Through all of human history, humanity has conceived of the “perfect” society and each time we humans have endeavored to build it, it turned out to either fail or become a nightmare. In 1787, the Founding Fathers of the United States met in Independence Hall in Philadelphia to hammer out the Constitution of the United States, the governing document of the nation. When a lady asked Benjamin Franklin outside the Hall “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin responded, “A Republic if you can keep it.”
We humans do mean well, and we have forever tried to organize ourselves under the loftiest of goals. And each time we do we humans discover the limits of our wisdom. Even the Roman Empire lasted until 1453 when the capital of the Roman Empire fell to the Turks, but not before watching its boundaries shrink under the relentless march of history, corruption, and failed alliances. We humans do mean well and we try hard, but, try as we may, we stumble to create heaven on earth. Just ask the millions slaughtered all in the name of the “worker’s paradise!”
So, does this mean we humans can’t create a “perfect” kingdom on earth? It sure looks like it. But what if we have it all wrong? What if this perfect Kingdom isn’t a place but a Person?
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Luke 17:20-25:
At that time, when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Lo, there!’ or ‘Lo, here!’ Do not go, do not follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”
Our Lord Jesus reveals the principles of the Kingdom of God to these Pharisees and His disciples. He tells them the Kingdom (notice, please, it IS a Kingdom) that will finally satisfy the best intentions of humanity will not “come” with signs to be observed. No, the Kingdom meant for all humanity isn’t some hereditary monarchy, or some democratically elected leader, or even the benign dictatorship of the wisest man. This kingdom, this place where humanity flourishes and finally becomes what we were meant to be isn’t dependent on the next election cycle, or on some political party platform. It isn’t over here or over there, no matter what the politicians promise you during an election season or what some political philosopher tells you in theory. This Kingdom is “in the midst of you.”
In other words, the Kingdom of God is a Person, not a place!
And that means all our seeking to make the Kingdom about this or that policy or patriotic endeavor will always let us down. The Kingdom of God, the rule of God in the world, will always start and exist in the hearts of those who have willingly allowed God to come and take His place as the Ruler of our lives. That’s where the Kingdom is, because that’s where the King is! And that invites you and me to understand that the transformation of human society doesn’t start when this or that politician is elected or this or that political ideology is achieved, but only when I am transformed into a faithful subject of the King Who has died and has risen again and will come again to confirm for the world what we say each Liturgy: “His Kingdom will have no end!”
Today, as we rightly struggle to do good and have a just and honorable society, we Christians do not fall for the utopian rhetoric of lesser “kings” who worship power. Because we know the only King that can ever establish His government in our hearts, and to Him do we look and place our confidence. Not in the passing fads of this or that political movement. No, we are committed to the only Kingdom that ultimately matters. We are Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. On this week of Thanksgiving let’s pray: “O Lord of Mercy and Grace, grant us the sight to see Your daily kindness to us and give us the strength to more fully be grateful to You and fill our eyes with only the sight of Your Face, so that, seeing You only, we will become like You, to the praise of Your glory. Amen