In the Lectionary

Sunday, July 24, 2011: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

In C. S. Lewis's Studies in Words, the best book of his that you've never heard of, he describes the original meaning of the Latin term natura as something like "sort, kind, quality, or character." "When you ask, in our modern idiom, what something 'is like,'" he says, "you are asking for its natura."

So what is the natura of the kingdom of God? This seems to be precisely the lesson that Jesus of the synoptic Gospels is attempting to deliver to his generation, to his disciples and through them to us.

Jesus came preaching the breaking-in, already-here, yet-to-come kingdom—the reign of heaven on earth. His appeal to such a transcendent reality, a divine reign, a politics different from the prevailing one, got a lot of people fired up. In first-century Palestine it was the worst of times, it was the best of times. Every­body seemed to sense that something was about to happen. Messianic expectations were at a fever pitch. Thinking new thoughts was dangerous, and the punishment for sedition under the Pax Romana was  imprisonment, torture, banishment and crucifixion.