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Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 • July 24, 2011
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
Another person was just arriving at the gates of heaven. A voice asks,
“What is the password? Speak it and you may enter.”
“Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved?”
“No,” replies the voice.
“The just shall live by faith.”
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus?”
“Those sayings are true,” the voice answered, “But they are not the password for which I listen.”
“Well, then, I give up,” replied the person.
“That’s it! Come on in.”
The kingdom is a free gift given to you and me who cannot make it on our own. We must rely upon God’s grace.
The gospel parables today imply that the kingdom of heaven is not readily visible. Greek roots emphasize that the kingdom must be carefully sought out. The mustard seed is “smaller than” all other seeds. The man “having found” a treasure buys the field in which it is hidden. A merchant “seeking” a pearl, also “having found” it, buys it. How and where do we find the signs of the kingdom of heaven?
When I’ve asked the question, “What do you think the kingdom of heaven is like?” The responses vary, but most often the answer is one of two things – it’s either a place like the white sandy beaches of the Caribbean or it’s a place they hope to go one day after death. There’s nothing wrong with either of those responses, but let’s think about this question a little today. “What do you think the kingdom of heaven is like?”
It’s too easy to rush through parables like this without encountering the surprises: the mustard bush is not, in fact, a great tree; the woman is baking leavened, nonreligious, bread; the treasure found calls for total commitment; the net includes both eatable fish and trash.
Jesus is explaining the Kingdom of heaven to a bunch of mortals – to you and me. If he had said what the kingdom of heaven is like in actual terms, in actual size, it’d be like telling a two year old to repair your air conditioner and then expecting them to be able to understand and know how to do it. There is no way that a two year old could understand what you are asking them to do or actually be able to do the repair safely or correctly.
So Jesus tells them – and you and me – that in one sense the kingdom of heaven is seemingly small, but holds something much bigger, like a mustard seed or a pinch of yeast. The kingdom of heaven is also something of great value, like a pearl or treasure. The kingdom of heaven is also like a net that catches and separates.
The kingdom of heaven isn’t a seed, or a pinch of yeast, or a pearl, a treasure, or a net. It’s like those things and so much more!
In his book The Jesus Way, (pg. 202-203) author and pastor Eugene Peterson writes, “Jesus launched his public ministry by saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15). Time’s up, we’re inaugurating a new government. Kingdom. When Jesus uses the word “Kingdom,” and he uses it repeatedly and prominently, he is speaking in the largest and most comprehensive of terms. Nothing we do or feel or say is excluded from “kingdom.” And if this is God’s kingdom, which it most certainly is, it means that everything that goes on is under God’s rule, is penetrated by God’s rule, is judged by God’s rule, is included in God’s rule – every one of my personal thoughts and feelings and actions, yes; but also the stock market in New York, the famine in the Sudan, your first grandchild born last night in Atlanta, the poverty in Calcutta, the suicide bombings in Tel Aviv and New York and Baghdad, the Wednesday-night prayer meetings in Syracuse, the bank mergers being negotiated in Chicago, Mexican migrants picking avocados in California – everything, absolutely everything, large and small; the kingdom of God in which Jesus is king.
What we need to get a feel for is the sheer scale in which Jesus is working, the largest scale imaginable – kingdom. His intention at the very outset was to establish a kingdom on earth, beginning in Palestine, but not confined to Palestine. It still is.”
Pray with me the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.” Did you hear that – “on earth, as it is in heaven.”
The kingdom of heaven is like a small mustard seed, not a huge majestic tree, but not alone as a beautiful part of God’s good creation. The kingdom of heaven is like a simple hug, not an overwhelming or burdensome display of affection, but a touch that reminds the one offering and the one receiving that neither are alone. Stephen Ministers in our congregation live out the kingdom of heaven like that.
The kingdom of heaven is like new found treasure, gifts that are not meant to be kept under lock and key where nobody can see and share in their beauty. The kingdom of heaven is like the treasure that we share with our brothers and sisters in Christ in congregations throughout the Minot region as they begin to recover and look forward after tragic flooding. Those of us, who call Good Shepherd Lutheran Church our church home, live out the kingdom of heaven through our financial support of God’s mission and ministry for our congregation. It’s a mission and ministry through our congregation that blesses and reaches thousands of others far beyond the walls of this building.
So – “What do you think the kingdom of heaven is like?”
May God be with us and bless us this week as you and I encounter the kingdom of heaven in the small seeds of our daily walk with Jesus and in the precious treasure that is a gift each day to you and I in the fields of God’s amazing and unending grace. Amen.