Sermon – July 27, 2014

The Kingdom Here and Now

These past couple of Sundays we have been eavesdropping on Jesus’ kingdom conversations with his followers and the crowds, trying to let them know what they are in for . . .how their lives are being transformed, how hope is being kindled and renewed, who they are in relationship to God and to one another. . . who he is in the midst of it all. They are stories of change and surprise and joy.

Here is what the kingdom of heaven is not like. The story goes that once there were two monks who met each night for evening prayers. One night a cat wandered in and interrupted him. They shooed him away, but the cat continued to return until the monks had to finally tie him up during their prayers. This continued for many years until one day the cat died. The next day one of the monks was late for the prayers. When asked why, he replied, “I had to find another cat to tie up.”

Jesus says, “Therefore, every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure that which is new and that which is old.

I think we need to understand from the beginning that when we live in the kingdom of God, it is something that is ever new, ever being rediscovered and revealed.

The treasure of the kingdom is as old as the power of God working in the creation of the world, in the calling of Abraham and Sara, the leading of the people in Exodus, of God’s earthly presence in Jesus Christ, and God’s actions in the saints of old, including the apostles and even old Martin Luther.

The kingdom of heaven is as new as the hearing of the stories of God and God’s love for us and falling in love with God again, and telling that story anew, and seeing the revelation of God afresh in our life and in this generation. It is as new as God’s power living in our lives this very minute. It’s as new as Jesus coming to us in bread and wine each time we gather.

The story of God’s kingdom is not bound up in that which is stuffy and uninspired and hidebound.

The kingdom of heaven is not like it’s always been done. It is like a seed blossoming into a tree, that continues to grow and give shade and shelter and new life. Of marvelous things coming from the smallest of seeds. Jesus spoke in new ways in the parable of the leaven . . . you see most folks preferred the unleavened bread in Jesus time, because leaven, yeast was messy and gross . . . it was the little yeasts getting into the bread, consuming those sugars and, well, passing gas. Yeast, leaven was not a desirable commodity in Jesus time, . . . yet Jesus says out of these new life is created . . .. . . even out of the less fashionable raw materials of the kingdom, God will fashion something new.

Each generation must encounter the kingdom . . . we are always in search of the pearl of great price, and year after year, life after life. . . it is rediscovered, recelebrated and reproclaimed. It is still treasure in the field being rediscovered, repurchased renewed. The kingdom is the constant unfolding of God’s revelation of purpose and grace and love.

There are some things that the kingdom is not. . . . . it is not the dead past tied to odd stories from an ancient land held only together by traditionalism. Jarosalv Pelikan says “tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living”. . . . it is not a secret knowledge hoarded away behind high walls by a self-righteous few. . . the kingdom is a public commodity. . . it is not a tool of exclusion or rejection of the plain and simple. . for the kingdom is revealed in these very plain and simple things. . .bread and wine, water and word, mustard seed. . . The kingdom is new and moving, revealed in the everydayness of life, in the wonder of a changing world. . . . in the very creation itself . . . cultivated and nurtured by the blood of a passionate God. . . . the kingdom is purposeful and rich.

Let me share with you some notes I came across once from a pastor prepared a sermon on this text. He wrote, Guy finds treasure hidden field. Becomes obsessed. Sells all. Purchases field. Merchant in search of highest quality pearl. Becomes obsessed. Tracks down the ultimate pearl. Sells Assets. Purchases pearl. Parents lose child to kidnapper. Become obsessed. Use all means possible to get child back. God loses precious children to sin. Becomes obsessed. Tracks down humanity through only Son. Son sells all that he has, his life, his blood to purchase, to redeem his precious children. Maybe God is treasure finder, God is obsessed parent . God is the merchant. . . using all means to find and redeem the lost among us. . . there’s the kingdom.

All these things, Jesus is saying, reveal God, grow us to God, capture us in God’s passionate plan. Showing us God’s wonder and grace each generation. . . . something old. . . something new.

Maybe the new parables of the kingdom will be revealed in physics, in science, in international relations, in the redemption of the poor and homeless . . . in peace long sought, dearly bought. Maybe. . . but we have to be careful not to think that we have discovered the whole of the thing. . . we get glimpses. . . the kingdom is also, not yet. The world in not yet fully redeemed. God’s plan and purpose has not yet been completely fulfilled. . . . So a caution is in order here. . . that we not sit back on our hands and proclaim that the work is done. . . that our part of the kingdom building is over…. . . . Oh, no.

The old Rabbi asked his students, “When does the night end and the day begin?”

And students debated among themselves, and then one said, “Rabbi, does the night end and the day begin when can you can see in the distance two people, a man and a woman, and distinguish, one from the other? Is that when the night ends and the day begins?”

And the old rabbi said, “No.”

And so the students discussed the question again among themselves, and then one of the students came forward and said, “Rabbi does the night end and the day begin when you can see in the distance a sheep and a goat and distinguish between the two?”

And the old Rabbi said, “No.”

And so the students debated among themselves the question for a long time and finally one of the students came forward and said “Rabbi, does the night end and the day begin when you can see in the distance on the horizon two trees, a fig and a palm tree, and distinguish between the two? Is that when the night ends and the day begins?”

And the old Rabbi said, “No”

And immediately the students, frustrated, began to argue with one another.

And so the old Rabbi spoke saying, “the night ends and the day begins when you can look on the face of another on the face of any man, woman, or child, no matter who they are, no matter where they come from, no matter what the color of their skin, or the language they speak, no matter what their economic status, no matter what they have done or not done, when you can look upon them and see in them your brother and your sister. For until you can do this, no matter what time of day it is, it is still night.

Maybe that’s finally, what the kingdom is . . . a dawning . . . a dawning of grace and understanding and community and growth and hope and unity . . . all these things being drawn to the heart of God . . . to be revealed and fulfilled finally in a burst of light and finality. Maybe that’s what all this kingdom talk is about. . .

Maybe. And as we wonder . . . God has given us gracious glimpses . . . in the mustard seed, in the leaven, . . . in the pearl . . . in the simple things of water and bread and wine, in children and churches and . . . in this place tonight/this morning. . . . welcome to the kingdom.. Amen