1st Scripture Reading: Psalm 128, and Romans 8:26-30, 37-39
The Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Romans,“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus ..”
Paul did not believe in an “elsewhere” kind of a God. He believed in a living God, an endlessly and everywhere expressing God whose love was not packaged up and doled out only to the deserving.
Paul is here describing a generously loving Presence from whom we emerged and from whose love we cannot be separated.
This God calls to us – calls us to a life of purpose, for as Paul says, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God” – that is for all those who are called in their hearts to serve the purpose of manifesting the “good”.
Let’s look at what “the love of God in Christ Jesus” might suggest... Jesus was called to serve God’s purpose too. His level of awareness of the Presence of the Divine demanded that he teach the Israelites, that he demonstrate to them what their own scriptures already knew, that God is not secreted off somewhere else, but is with us in every breath of Creation. Indeed God was with us in Jesus the Christ in a way we could all come to understand as Divine unconditional Love. But let us not fall into the trap of thinking that God is or was only with us in Christ Jesus.
We who love God are each of us called to serve the Divine Purpose of manifesting the good; and the presence of God by the Holy Spirit to guide and inspire us is attested to by this reading.
Hymn #161 MV “I have called you by your name”
2nd Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-49, 51-52
Jesus was a storyteller. He used the tool of telling stories or parables to help people understand the meaning of his teachings which were so alien to so many of the people of Israel at that time.
A parable is a story, for sure, but it is also a metaphor, a figure of speech which compares by implication the similarity of one action or object to another. Our brains recognize that some things are similar, and some things are not. I think of the Sesame Street activity: “One of these things is not like the other” where the children are asked to identify the object that doesn’t fit. This is a very useful tool for learning, and helps adult learners too. New or strange spiritual concepts are more easily accessible to us if we can say that it is like something else – something that we are already familiar with.
So these short parables about the kingdom of God or heaven can be summarized like this: the kingdom of heaven (or God) is like a) a tiny mustard seed that becomes a great tree of service to living things, or b) like the yeast a woman uses in small amounts to leaven a lot of dough to make bread which will feed people, or c) like a treasure hidden in a field which someone found and hid, and then in his joy, went and sold all he had so he could buy that field, or d) like a pearl of great value such that a merchant in search of such a pearl went and sold all he had to buy it, or e) like a net thrown into the sea catching fish of every kind, when full and drawn ashore by the fisher who sorted all the fish, the bad from the good, and discarded the bad.
This is not a description of a place somewhere in the sky. These stories are meant to show us that the kingdom of God (or heaven) is not somewhere else but right here – here where we grow spiritually into people who serve God by serving others, people who place tremendous value on our spiritual lives, our relationship with Divine Presence. Right here right now where our explorations and our experiences are sorted by ourselves into the good, or life-enhancing actions and those that diminish our humanity and cause us pain and loss of self-respect, and then discarding or discontinuing these – in this place, our everyday lives, we are affirming or denying the kingdom of God.
And there is even a paragraph aimed at all of us who preach or teach or evangelize: we are like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old, Jesus said. We are called on to bring a Spirit of discernment to the choices we make as we ponder on the treasure of knowledge and understanding that we have been given, in order that we bring before God’s people the best of the old and the most needed of the new. Whenever we are being a “voice for God” we must be very conscious of our responsibility to access and to share our treasure respecting the past while leading with integrity into the future.
The kingdom of God is at hand, Jesus said. It draws near us when we take care of each other, when we love one another, and when we acknowledge and reverence the living presence that we call God.
Lily’s camp experience. Freda’s grandkids: Shelby and Dominic’s song.
MV # 92 “Like a rock”
Yes, Jesus was a master story-teller, and we learn about him and his special mission to reveal to us the closeness and the generous and forgiving nature of God, by telling each other the old stories about him that have been saved for us in our sacred texts.
Hymn #357 VU “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus”