A Barbie Movie and the Rightside-Up Kingdom of God (Third Sunday of Easter)

[This post is part of an Easter series: President [fill in the blank] and King Jesus.]

Understatement: Life changes when you have kids. When I was younger, how I arranged my days depended on the TV sports schedule at least as much as any other influence. Now, however, we have a seven-year-old and a four-year-old and I watch a small fraction of the quantity of games I used to. Thankfully, our television isn’t on all that much, but if it is, it’s usually something the kids want to watch. The case in point is how this year's championship game for the NCAA tournament appears to have been a classic, but I haven’t gotten to watch it yet. Meanwhile, I found myself on the couch with my family yesterday watching a Barbie movie. As if that weren’t enough of an indication of the way life changes–we were watching it for the second time in two days.

I didn’t sit through the whole thing either time (like my wife did and for which she gets extra credit). But there was a point in the story when one of the good guys turned out to be the bad guy, and revealed that not only was he behind the mean things being done, but in fact had plans to rule the world.

When he said that, my four-year-old daughter’s response was, “He can’t do that. God already does that.”

I have no recollection of trying to describe the reign of the unseen king to her, but she’s picking up some good theology from somewhere. She recognizes the theme we’re exploring in this series: we live in a world where the apparent good guys so often turn out to be the ones doing the mean stuff, but Jesus is indeed Lord of all. We can look around our world and see evidence of all kinds of kingdoms that appear to share very little with the way of Jesus–whether in world politics, the constant threats of violence, the current election cycle, or something that happens on our own street. But if we have the eyes to see in our world what my daughter saw in the movie, it can become apparent that even if others have plans to do harm, they cannot rule. Jesus is already–and indeed, still–reigning as king.

We sang a clear echo of this in church this morning:

This is my Father's world.
O let me ne'er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!

One of the ways we see evidence of Jesus’ reign as the unseen king is when we see examples of the kind of thing God seems to have a fondness for doing: choosing very unlikely people for tasks in the kingdom of the heavens. Hannah prayed about it (“Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more”); David lived it as he went from being shepherd to being king; Moses, Miriam, and Mary each sang about it (“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly”), and Jesus taught it (“some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last”).

The passage from Acts for today is an unforgettable example of King Jesus’ choosing the un-choose-able. It’s a characteristic of Christ’s kingdom for things to happen like Saul of Tarsus encountering the risen Christ, then going on to become the most influential disciple of Jesus in the history of the church. 

One of the things that has caught me about the story this time around is the level of Ananias’ trust, to be the one to do what God said and go and visit the man who had been imprisoning Christians and approving of their executions. It isn’t difficult to imagine the amount of resistance that might surface if God instructed me to go and find a powerful person in any of today’s cruel and aggressive terrorist groups and address them with the kinds of words Ananias used: “Brother Saul, the Lord [i.e. King] Jesus…has sent me here so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

On first glance, that feels incredibly difficult, but the longer I get to know this unseen King and seek to live in the ways of his kingdom in my normal everyday life, the more I come to trust him, recognize his ways, and the more natural it becomes to do the kinds of things asked of me.

You and I are not Saul nor Ananias, but we’re invited to know and serve the king who does this kind of thing.