I know this will be startling news, but I have found the doorway to the kingdom of heaven. I discovered it quite by accident as I was driving across the state to visit my father a month ago. I was traversing Highway 2 between Waterville and Coulee City when it happened. Transfixed by the snowy fields stretching to the horizon on either side, feeling on top of the world, my car the only one for miles, I became aware of God beckoning me to cross the threshold into the heavenly realms. It is an invisible threshold, to be sure, but one is transported there not by effort of body or will, but simply by fixing one’s attention and intention on the holy, on that which is of the Divine. And so, without so much as a twitch of my muscles, I entered the kingdom of heaven, and suddenly God was present in my car. Together, we felt the peace of open spaces, periodically broken by an old barn, worn and tumbled by the winds of time, a pile of rocks placed by human hands, perhaps an altar where harvest prayers and heart-heavy groans were laid. We contemplated the cares of a hurting humanity and the strength and wisdom of the ancestors. When my car dropped down from the high plains into a deep coulee, I heard God’s voice thundering like the ancient waters that carved out the earth here eons ago. I was reminded of scriptural passages that speak of mountains singing, trees clapping their hands, heavens telling the glory of God. I spent many miles communing with the Beloved, delighting in the Divine Presence, my soul brimming with gratitude and love.
Several days later, as I was reading Matthew’s account of Jesus sending out the twelve, I was captured by his instructions to them: “As you go, preach this message: The kingdom of heaven is near.” Since I had just been there, I knew this to be true, and it caused me to wonder – did Jesus mean this to indicate proximity?! I mean, we have always interpreted that statement as one of expectation, of an imminent but still future event in which the kingdom will come upon us. But what if Jesus was telling them, and us, that the kingdom is here already and that it is nearby, as close as breath, as intimate as a heartbeat? What if the threshold to the kingdom of God is everywhere, a holy dimension that parallels human existence and is accessed simply by fixing our intention on the sacred? What if that sheer and gauzy curtain of light through which we pass is within us?
Even if both of these interpretations are true, which I believe they are, this changes everything! It means that our silly human distinctions between sacred and secular become meaningless. Sacred is no longer something we do on Sundays; holiness is not found only in a church or cathedral or the glories of creation. Prayer becomes a wordless communion with God that is not limited by human concepts of time and space. By virtue of his 33-year sojourn on earth in a human body, Jesus consecrated all human activity that is performed with a pure and loving heart. Therefore, knitting or dusting or preparing a meal can become spiritual practice, and a game of golf can be a celebration of the workings of one’s body and the beauty of God’s creation. Work is transformed into the love of God incarnated in us and poured out for the world. And this is all possible simply by turning one’s soul toward the heart of God in any time, any place. It is there that you will find the threshold to the kingdom of heaven. It is there that you will be received by the One whose love transcends human boundaries and encompasses the whole of humankind. May it be so. ©Sue Magrath, March 2011