I usually re-word the phrase “kingdom of God” as “kin-dom of God” because that play on words better captures for us the message and ministry of Jesus: that in God we are ALL kin. I hint at that here, but more directly I suggest that Jesus’ original phrase has a quality of deep irony to it. He uses “kingdom” NOT to draw on earthly kings as a metaphor of God; instead, the content of both his parables and his ministry actually use “kingdom” language to call into question all earthly manner of holding power. Indeed, given Webster’s definition of “queer” as a verb, it’s fair to say that Jesus’ QUEERS earthly modes of power — perhaps none more so than those running the world … and our country … today. And the worldly powers kill him for that. So the 3-part riddle in verse 3 is a sort of Zen koan, giving the disciples (and us) something to ponder after Jesus’ death—and a hint at where they (and we) will witness resurrection.
I invite you to think about where racial justice, universal health care, welcome to immigrants (and fully address the forces that drive refugee/immigration), caring for the planet with future generations in mind, and more find echoes in this poem.
The Queer Kingdom of God
Said Jesus to those gathered near, “The kingly deeds of God are queer—
They foul the plans of those whose more is but the spoils of the poor.
God’s kingly deeds intend to foil earth’s foolish dreams of what is royal.
The tales I tell are meant to free your ears to hear, your eyes to see
When God is king the rule of men is plain no rule at all, my friends.
When wealth and power go hand in hand, ‘tis tyranny that leads the land.
“Thus God does queer the very thing that earth imagines makes a king;
It isn’t wealth or might or name, not brutal force or far-flung fame.
The royalty of God begins by claiming every person kin.
When God is king and claiming kin, the outcast ones are gathered in.
No wonder then that under breath the pow’rs that be now whisper death
To One who dares to call their bluff, suggest they’ve ruled for long enough.
“For regal claims of welcome wide the Christ of God is crucified.
But let this riddle hold you then, that kin-dom come might come again.
‘What is the sound of mustard seed growing wild like a weed?
What is the sound of leavened wheat, flour stretched for all to eat?
What is the sound of new made wine, bursting skins of old design?’
“To enemies, speak now as friends, and with the poor make full amends.
Let kindness be the name you chase so every stranger finds a place.
Let welcome be the wealth you keep, and keep it well, both wide and deep.
The doing of these holy deeds – this sounds like wine and wheat and seeds,
For resurrection will begin when you join God in making kin.”
drw – 07.22.05