I am sure that most of you, have heard the news out of St. Michael’s college in Toronto of sports hazing gone terribly wrong. Videos sent out on social media showed hazing rituals have migrated into the realm of abuse and sexual abuse.
Last Tuesday, St. Michael’s held a closed door meeting with parents and Alumni. Following that meeting, a young man, Darcy, appeared on screen and told his story. “It was hard to tell my story in there. As soon as I entered that room, I saw former students, coaches and teachers and all the horror came back to me. I’m still shaking. I had played football for St. Mike’s 20 years ago and it was no different then. Why they would use such negative behaviours to try and promote team spirit is beyond me. I was humiliated as a freshman and, when I told the coaches of the hazing, they basically said, “If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen.” The coaches knew this was going on. Teachers knew it was going on. The Principal had to know.
I didn’t want to stand up this evening in front of all these parents and Alumni who love St. Mike’s and tell expose stories when all knew that protocol demanded silence. I could tell from their disgruntled stares that they didn’t like me casting dispersions on their beloved school. They attempted to silence me with their glares. But the truth had to be told. I know now that I will never go back to that place again.”
Did you see it? Did you see God’s Kingdom? For centuries people have been attempting to illustrate the grandeur of God’s heaven. We have been told that heaven is gated in pearls and has many mansions connected by streets paved in pure gold. How grand it all is. Yet, as Jesus stands before Pilate in a palatial courtyard, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” We keep missing that. “My kingdom is not of this world.”
Pilate pursues his inquiry. “So where then is this kingdom of yours?” To which Jesus responds, and don’t miss this, “I came into the world to testify to the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth, belongs to the truth, listens to my voice.” Pilates misses what most of the world misses by replying, “What is truth?” What we might miss as well is that Jesus’ Kingdom was never a place but a perspective, never an established rule but a stated reality on how we live our lives.
We are socialized to imagine kingdoms as nations rather than a kind of reign; as territories rather than enfleshed commitments to love and liberty. Why? Because it is a more direct way of being in the world.
We are socialized to imagine kingdoms as nations rather than a kind of reign; as territories rather than enfleshed commitments to love and liberty. I remember another sighting of God’s Kingdom. It is found in the words of John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize wining novel The Grapes of Wrath.
One man, an Oklahoma tenant farmer. driven with his family from his land during the famous Dust Bowl era, drives a rusty, creaking car along a highway to the west. Half a million people were moved over the country, and ended up living in tents, working morning to night, picking fruit for pennies a basket. These are the famous last words of the book, spoken by Tom Joad, the novel’s protagonist, as he looks out towards the west. “Then it don’t matter. I’ll be all around in the dark. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and knows that supper is ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ and live in houses they build, why I’ll be there.” Kingdom Character.