Imagine that you were born and raised and spent all of your life in a remote village where everyone is color blind. This village is very isolated and everyone shares the same gene for color blindness. The world as far you as you know it is black and white with various shades of gray. There are no golden sunsets, no blue sky, no green leaves. You don’t even know what the word color means because no one has ever seen it. Now, imagine how crazy it would sound if one day someone came along and told you about another world – a world that is not black and white and gray but one that is rich with thousands of shades of color. Moreover, you are told that this colorful world is the real world, the way the world is supposed to be. What you see in black and white is only an approximation – you aren’t seeing the whole picture.
I tell you this story to make the point of how bizarre it must have been for Jesus’
Disciples when he told them about the Kingdom of God. How opposite it was from everything they knew, how contrary to their entire experience. It must have been like being told about color when all you ever knew was black and white. The disciples lived in a world of competition, violence, greed, the struggle for power and personal gain. That’s all they knew. That’s the world they had been born into, the world in which they had been taught to survive and thrive. Jesus came along and told them about another world, God’s world – the world as it is supposed to be but that they can’t see. A world where instead of getting they had to learn how to give, instead of striving for power they had to learn how to live in service to others, instead of violence they had to learn how to love their enemies. If almost everything you know is in black and white, how are you supposed to believe in color? How can you learn to live in the Kingdom when the ways of the Kingdom contradict almost everything you know?
For over 2000 years Christians have been living in one kind of world while they are told over and over again that they have to believe in and work to create a very different kind of world. And getting our heads around Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom is no easier for us today then it was for his disciples all those years ago. That is why Jesus says the door is narrow and the way is difficult – because it is very, very hard to focus on the Kingdom when much of what we have to deal with everyday seems so contradictory. It is very hard to believe in love, peace, and forgiveness as the way things are supposed to be when our experience tells us that love, peace, and forgiveness are rare commodities. This is why for many people the Kingdom of God is nothing more than a crazy dream, a fairytale.
I read not long ago that the central values of American culture are the three A’s – Attractiveness, Achievement, and Affluence. What we value more than anything else is physical beauty, worldly accomplishments and wealth. The extent to which we have or do not have these three things dictates our importance and our worth in society. That’s the way of the world. The way of the Kingdom says you are valuable simply because you are a child of God. You are important because you are beloved by God. Your worth is intrinsic; it has nothing to do with how you look, the title on your business card, or how much money you have. And the door to the Kingdom is narrow because this Kingdom way of seeing is a hard thing to grasp when you live in the world of the three A’s.
Make no mistake about it; at our sinful best we are people whose “god is the belly” as St. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians. We are people who respond to our appetites, our desires, our cravings. We want immediate gratification, the best of everything. We are addicted to stuff – cars, houses, nice clothes, fine foods. We always want what is bigger, better, nicer. This is what our black and white world tells us we ought to want, what we need, even what we deserve. Our minds are set on earthly things because our vision is limited, very limited.
But the Jesus we meet in the Gospels spends his life teaching and preaching and proclaiming that there is another way. He dares to touch a leper to heal him and in so doing he says – can’t you see, can’t you see there is another way. He throws dinner parties with the outcast and he says – open your eyes, there is more color here then you ever imagined. He fills the ranks of his followers with prostitutes and tax collectors and he says – can’t you see the way of the Kingdom is much grander than the way of the world. He gives up his divine power to die on the cross and in that act declares – God’s ways are very different from the ways of Attractiveness, Achievement, and Affluence.
Some of you sitting here today aren’t quite sure why you are here. Maybe you think you’ve come out of duty. Maybe you think you’ve come because your spouse or your children or your parents want you to. Maybe you think you’ve come because of the beautiful music or the nice liturgy. But I think that deep down inside all of us there is a quiet yearning, a craving, a whisper of desire for another way of living, for a deeper way of life. It might be as faint as the memory of a fading dream but it is there none the less. And this whisper of memory draws us like moths trying to fly to the moon. We know it is there but we just can’t quite get to it. That yearning, that craving, that whisper is real it is not a dream. It is the living Christ deep inside of you calling you to be more than you are, inviting you to risk a life of faith in his Kingdom.
You see, you and I who come together in this place are supposed to be the ones who create a little color in this color blind world. We are supposed to be people of the Kingdom. We are supposed to live it as a community and as individuals. Others are supposed to see it in us and discover it through us. If we come here color blind, leave color blind and live color blind, then we have failed our God. Where is the Kingdom of God expressed in your life? Jesus forgave his executioners from the cross. When was the last time you forgave? Jesus loved those deemed unlovable. When was the last time you showed genuine love to your neighbor? When was the last time you gave something of real value to another simply because you can and not because you got anything in return? When was the last time you taught someone else about the ways of Jesus or consciously sought to imitate his life? These are the ways that lead through the narrow door because these are the ways of the Kingdom.
Look around; there are flashes of color everywhere in this color blind world. There are glimpses of the Kingdom all over the place. Open your eyes it’s there if you want to see it. It’s real, it’s not a dream, and it’s worth living for. Amen.