“The kingdom of God is like…
…a mustard seed”
…a net cast into the sea”
…a man who tosses seed onto the soil”
…a king who throws a party for his son’s wedding”
Over and over Jesus does his best to explain what the kingdom of God is like to his followers using parables and images with which they are familiar. The reality is, the only way to attempt to describe something that is indescribable is to use metaphors.
Most people I’ve had the pleasure of pastoring over the past 15 years have heard me use a certain, favorite metaphor to speak about the kingdom of God that I’ve found helpful in trying to wrap my mind around our relationship with heaven, particularly the way that God’s kingdom exists as “already/not yet.”
Here’s the theological concept:
We know from scripture that we won’t be able to experience the kingdom of God in its fullness until Christ returns and God redeems all of creation. That will be a glorious day, but’s it’s a day for which we must wait.
There’s good news, though. Although we have to wait to experience God’s kingdom in its fullness, we do get the opportunity to experience hints of heaven here on earth today! Paraphrasing something that theologian N.T. Wright likes to say, “In and through the person of Jesus Christ, God’s perfect future came crashing into our present reality.” The kingdom of God exists as a paradox: it’s already here (in hints and glimpses) and yet it is not yet present in its perfect and final state.
Here’s the metaphor:
The kingdom of God is like…
…chocolate chip cookies.
Yes, that’s right. Chocolate chip cookies. And not just any run-of-the-mill cookies, but the best chocolate chip cookies you could ever imagine, fresh out of the oven. Can you smell them? Can you taste them?
THAT. That is heaven.
So if the kingdom of God is like the best chocolate chip cookies you could ever imagine, let’s just picture those cookies baking in the oven at the moment. Yes, you have to wait until they’re finished to get to experience their perfection. BUT, you’ve been given a gift…a gift called cookie dough. And as you sit there licking the leftover cookie dough off of the mixing spoon, you get more and more excited about the cookies that are baking in the oven. You KNOW that those cookies are going to be worth the wait because you’ve tasted the dough. And if you think the dough is amazing, just wait until those cookies in the oven are finally ready!
It’s the same with the kingdom of God. Although we have to wait to experience God’s kingdom in its fullness, we, too, have been given a gift. On a regular basis, God gives us glimpses (or, tastes) of God’s kingdom, here on earth, today. We just have to look around to recognize them! And because the hints of heaven that we experience on earth are so good, we can have hope that when we finally get to experience heaven in its fullness, it is going to be absolutely amazing!
I don’t know about you, but now more than ever, I’m so grateful for those tastes of “cookie dough”–those hints that God gives us to remind us that there is something better in our future.
As we shelter-in-place to help flatten the curve of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s really easy to get depressed by looking at all the negative things all around us. It’s easy because the fact is, there are a lot of negative things happening right now–let’s not discount that.
But if we open our eyes to the work of God in the world, we start noticing that even in the midst of a crisis there are hints and glimpses of God’s perfect future. Doctors and nurses working selflessly on the front lines to test and treat patients, grocery workers stocking the shelves with food, those who work in nursing homes caring for the elderly, families spending more time together because of canceled events and activities, people finding creative ways to connect with each other digitally, and a rediscovery of all the things that we used to take for granted can all be examples of God’s good work in a world that is longing for heaven.
The cool part is, not only does God give us these tastes of “cookie dough” on a regular basis, but God also calls us to become “cookie dough” for those around us.
My encouragement to you today is two-fold:
- Look for the cookie dough around you. Where have you witnessed hints of God’s kingdom on earth (even in the midst of a global crisis)?
- Become the cookie dough for others. Ask yourself, how can my words and actions give others a taste of God’s perfect future?
And if you happen to be inspired to bake some actual chocolate chip cookies while you’re at it, that’s ok. The world can always use more of those, too.