Some ten years ago, a movie with the title, Warhorse came out in theaters. It was a movie that presented a striking approach to the portrayal of World War I. Normally, we view war and its impact from a human perspective. We see nation pitted against nation, people fighting people, army against army. This film in a way that takes us wider. While the battle at the front plays a significant role, the destruction, dislocation and impact presented in Warhorse helps us to see that war reaches much further. It has its impact on the countryside, the animals, people who are combatants and non-combatants – war is truly a universal tragedy affecting humanity and all of creation.
Counter to this image of war and violence is the image of the kingdom or the reign of God that we hear Jesus proclaim as he begins his ministry. Mark presents this proclamation:
Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. “The time has come,” he said “and the reign of God is close at hand.” (Mark 1:14-15)
What is this reign of God all about? What does Jesus proclaim through his message and his mission to the world?
The idea of the reign of God finds its roots in the Old Testament. The Jewish People recognized that their God was personally present and active among them as a People. The God of Israel intervened and acted in their story, their history. Perhaps the best example of this, one which they often recalled, was the Exodus event. They saw this liberation from slavery as a work of God among them through Moses. In addition, the Jewish Scriptures acknowledge that God is also present in all of creation around them. At the very beginning of the Old Testament, this sense of God’s presence acting in all creation appears in the stories of creation in the Book of Genesis.
Jesus’ proclamation that the reign of God is close at hand grows out of this way of seeing God as present in our history, our present, our future and in all of creation. As Jesus begins his ministry he announces that God is about to break into our world in a new and powerful way. He will announce this reign time and again in his words and he will reveal it in his actions of healing, reconciling and bringing people together in peace. It will be this completed, fulfilled reign of God that will bring peace and harmony to humanity and healing and wholeness to creation.
Our call as disciples of Jesus is to be part of building this reign. We are to cooperate with God to make this reign more fully present in our midst. We cooperate by our outreach those in need and our care for the creation we share. In God’s own time this reign will reach its fullness. Dermot Lane expresses this future promise of the reign of God:
The future reign of God is about the gathering up by God into a condition of fulfilment and transformation of all the human efforts in this life which are directed towards the creation of peace and justice in the world around us.... The reign of God is ultimately about re-establishing right relationships between God and humanity, between humanity and the individual, between humanity and the whole of creation. (Lane. Christ at the Centre 21)