When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
When my children were small, we took frequent road trips to spend the weekend with their grandparents, my mother and father, who lived about an hour away. Invariably, within the first fifteen minutes of the drive, I would hear the inevitable phrase which I think must be implanted in the DNA of every child on the planet: "Are we there yet?" Taking a deep breath as if patience could be derived from the air, I would patently, predictably answer, "No, but we're not too far away", hoping to stave off a repeat question for at least another five minutes.
In today's scripture, everyone hearing the young man's testimony before Jesus is duly impressed. He has declared there is only one God, that we are to love Him with all our hearts, our minds, and our strength, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. He concludes by saying these are better than any burnt offerings or sacrifices. Bravo! Could there be a better answer? I envision the young man gazing eagerly into Jesus' eyes, awaiting affirmation of arrival: "Am I there yet?"
"No," Jesus answers, "but you are not far from the kingdom of God."
I imagine the crowd's reaction as they sympathize with the young man and murmur amongst themselves, "Then, what does it take to enter the kingdom of God? How do we reach it? Do we have a hope of finding it, of being there?"
These are questions we can still ask ourselves today. How do we enter God's kingdom and, once there, how do we stay? In a recent post for our summer Bible study, Pastor Emily introduced us to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, the four ways proposed by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, which can help us learn more about and aid us in growing closer to God. The first, and most important, according to Wesley, is scripture as it guides us as we employ the three that follow. The second is reason, how we learn about God through our thoughts and logical conclusions. The third is tradition, religious practices that have been passed down to us through tine and which have become a critical, meaningful part of knowing God, i.e., celebrating the Holy Eucharist or reciting the Lord's Prayer. The fourth is personal experience, interactions with those who have revealed God to us, have convinced us of His presence, have held our hand where we most needed their strength and comfort when we are at our weakest, have presented God to us in clarity and shaped our faith with conviction.
How could you, today, reflect upon these four ways to draw closer to God and His kingdom? Take your time. Refrain, if you can, from asking God, "Am I there yet?" Walk in faith. Trust that He will be the first to tell you when you've arrived.
Psalms 131, 132, (133) or 134, 135
2 Samuel 19:1-23
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