What does it look like? How do you do it? Such are the practical questions that often follow readings like ours today. The call of Paul in his open letter to the Hebrews and Jesusâ€™ proclamation of radical, status reversing Kingdom community in Luke may sound good to some of us, but how do we do it and what does it look like?
Well, this morning I offer you a passage from a Chicago Tribune article about Jane Addams. The 150th anniversary of her birth approaches and the city of Chicago, the Hull-House museum, and Rockford College, her alma mater, are all preparing their celebrations.
[Jane] Addams was born Sept. 6, 1860, to a wealthy family in Cedarville, Ill. Most people today think of Addams as the patron saint of social work, a Victorian do-gooder who helped the working poor of the industrial Near West Side...
"We like to sanitize iconic heroes. Jane Addams was radical and fought against norms of the time," said [Lisa] Lee, [director of the Hull House museum]. "She believed in a common good, in which we all had a stake in each other's future.
"No one is more relevant than Jane Addams," Lee said.
Because of her pacifism and social activism, the FBI compiled a huge dossier on Addams and considered her one of the most dangerous women in America, Lee said.
"She was one of the most loved and hated women in America," said Evanston author Louise Knight, whose book "Jane Addams: Spirit in Action" will be published in September in conjunction with the anniversary.
In 1889, at age 29, Addams used her inheritance to open Hull House, the first settlement house in the United States, in a circa 1856 mansion at 800 S. Halsted St. It was a neighborhood community center - before there really were community centers, Knight said â€” that helped immigrants put down roots in a new country and sought to bridge the class divide.
Hull House eventually grew to a 13-building complex that housed cultural programs, like the dance classes [Angela] Rinaldi  attended as a girl, child care, English classes, job training programs, a dining room, free medical and dental clinics, and a bath house. Union workers were allowed to organize there, and Hull House was one of the few places in the country at the time that taught sex education, Lee said.
Within a few years, Hull House became internationally famous, as did its founder, drawing thinkers, authors, artists and political activists to its premises.
"What Addams faced in the late 1880s was not unlike what we are dealing with today," Lee said. It was a time when most of Chicago's population was born in other countries. "Some saw it as an immigrant problem, while Addams saw it in terms of the challenge and beauty of democracy," she said.
Another anniversary is also in the forefront of the minds of many Americans. Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.â€™s â€œI Have a Dreamâ€ speech. If you have been paying attention to the news, you know that people are now fighting over itâ€¦what are its claims and who are they for and how should they be honored. I wonâ€™t pick sides this morning, but can we simply agree that America still has some work to do before the fullness of this vision is realized. Some days Iâ€™m just not sure that the waters of that justice and righteousness have actually reached many of us. We may hear their roar and witness their tulmult, but many of us are still as dry as a bone and many more are thirsty.
Jesus knows this. Jesus sees us waiting in line or jockeying for position. Jesus sees us getting in one anotherâ€™s way trying to secure the best seat, competing for the right seat, the place we deserve to be in for whatever reason we have in our mindsâ€¦Jesus sees us holding one another back in the name of fairness and some other vague kind of so-called justiceâ€¦In the name of polite society, of proper order, and in the name of honor. So, Jesus calls us into another life that he called the Kingdom of God.
He could only describe this kingdom by parables. He could only provide the scaffolding for us to climb. So much of the work of revealing the kingdom is left to us. The doors are always open, says Jesus, but the one thing I can tell you is that you cannot get there from here. The present social order doesnâ€™t have room for the Kingdom. If you want the kingdom, you have to be willing to lose your faith in the society you have been given. You have to become infidels to the honor of this world. And you have to be ready to move. You have to be a nomad, unearthed, uprooted, and unbound.
No longer citizens of this worldâ€™s order, Nomads and Infidels make up the populace of the Kingdom of God.
Martin Luther King was a nomad. He wandered across this nation prophesying to the Kingdom of God. Rare was the moment where he could sit still. Eventually he was no longer from any one place, he came to represent all the cities and towns of America. He called to all the states, north, south, east and west in his hope that some would see the Kingdom and that some, even if only a few, would help bring about justice and righteousness.
Jane Addams was an infidel. Many of her peers derided her. Her government tracked her every move and considered her â€œdangerous.â€ She was a pacifist, a Catholic spiritualist, and a woman willing to give everything away, all that she deserved, owned, and gave her status in this country. She was not faithful in the way many would have hoped. She did not keep her proper place. She was an infidel to the system of haves and have-nots. She was, instead, faithful to the Kingdom, the Kingdom of God from Lukeâ€™s Gospel and Paulâ€™s letter to the Hebrews.
A Baptist preacher from Atlanta and a Catholic laywoman from Chicago are trying to show us what it means to live faithful lives, what it means to step outside of ourselves and work for more than the preservation of our known way of life.
Many of you have seen the quotation: â€œIt is not enough to leave Egypt; one must enter the Promised Land.â€ John Chrysostom, a fourth century preacher gave us those words and they are no less true for us today as they were then. King and Addams knew these words. They lived these words.
We have been meeting this summer to discuss the future of our congregation of Godâ€™s Church. Weâ€™ll meet again on September 10 and 11. A few times I have been asked my thoughts about certain ideas. I have tried to be supportive and helpful. I want nothing but the best for this congregation. Please know how proud I am of you all. You have worked so hard. You have done so much. I want to encourage you to continue that work. And I want to offer you one more thought: we are Godâ€™s children, called, gathered, and sent into the world to proclaim the Kingdom of God. No more. No less.
We are called to be nomads and infidels. We are not here to preserve this world order, but to bring about the Kingdom. My challenge for you is just that â€“ whatever it may look like, whatever it may demand of us, may our next steps be Kingdom steps. No matter what the form. No matter what the cost. May we be nomads and infidels for God.