Nannygranne loved children. Their curiosity and innocence refreshed her sometimes-tired spirit. Teenagers were an adventure and a challenge, with a different kind of innocence and curiosity. They wrestled decisions about their identities and life path but saw ahead of them both bling and battles, opportunities and obscurity, accomplishment and quagmire. Their visions wobbled beneath their youthful nearsightedness and unspoken fears. They needed a friend to come alongside them. Love grew there and Nannygranne cherished it.
One by one, her students’ faces appeared on the Zoom screen. “Good morning, Einsteins.” Wry smiles and nods greeted her. “I can’t wait to show you some of the mysteries hidden in God’s Word. In my day, only scholars and maybe visiting preachers talked about the Mystery of God’s Kingdom. You guys are getting in on this early. Are you ready? What questions do you have from the stuff I texted you?”
After a few moments of silence, Nannygranne suggested, “Have any of you heard of the theory of a ‘parallel universe?’” At that, a couple of the kids perked up.
“You know about multiverses?” Abbey was shocked.
“Well, Abbey, I love to learn, so I read everything I can about God’s creation. It amazes me how pure science (as opposed to ideas still in theory stage, like multiverses) always reveals God’s hand. I just bring up multiverses to move your mind to another realm.”
“Oh,” Abbey said. “I thought you were saying that heaven is an alternate universe or something.”
“I have an open mind, Abbey. Rest assured, my brains haven’t fallen out yet.” All the kids laughed. “Can we agree that God’s reality–His world–is apart from this physical world we know, but is also interwoven with it in that He created, controls, and continues the universe?”
“And Jesus came into the world and lived and died here…” Amanda began.
“And raised and ascended to His world.” Heather finished.
“Well said,” their teacher responded. “That’s part of the mystery of the Upside-Down Kingdom. But there are several mysteries within the mystery. I have scriptures for some of you to read. Let’s listen to all of them one at a time and see if we can identify some of the mysterious parts of God’s world that touch us.”
She assigned verses, then said, “I’ll go first with Romans 11. Paul wrote the Roman Christians to not get too arrogant about those old Jewish folks because of the mystery of how God brought salvation to the non-Jewish Romans. God knew all along that the Jews would fight against Jesus and send Paul packing off to the Gentiles. Then that would make some Jews want to come in, too. He finishes up by saying, ‘O how deep are God’s riches, and wisdom, and knowledge! How unfathomable are his decisions and unexplainable are his ways!’ . . . Alright, let’s hear the others.”
Those assigned the verses began to read.
“Let me tell you a secret. Not all of us will die, but all of us will be changed—in a moment, faster than an eye can blink, at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trumpet will sound, and then the dead will be raised never to decay, and we will be changed.” I Cor 1:51-52 ISV
“And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!” Eph 3:8-10 MSG
“At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison,so that I may reveal it as I am required to speak. Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” Col 4:3-6
When the readers had finished, Nannygranne asked what caught their attention.
Amanda offered, “When Paul said, ‘I’ll tell you a secret; we’ll all be changed.”
Natalie guessed, “I heard that God has been working secretly behind the scenes all this time and that somehow the church tells others about it…”
Another said, “He talks about the Messiah being a mystery and talks about how we’re to live.”
Nannygranne nodded and smiled. “Good work! The mystery of lots of things being unexpected: our resurrection from the dead, the Gentiles being part of God’s kingdom, the unexpected way He teaches us to live, and that somehow God uses the church to reveal the mystery. I love the passage thatt says that it’s becoming known and talked about even among the angels.”
“So, the mystery is several things?” Amanda ventured.
“I like to think that’s part of what makes it the Upside-Down Kingdom. It’s an idea I first heard from a book by that title.1 The author shows how Jesus’ Kingdom, His leadership, and His lifestyle turned culture on its head. Then I read an article that put it this way: ‘Jesus received the death penalty for treason. It is through being defeated by earthly powers that Jesus conquered the spiritual forces of evil and set up his kingdom. It’s an upside–down kingdom where leaders are servants, neighbors and enemies are loved, and poor widows give away half their money”.2 I’d like to start there next week and see how many ways Jesus’ worldview is upside down from the way we usually think of things.
“It makes me excited to know that, in a way, I live in an alternate reality spiritually because Jesus has taken me into His kingdom. I want to learn to look at life as He did. And no matter what comes, nobody can touch that in me. I want all of us to be able to peek over the walls of His Kingdom.”
Continued next week.
2 Dr Preston Sprinkle, https://tdbi.org/devotionals/jesus-upside-down-kingd