I've started reading How God Became King, by N.T. Wright. So far, I've read the first three chapters and I can tell that I am going to like this book. The basic idea of Wright's latest work is that the church has, over the centuries, forgotten the "middle" of the story of Jesus in the New Testament, that we have left the question of "why did Jesus live?".
As I grew up in fundamentalist churches, I remember hearing a lot of sermons about Jesus coming to earth to die for our sins so we could live forever in heaven. I remember singing a song in a Christmas cantata that stated that Jesus was "born to die." A lot of energy was spent studying Old Testament passages, the epistles of Paul, and passages about the "end times." We also heard messages on the parables of Jesus, usually with an attempt to apply them to 20th century life. I don't remember hearing a lot of sermons or Sunday school lessons on the teachings of Jesus about the Kingdom of God. Those that were preached usually asserted that those teachings were about the future millennial kingdom.
As I have read N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight, and others, I have come to the belief that Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth. The Sermon on the Mount is about the kind of people through whom the Kingdom will work and how the people in the Kingdom will live. As I read the Gospels through a new lens, I see better how it all fits together. Not only do the Gospels make more sense, but the entire story of Israel and the promise of the coming Messiah comes to life in a way that goes far beyond "accept Jesus and go to heaven when you die."
I am looking forward to reading the rest of this book. From time to time I will post things that are meaningful to me or that I think may help explain the idea that the Kingdom is here, right now.