The Kingdom of God Is Near
Becoming Intimate with Your Life
by David Parks-Ramage
The following reflection is the first of three that David Parks-Ramage uses in introducing Zen Buddhist meditation to Christians. The second and third reflections will be published here in October and November.
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Following his baptism in the Jordan River and his time in the wilderness Jesus emerges into his ministry. His first words? “The time is come. The Realm of God is near.” You can almost feel it in Jesus’ words, finding fulfillment in your hearing. It is here. Now. Present. There is nowhere to look, no far off and away to get to. God is present here, in life. That is the good news.
God is here in your life. So, repent, return then to the Holy, to perceive the divine in your midst. To come home to God is to come home to your life as it is, the realm of God present in the midst of your full life, all of it, the joys and sorrows, pains and celebrations. The realm of God has no fixed address. Explanations fall short. As soon as you think you’ve grasped it, it slips from your hands. This realm is a like a son, lost and found or an over-achieving mustard seed or a bit of corrupting leaven. It is a compassionate outcast walking the road, stopping to help a stranger. It is a precious pearl, a treasure hidden. Lose it and you find it, try to save it and it eludes your grasp.
Here kinship is redefined and the dead are left to bury the dead. To get it you give it up. Life here is not exactly as it seems and it is precisely as it is. Consider the birds of the air, it is present. Look at the lilies and it is there too. It is received just as a child, wide-eyed, accepts a gift. This is an upside down world where the poor, those who mourn, the persecuted, are blessed. Here, Jesus is slow to explain. He points. Like a kindly docent at the local observatory, Jesus only points to the moon. It is there for us to see. Near. At hand. In the very midst of living.
As we embark upon this journey of discovery we find that we participate in the great love and compassion that is the Source of love and compassion in the world. It is the foundation for our living and the root of our hope. Along Jesus’ way we walk paths of righteousness and we notice: captives are free, the lame walk and the blind see. As we encounter life intimately we see this as present reality, an affirmation of resurrection in life. We can say with Paul, “O death where is your victory. O death where is your sting.”
Meditating with koans is an opportunity to become intimate with your life, to enter fully, the thoughts, feelings, sensations, to look deeply and discover the One who is at the heart of things, at the foundation. Revealed here, in the moment, is a great love and compassion that is the Source of all love and compassion. Here we find that our lives are fully Christ’s life in us.
So, welcome to the journey, one like none you have ever experienced before. With no fixed destination, you come home to the One who is all and in all. You begin to perceive things anew so that you can say with Paul, “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Sample Christian Koans
“The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”
“Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”
“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”