Happy Moltmann Monday! Since Advent is a time when we stand in the overlap of the Kingdom among us and the Kingdom to come, today’s selection comes from Jesus Christ for Today’s World* when Moltmann’s discussing that very topic:
Is the kingdom of God present or future? Is it something we already experience or something we expect and wait for?..
God’s kingdom is experienced in the present in companionship with Jesus. Where the sick are healed and the lost are found, where people who are despised are accepted and the poor discover their own dignity, where people who have become rigid and fossilized come alive again, and old, tired life becomes young and fruitful once more– there the kingdom of God begins. It begins as a seed… Being a seed, it is also the object of hope, but a hope firmly founded on experience and remembrance: the seed wants to grow, the one who has been found wants to return home, those who have been healed want to rise from the dead, and people liberated from some compulsion want to live in the country of freedom. Just because in the companionship of Jesus the kingdom of God is experienced in the present, its completion is hoped for in the future. Experience and hope strengthen one another mutually.
Experience and hope strengthen each other. That’s a good way to describe the relationship between present and future kin-dom. We have experienced, even if just in small doses, even if just in glimpses, the presence of God’s kin-dom among us. We have seen the sick healed, the lost found, the poor given dignity, the dead come alive, the trapped become freed. We have experienced many of these things ourselves. We know they are the work of God, made real to us by the companionship of Jesus who, with the Holy Spirit, makes these kinds of things possible among us. But that experience isn’t, of course, the fullness of the kin-dom. It is merely a seed. It is an object of hope, a token, something we can remember and hold onto while we wait for the kin-dom that has not yet fully come among us. When conditions in this world quickly return to sickness, to violence, to brokenness, we do not despair. We wait, and we hope, and we have trust in that hope because we have already experienced and seen and heard of glimpses of this kin-dom breaking in around us, even through the darkest shrouds. Even through death itself.
We know what the kingdom of God looks like because Jesus has revealed it to us. Moltmann actually begins this book with this assertion. He says (bold mine):
Anyone who gets involved with Jesus gets involved with the kingdom of God. This is an inescapable fact, for Jesus’ own concern was, and is, God’s kingdom…Who is Jesus? Simply the kingdom of God in person.
That makes it concrete for us. This is not just stuff we talk about. If we want to be about the kingdom, we do what Jesus did. That means that yes, we wait; and also, we act. We serve. We feed. We share. We listen. We comfort. In our doing, we declare our hope in the realm to come. We say, Yes, it’s so real, I’m going to live into it right now with my actions. We put our trust in it. We are involved in this. It matters.
As we wait upon the light of Christmas, as we hover in this Advent quiet, let’s allow experience and hope to strengthen each other, to encourage us to stay on the path, walking toward that which we trust God will make known among the earth when it’s all said and done. And let’s do what we can to be people who show forth this in-breaking world of redemption in all the ways we love and live. We experienced hope because someone else made room for it to happen. (“Let every heart prepare him room!”) Of all the things we do during Advent, let’s be people who make room for that same kind of hope to shine through.
*This is a great book for Moltmann beginners. It’s short and written in a more conversational style. :)