Order in the Upside Down Kingdom

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Review by: Peter Dula, associate professor of religion and culture at Eastern Mennonite University - November 1, Review by: Tom Sine - November 1, Review by: Joao Monteiro - November 1, Review by: Mary Rapien - November 1, Review by: Young Hertig - November 1, Review : Discipleship Journal - November 1, Mystics and Misfits.

Curriculum Order Form. Winter — Click here for study guides! Your Cart. Top Sellers. Connect with us Visit the Mennobytes blog. Plantation Jesus. Soul Force. I imagine so. In any case, that day I caught a glimpse of the upside-down kingdom. I knew there was such a thing as slavery, and I knew my ancestors had been enslaved. Two decades later I sat in my writing chair, researching Genesis 1 as I prepared to write Genesis I was stunned.

Never before in the history of civilization had a people placed the image of God inside all humanity. The image of God had always been borne by the king or queen alone. Here the writer or writers of Genesis democratized dignity and power. It recognizes, protects, and cultivates the inherent dignity and call and capacity of all humanity to shape the world!

Consider the difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world. Earthly kingdoms craft economic constructs like nobles and surfs, masters and slaves, makers and takers. They craft political constructs like race. The legal racial categories white and black were created by the founding fathers of the United States for one purpose: to define who is called by God and created with the capacity to exercise dominion.

This policy denied, erased, and crushed the image of God in millions of human beings. The reign of God calls forth the capacity in all people to exercise dominion. This anniversary edition of Donald B. Our world and the church are being ripped apart by human kingdoms. Images of God across the globe are being threatened by empires that focus power and dignity in the bodies of the privileged while leaving the masses to fend for themselves. Every day we must choose the ways of earthly kingdoms or the upside-down kingdom of God.

The seed for this book sprouted one summer when I was teaching a weeklong Bible study. On short notice, I was asked to pinch-hit for another teacher and select a topic within two days.


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Since I had been reading the gospel of Luke at the time, I decided to use that for the five-session class. I am still fascinated by that striking picture, which gave birth to the first edition of this book. I find myself drawn to Jesus and his upside-down kingdom again and again. His provocative stories keep pointing me to the reign of God. Rereading them for this new edition stirred my spirit once again, in ways only Jesus can. I write as a confessing Christian. A close encounter with the life of Jesus takes us to the heart of Christian faith and the very nature of God.

It is quite a challenge to shrink a big story into a short book.


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Earlier editions form the core of this one. I updated some sections on the basis of recent scholarship on Jesus, his social world, and the synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And while I lean heavily on the work of scholars, this remains a book for lay readers.

To tell the story in a lively style, I dispense with theological jargon whenever possible or translate it into everyday language.

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Amid the changes and updates, my original arguments remain intact: The kingdom of God announced by Jesus appeared odd and utterly upside down in first-century Palestinian culture. There are many books on Jesus, each with a different spin on his story. In The Upside-Down Kingdom , I have accented the provocative and perplexing upside-downness of the life and teaching of Jesus.

My slant reflects my interests as a sociologist and an Anabaptist Christian. Consider these questions as you read. First, is this a fair interpretation of the Jesus story? If it is, then what do we do with Jesus and his upside-down kingdom? What does it mean to follow Jesus in daily life in our world? That question of discipleship faces all of us as we ponder his message and example. Our images of him are also shaped by storybooks, songs, bumper stickers, and theological words we hardly understand. In many ways, we have domesticated Jesus, taming him to fit our culture and time.

The Upside-Down Kingdom - Books

In retelling the story, I sought to remove some of the filters so we can see him more clearly in his own cultural setting. As we remove the filters, we discover a very different Jesus than the one who came to us in storybooks and songs. The Jesus we find may startle us. He rarely carries any sheep. But he does stir the political waters—he stirs them so much that he dies on the Roman equivalent of the electric chair. I write as a white man who has had professional jobs and as a citizen of a superpower nation.

In the global context, I am wealthy simply because I live in the United States. The Jesus story will sound quite different to someone who searches for food in dumpsters or without access to health care. It will carry a different meaning for those who are in prison, or being deported, or fleeing the ravages of war, or feeling the pangs of torture for their faith. The Jesus story speaks to all of us regardless of our social location or the burdens we bear—whether wealth or poverty, health or illness, privilege or stigma. Thanks be to God that the gospel story is big enough and packed with ample grace for all of us regardless of our culture or condition.

I have resisted the temptation to offer suggestions for how to live an upside-down life for several reasons. First, issues and events quickly become dated.

The Upside Down Kingdom Essay

I have tried to tell the story clearly, and as Jesus did with the parables, to let listeners apply it to their local situation. Third, the kingdom of God will look quite different in diverse cultural settings. The issues for readers in nations that protect religious freedom do not match those who suffer religious persecution under tyrants. Fourth, as a relatively powerful person writing about the upside-down kingdom, I realize that how we follow the way of Jesus and practice its upside-down vision will vary a lot depending on our circumstances.

We hold the responsibility to sort those implications out in our own personal, social, and national context. Throughout the text I refer to the Old Testament rather than to the Hebrew Bible, even though the latter is more commonly used by some scholars. The books of Moses, the Prophets, and so on, are considered scripture by both Jewish and Christian communities.

The two faith traditions, however, interpret and use these same sacred writings quite differently. As a Christian within this two-testament heritage, I use the Old Testament label, but I do it with genuine respect for its central role in both Jewish and Christian faith. My debts are heavy to many colleagues who have helped to propel this project for some forty years.

A wide circle of gracious friends and readers has offered suggestions and generous affirmation over the life of this book.

Swartley, who first introduced me to synoptic studies, and to Wayne Meeks, who opened the scholarly door for me into the social world of the Gospels. King, whose editorial fingerprints from an earlier edition remain on this one. I was enriched by a vigorous discussion one evening with one of the spiritual shelter groups of the Nueva Vida congregation in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Monteiro, who offered helpful feedback on one of the chapters. I have enjoyed unwavering support and enthusiasm from these editors and others at Herald Press since the birth of this project in the mids. Over the years this book has touched the lives of thousands of readers in different languages and countries. Many people from all walks of life have written kind words of appreciation for the transformative power of this book in their lives. I am thankful that the earlier editions have helped to clarify the Jesus story and energize many Christians worldwide.

John the Baptist uses words from the prophet Isaiah to announce the advent of Jesus. The pictures portray a revolutionary kingdom.

The Gathering 2017 - The Upside Down Kingdom (Main Session 1)

Paving the way for Jesus, the Baptist describes four surprises of the coming kingdom: full valleys, flat mountains, straight curves, and level bumps. He expects a radical shake-up. Old ways will crumble beyond recognition. John warns us that the new order, the upside-down kingdom, will transform social patterns, but amid the ferment, everyone will see the salvation of God.