The kingdom of heaven is like

It had to have been around the time I started divinity school. While I was wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into, one songwriter was teaming up with two others. Chances are, they were right down the street. Right down the street was Mercury Nashville Records.

It caught fire two years later (the song, not the studio). “In Color” was country to its core. Even so, it had that transcendent quality that well-written music has.

Its premise? The power of photographs. Except “the power of photographs” makes it sound like the song matters because it has a message when in reality, the song matters because of the experience listeners tend to have when they hear it.

And if it looks like we were scared to death, like a couple of kids just trying to save each other, you should've seen it in color.

By the second time Jamey Johnson sings those words, you have traveled to another’s world. Before long, you realize you are back in your own life and you are really, really awake. It is unexpected: Pictures from someone else’s scrapbook have somehow unearthed things within you and not because their pictures were perfect or perfectly aligned with your circumstances.

Through the gospels and through the parables in particular, God shows us pictures. Our job in that moment is to experience what there is to experience, letting the snapshots be what they are. If the image of a merchant liquidating every last one of his assets so as to buy a single pearl—if this image was of no nutritional value, Jesus would not have shared it.

There is plenty of prescriptive Jesus to be had (the Jesus that tells folk what to do). Descriptive Jesus (the Jesus that tells you and I about something) is doing his thing in Matthew 13. Let him. He is opening the Kingdom of Heaven album. For us to try and see what is there in its specificity and in its fullness, well...that could do more for us and for the kingdom than we might think.

“...on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it (v.46).” You should’ve seen it in color, says the Lord.


Rachel May