moving mountains in the kin-dom

The summer staff eats dinner together every night. We talk about the evening program and our days with the groups. There comes a breaking point where laughter erupts and the conversation devolves into mindless rumble. Last week, this laughter evolved into playful criticism towards me. I lead the music for the evening program and I am not ashamed to say I pick songs that are indie. You know, songs from bands that no one has ever heard of or songs originally sung in different languages? The staff complained of hearing the same songs each week, although the youth love the songs that I play and every week sing with a different group. They called me a pseudo-hipster, which infuriated me and I proceeded in pretending to throw things and destroy the office.
One song that I adore is a Spanish worship song titled Montaña by Salvador. The lyrics are thus:
If you have faith like a seed of a mustard
That’s what the Lord has said
If you have faith like a seed of a mustard
That’s what the Lord has said
You can say to the mountain move away move away
You can say to the mountain move away move away
And the mountain will move away move away move away
And the mountain will move away move away move away

It takes the group at least two go arounds to really get into this song. Once this happens, the energy in the sanctuary is incomparable to other songs throughout the week. Youth, as well as adults, love it. I have come up with a few theories about this passionate energy. The youth are first filled with vigor, as they sing a song different from in their own churches. Second, the melody is catchy and resonates; they cannot help but jump around during the chorus. There are other responses, but I am going to focus on the fact that the youth are expecting/experiencing the kin-dom of God, where the world will be turned upside down. This is why they  jump in joyous presumption that God is participating with them in creating something new.

Post-modern philosopher and theologian, John Caputo, crafted the book “The Weakness of God,” which I have been devouring this week. Caputo
summarizes the dichotomy between the world’s kingdoms and God’s kin-dom, writing,
“The kingdom that Jesus called for was a kingdom ironically, one that was itself mocking the business-as-usual of the powers that be, one in which a divine madness reigned, even as it was, from the point of view of the Roman Empire, of the Brutality of the world, simple foolishness, outright stupidity” (15).
The kin-dom that we are expecting is one of reversals. The youth groups observe reversals of cultural normalcy through urban gardens, Narcotics Anonymous Meetings, in small neighborhood churches reaching out into their communities through play. Explosions of reality occur at every location, most of it concrete and tangible with the senses. For example, when the youth uproot weeds that choke vegetables and herbs, they smell soil, manure, and hay; soil slips in their fingernails, and sweat drips from their forehead. This contradicts the common pattern they are used to, such as going to fast food restaurants, standing on hard tile, receiving food wrapped in paper, and drinking sodas with unknown ingredients.Eruptions of the kin-dom gives hope to the hopeless. They force one to reconsider the way they have been living. One can see the mountains move before their very eyes, if not now, soon with the coming kin-dom. The role of imagination appears in the middle of kin-dom and reality. Imagination lends one to think of a different reality where the impossible is possible, where the food deserts in north Philadelphia become places of lush gardens of vegetables and orchards of fruit, where people are treated with respect rather than contempt.

Yet, it is much too simple to be cynical about reality, to allow the kingdom of the world to dictate our actions. For this reason, communities of believers must be the imaginative voices in their towns. A group of people where their imagination is intricate in their prayer life is those who practice the Ignatian Spirituality. One is asked to imagine scenes in their minds when praying, e.g. biblical scene of Mary and Elizabeth meeting while both are pregnant and John the Baptizer kicking in the womb while being near Jesus. These kind of imaginative practices must bleed into the very life in how we perform everyday. The imagination and the kin-dom to come should be intertwined and seek this new world, while trying our best to create something in the present.

Gustave Dore, known for paintings of biblical stories, painted this beautiful picture titled “Voyage to the Moon.” It speaks to imagination and going to a realm of impossibilities.

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