A United Kingdom, a United House, a Beloved Community. Maybe, maybe it is. But let me leave you with a story.
There was a man who heard of a remarkable Master, a Master who did incredible things, miracles that changed lives. And the man wanted to meet the Master. So this man traversed land and sea to find his way to the Master’s land. When he finally arrived, the man met a disciple, a follower, of the Master. So the man asked the disciple: “Tell me, what kind of miracles has your Master performed.”
The disciple looked at the man and said: “Well, there are miracles and then there are miracles. In your land, it is considered a miracle if God fulfills the wishes and desires of the people. In our land, it is regarded as a miracle if people fulfill the will and desires of God.”
Jane Johnson is the pastor and priest of the Beloved Community of Intercession Episcopal and Redeemer Lutheran.