What You're Owed
I recently moved to New York City after graduating college. After the first few weeks, it became apparent that New York City is unabashedly catholic: by catholic, I mean the original Greek word for "universal."
Everyone is here. The Russians run the area around Coney Island. Washington Heights is as Latin as Miami. 32nd Street looks like a scene out of Seoul.
Its ethnic and national diversity is well-known, and New York City has long been a city of immigrants. But what especially strikes me about this town is despite being a sum of many, it still has a feeling of One.
A walk up 5th Avenue is a similar - albeit louder - experience as it has been for decades. Lady Liberty still watches sailboats and shipping barges alike share the harbor. Subways zoom below busses which run next to pedestrians who scurry under helicopters that survey it all. People come in, people go out and the city somehow retains its uniqueness and individuality while being painted by a host of different palates.
Manhattan is sprinkled with newer buildings, but this city never really changes. The stubborn existence of NYC is its greatest strength; it is solid and paradoxically unchanging. For a city that never sleeps, it does indeed rest. It's often said a man never steps into the same river twice, but every tourist visits the same New York: its motion is a characteristic as much as its location and weather.
I came here, and I inherited New York City. As did everyone else. Part of the discomfort of moving here is you really can't make this place your own. NYC is far too stubborn for that.
The Kingdom of God is similar. It exists outside of ourselves. It runs in harmony. It is catholic. We come into it, or tragically, we fall away. But it's a bad metaphor.
Because New York City isn't mine. The Kingdom of God, however, is mine. It's totally mine. I own it. It's my property. It's yours, too. If you want it.
Look at the scriptures in how the Kingdom is explained. It's a purchased treasure chest, hidden in an owned plot of land. It's a mustard seed, sown in our own land. It's fish we caught, pearls we obtain. We have every reason to believe this Kingdom is our possession.
I think we're often tempted to see the Kingdom like we see New York City. We stroll into the Church and do our best, then hopefully get to Heaven and find a nice flat near the Pearly Gates. We kind of just show up to things, accidentally stroll in like a wedding guest without the proper gown.
This is a temptation. This is a lie from Hell: that we go to a strange new place rather than our own very familiar home. The Kingdom of God is ours. We show up to our pre-made room in the mansion. Jesus came to Earth and took on humanity with you fully in mind.
The pain of Hell might be the permanence of being in a place we weren't created for. Imagine the thought of never going home again, an inheritance forever lost.
We live in a capitalistic society that allows us to purchase and sell at will. In the past, when markets weren't so fluid, it was more common to inherit your living and your livelihood. People got what was handed to them. Gaining an inheritance was everything; losing an inheritance was near death.
Jesus changed this. The world is passing away, and we ought not store up riches on earth. It's a dying place. Rather, we've been adopted as God's sons. Legally, we are owed his possessions at His death (33 A.D.).
And now we receive the inheritance. Read again his words:
the meek shall inherit the earth.
Only the gentle can climb back into the womb, only the meek can sprinkle the ashes on their foreheads, for those too impatient and bombastic will squirm too much for the marble tomb of Christianity.