I noticed something. Jesus' earlier statements about the kingdom are gentle and lovely: The kingdom is like finding something you lost and dearly love; The kingdom is like discovering a treasure and selling all you have to get it; The kingdom is like a sower who goes out and sows seed lavishly, without regard to the soil.
As the storm swirling around Jesus intensifies, the parables take on more edge. The kingdom is like a marriage feast where all the society guests can't be bothered to attend and so the host fills the room with unsuitable guests. (There is also one man who comes without putting on decent clothes and he gets thrown out.) And the kingdom is like a man going on a journey who trusts all his servants with money and provision and the one who hides his money and doesn't do anything with it is punished. The kingdom is like a fig tree that doesn't bear fruit and so is destroyed. Etc.
As Jesus life intensifies and so do his images. Both the gentle seeking images and the stern images are kingdom pictures. They are two sides to the same coin as the old expression goes. But I am also pondering this thought:
our awareness of and participation in the kingdom of heaven
is experienced differently during
the various seasons of our life.
Think about it. When we are young we have energy and passion: risk taking can seem almost a game and our 'sureness' is untested. Then we live through necessary and various seasons - some of which are gentle and full of mercy and joy, and others are severe and costly. We are loved and mistreated, honored and dismissed. Hearts break and bodies wear out. Our work brings fruit and joy and then sometimes just weariness.
There are seasons when it seems a forlorn hope to enter into a deeply meaningful participation in kingdom life. All that is surely in the past.
But because the kingdom is about richness on the inside of things, it is never lost to us. And because we don't create the kingdom - thank God! way to much effort - but are invited to enter it, participate in it, watch for it, no one is too old, too tired, too broken or too lonely to live just there, inside the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of heaven is at once this complex collage of seemingly disparate parts inextricably bound into one thing, and also a completely unique, individual, specific set of experiences flowing through our own life and season.
Just another grace.