Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mark Van Steenwyck's "The Unkingdom of God"

 
Mark Van Steenwyck’s The Unkingdom of God is one the best books you could possibly read whether you are a veteran of “seeking first God’s (un)kingdom” or a novice wanting the best start possible on this journey or you have no idea about what this whole “(un)kingdom” business is all about in the first place.  And it’s one of the best for at least three reasons.

First, Mark practices what he preaches and what he preaches grows out of his practice.  He’s been there and done that and is still hard at it. 

Second, because he practices what he preaches, he’s paid a price for his following Jesus into his (un)kingdom. Mark writes:  “To act in truth requires that we first see in truth. But to see the truth, we must first have started walking in the way of truth. There is a paradox here that can only be resolved by heeding Philip’s call to “come and see” (John 1:46)” (Kindle Locations 2541-2543). Heeding Philip’s call has been costly for Mark – in terms of money, in terms of status and reputation, in terms of safety, and a variety of other ways, I’m sure.  Because of such costly practice, though, Mark’s words and ideas have integrity and the “ring of truth.”

And third, the heart of his book is the practices he shares from his and his community’s experience of growing into an expression of God’s (un)kingdom.  The biblical material he well summarizes can be found in a number of places.  The dynamics and directions of Mark’s community provide invaluable glimpses of nitty-gritty real life experiences of dealing with the counter-cultural, counter-intuitive, counter-imperial, counter-“reasonable” demands of the gospel that serve, not as a blueprint (for as Mark several times warns, blueprints will always fail us), but rather as prods to our imaginations to think and pray our own ways to patterns and processes indigenous to our “time and place” that possess the integrity of the (un)kingdom Jesus proclaimed and lived.

So, read this book.  It will guide you, inspire you, confound you, irritate you, and set you to pondering what and whose kingdom you live in, live by, and live for with the quality of first-hand witness that makes it hard to dismiss.  And don’t be surprised if you find yourself “blessed” in unexpected, and perhaps even unwanted, ways! 

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