Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other'; and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbor as oneself,' — this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that no one dared to ask him any question. - Mark 1
But Ruth said, "Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. - Ruth 1
I am very glad that I live in what is known as the Northeast Kingdom, but honestly (and with due respect to Senator Aiken, who apparently coined the name), I wish it had a different name. I think "Northeast Kindom" would work. Think about it; isn't the shared sense of being together in this wondrous place, with its beauties, challenges, and - let's face it - its occasional meteorological affronts, a big part of what makes this corner of the world special? And, incidentally, makes other corners of the world equally special to those who know their own terrain.
Another thing; I don't think any king would do very well in this part of the world. How can you have a Kingdom without a king? Every town I know of has, at some time at least, its own informal "mayor". But such people get that designation precisely by not acting like a king - or queen. In my experience, people who behave like kings or queens around here get taken down a peg pretty quickly. The people we most honor are those who live by following the Great Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And by their unswaying devotion to the people of the place where they live, and the place itself. We might call such souls saints.
Jesus told the astute scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom.” Unlike so many of the infamous scribes and Pharisees of the Gospels, who were often brought up short – dare we say humiliated - by Jesus’ humbling wisdom, this scribe got it. He understood that love of neighbor as one might love oneself was, as the scribe put it, “much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Far be it from me to argue with Jesus about “Kingdom” vs. “Kindom”, other than to say, “Isn’t love of neighbor as of oneself a pretty good description of kinship?”
Okay, I just did argue with him, sort of. And I imagine his reply would be something like, “Of course, but you do know what I mean, right? When people truly love each other, across streets, states, nations, and oceans, then kinship is their king. Cut me some slack, preacher man; I was talking 2,000 years ago."
This Sunday is All Saint’s Day. At such time, we celebrate the saints we know; the saints we have known; the saints we have never known; and the saints we know only from a distance. We honor those saints of God who are no longer among us, and offer prayerful meditation on the intimate connection between the saints who have died and those still among us. With the help of the children in our congregation, we will sing out the names of saints we have known, and will light candles in their honor and commemoration. These saints are the people who have shown us – and continue to do so – that Kindom is our new name for Kingdom. And everyone is close to that, whether they live in the Northeast, southwest, or in whatever corner of Creation where love, kinship, and devotion reign.
Or are waiting to reign. As has been said, “Every saint has a past; every sinner has a future.” Kinship understands this, and understands that, eventually, this truth acquits all of us.
PS You know about the clock thing, right? Worst that can happen is that you arrive an hour early. You're warmly welcome at any time.