Back in 2016 something happened. Pokemon Go happened. It popped up on the scene and became a huge hit. People were walking around outside and talking with people and fighting made up creatures in gyms across the nation, across them world even. These creatures start out small and then you use candies to evolve them into bigger, stronger Pokemon. It was a huge hit for adults and children alike. And then it faded, as all fads seem to do, and was in the background for a number of years. And yet recently Pokemon Go celebrated its 5 year anniversary.
I will admit that I was one of the ones who fell for the fad. My first Pokemon I caught was a bulbasaur. 14 points. I still have it after all these years. But there’s one Pokemon that is very much a metaphor for me recently–Magikarp.
The Magikarp is one of the smallest and most useless Pokemon out there. It’s points are low. All it does is flop on the ground. It doesn’t even fight. But here’s the thing, it takes a lot of Magikapr candy for it to evolve. Like a lot. 400 candies to be exact. Each Magikarp gives you 3 candies per catch. If you need 400 candles to evolve it, divide 3 by 400 and that’s…well, a lot of Magikarp (I was an English major for a reason).
The Magikarp, though puny and worthless, evolves into a Gyrados, a very powerful Pokemon. It’s worth the 400 Magikarp candies to evolve it. But it takes time. It takes patience, it takes skill, and it takes the willingness to play Pokemon Go.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to that of a mustard seed. I grew up in Southern California and live in west Michigan. I’ve never seen as mustard seed or a mustard plant. But according to what Jesus says, the mustard seed is the smallest of the seeds which are planted but grows to become so huge that the birds of the air come and rest on it (Matthew 13:31-32). So if the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, what does that mean?
Just like the Magikarp, there’s lot going on here. First and foremost, the seed needs to be planted, just like the Magikarp needs to be caught. It takes time for the plant to grow. It takes time for something so small to become something so huge.
The Kingdom of God is here and now. It was ushered in when Jesus died upon the cross and rose again on the third day. The Kingdom of God is not something out there in the future that will only last 1,000 years. It is here and now breaking in to our world. It started out small. Just 11 people huddled in a closed room, 50 days after Jesus rose again. The Holy Spirit came like fire and gave the Kingdom of God to His people. From this 11, the Kingdom grew. And it is to be seen in the church today.
In Pokemon Go you have gyms. In these gyms you sometimes have raids. And this is where it gets interesting. In Pokemon Go, you get to have a group of friends whom you can trade Pokemon with and battle in raids with. You create your own little Pokemon community. But you can also defend these gyms when there aren’t raids. You place them in a gym and declare your team’s color in the gym. Others come along from your team and can give food to your Pokemon to make them stronger in battle.
The church is a Kingdom community. It represents the Kingdom of God here on earth. In the church, you have the breaking of the Kingdom of God in powerful ways. In the church, there is supposed to be no male or female, slave or free, Greek or Jew, or anything else that divides us (Galatians 3:26-28). We are to be one and whole as the Body of Christ, showing the love and compassion of Christ to the world around us and breaking into the world as the Kingdom.
But it starts small and takes time. It takes a lot of time. It’s taken almost 2,000 years and we’re still trying to be the Kingdom of God in these small Kingdom communities. We are to help the needy, serve the marginalized, break through barriers, and create a space where we are all one in Christ.
Now the mustard seed is just a seed just like the Magikarp is just an imaginary creature on an app on my phone. But the Kingdom of God is real and is here now. We as the church need to break into the world and be Kingdom communities, being Christ into this world until Jesus comes back in His fullness and glory and majesty making all nations and languages one who worship Him. Until then, we live small and dream big, living with the Kingdom here and now.