Advent Week 1: Kin-dom and Kingdom

Ernst Nowak, Piggyback, 1919. From wikimedia commons

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32, NIV).

The thing Jesus preached most about was The Kingdom of God. It’s an elusive idea: it’s here, but not here yet. Jesus teaches about it most often with parables: it’s like a mustard seed, or a woman searching for a coin, or like a pearl merchant who loves his product more than profit, so much that he sells all he has and buys a beautiful one—not to resell it, apparently, but just to admire it.

In most of these parables, Jesus seems to be trying to shift his audience away from thinking of kingdoms the way they normally do. This will not be a kingdom of domination, not one maintained by a strong military. Instead, it’s a place where “the first will be last and the last will be first.”

I think it’s worth asking: is it even right to call it a kingdom? Since most of Jesus’s lessons point people away from conventional “kingly” images, might there be a better image or metaphor?

Ada María Isasi-Díaz borrowed and popularized a word coined by Georgene Wilson: kin-dom. In referring to his God as Abba and his disciples as brothers and sisters (Mark 3:33-35), Jesus describes a different set of power dynamics and a different way of relating to each other.

At the same time, Jesus wasn’t idolizing the family the way some religious folks do. Caesar Augustus claimed to be “The Protector of Morals,” and was very vocal about men being the head of the household. The kin-dom Jesus describes is one where prodigal fathers welcome wayward children. God is not “king daddy in the sky,” but a companion who longs for greater intimacy with God’s creatures.

Prayer: Baba God, make for us a new family, one in which all your creatures recognize their kinship. Amen.

—Rev. Dr. David Barnhart, Jr.