Saturday, September 16, 2006

Kingdom Lessons Learned On The Train

Not sure why but the day after 26 hours on a train is a lot like jetlag. No time change, obviously, but the constant motion on the tracks drains me. Eating rice with your fingers is an acquired skill, compounded with the swaying of the back and forth coach, it’s a wonder I get any thing in my mouth. It will take a couple of days to get my equilibrium. Eating supper last night at the house was odd as my plate didn’t move and I had the luxury of a fork.

The train home was empty, which is rare. 11 million people travel by train each day so riding in a coach that had just ten people was a blessing. When boarding I shared a compartment with a businessman. He was a nice guy but I jumped at the chance to switch to a side lower berth where I could be alone. He invited me to have a shot of whiskey with him, but I declined. It’s illegal to drink on the train, but many do.

Indians are very nosy people or, perhaps, just curious. The business guy asked me the standard questions, “Where are you from? What do you do? Why are you in India? What companies do you work with?” I answer most of the questions, “I live in Delhi, am a consultant, different companies, teach anthropology.” When it gets too personal or I just get tired of answering questions I smile and say, “That’s classified information, sorry.” I don’t feel obligated to satisfy all their curiosities.

Some other guys down the aisle must have been drinking as well as they were loud, laughed and played Punjabi music most of the way. I wished I had remembered my headphones to drown out the chatter.

I have been reading McLaren’s latest book, The Secret Message Of Jesus: Uncovering The Truth That Could Change Everything, which is about the real meaning of the Kingdom. His contention is that we, the church, have missed the point of our Lord’s teaching, that the Kingdom is not the future, but now. While our focus seems to be conversion, programs and building local mini-kingdom’s, he asserts that our attention should be in solving present problems such as disease, poverty and injustice. Nothing particularly new in his argument, but as my train passed through the villages I was struck again by the dismal way so many people have to live. Is my role, the role of all of us in evangelical circles, so out of whack with what the Kingdom is really all about?

As I ponder these thoughts, I get off the train and a woman, old, in rags, half-blind, stands before me with her hand out. I reach into my pocket for some money, knowing that no matter how many people I give to I haven’t solved anything. Are we missing the point? Perhaps it’s time of for a paradigm shift in how we live our lives. Status quo doesn’t quite satisfy.