O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Kings 3:5-12
At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.”
Your decrees are wonderful; *
therefore I obey them with all my heart.
When your word goes forth it gives light; *
it gives understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant; *
I long for your commandments.
Turn to me in mercy, *
as you always do to those who love your Name.
Steady my footsteps in your word; *
let no iniquity have dominion over me.
Rescue me from those who oppress me, *
and I will keep your commandments.
Let your countenance shine upon your servant
and teach me your statutes.
My eyes shed streams of tears, *
because people do not keep your law.
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For 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 our Lord.
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Jesus put before the crowds another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “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 what is new and what is old.”
The Rev Canon John C Powers
Sunday, July 30, 2017 St. Bede’s Westport
Pentecost VIII Proper 12-A
THE KINGDOM OF GOD, WHAT IS IT? EACH TME WE RECITE THE LORD’S PRAYER WE PRAY THAT “THY KINGDOM COME THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.”
WE APPEAR TO KNOW SOME ABOUT THE KINGDOM. WE DO KNOW THAT IT IS SOMETHING TO STRIVE FOR. WE KNOW IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO ENTER IF YOU ARE MATERIALLY SECURE. WE KNOW IT IS EASIER TO GET IN IF YOU ARE CHILDLIKE. WE KNOW THAT THE KINGDOM IS GOOD NEWS, THAT IT BELONGS TO THE POOR, THE HUMBLE, AND THOSE PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEIOUSNESS. THE KINGDOM HAS HUMBLE BEGINNINGS AND GROWS LIKE SEEDS AND YEAST. IT IS NEITHER HERE NOR THERE BUT IT IS AMONG US.
IN THE GOSPELS WE HEAR THE KINGDOM IS NEAR AT HAND, AND AMONG US NOW.
TODAYS’ LITTLE PARABLES GET US MORE IN TOUCH WITH WHAT THE KINGDOM IS.
FIRST, THE KINGDOM IS LIKE TINY MUSTARD SEED AND SOMEONE SOWS IN A FIELD. THIS SUGGESTS THAT THERE IS RAPID GROWTH IN THE KINGDOM BUT IT COMES FROM SOMETHING IMPERCEPTIBLY SMALL. THINK ABOUT THE BAPTISM OF A BABY, WHERE THE SEED IS PLANTED, JUST A LITTLE HOLY WATER POURED IN THE NAME OF THE TRINITY AND THE BABY IS TAKEN HOME. IF THAT LITTLE SEED IS NURTURED BY PARENTS AND CHURCH, THE KINGDOM CAN FLOURISH IN THAT CHILD AS HE/SHE GROWS TO BE AN ADULT.
OR THE KINGDOM CAN BE LIKE YEAST. ADDED TO THE MIX OF LIFE, IT CAN ENRICH AND MAKE SOMETHING USEFUL AND RICH.
THE PARABLE SAYS THAT A TINY BIT OF YEAST WAS IN THE FLOUR, HIDDEN, NOT OUT IN THE OPEN. BUT IT MADE THE BREAD RISE AND BECOME DAILY FOOD. A LITTLE YEAST TRANSFORMS A MASSIVE QUANTITY OF FLOUR. WITHOUT THIS SMALL INGREDIENT CALLED THE KINGDOM, THE REST OF LIFE DOES NOT FLOURISH, REMAINS FLAT, AND DOES NOT COME TO LIFE.
THEN THERE IN THE PARABLE OF THE TREASURE HIDDEN IN THE FIELD. IN THE FIRST CENTURY, ITEMS OF VALUE WERE OFTEN BURIED DURING TIMES OF WAR OR CRISIS. SOMETIMES A FIELD HAND WOULD COME UPON SOME GREAT TREASURE, GOLD, JEWELS, OR MONEY. THE POINT IS THAT THE FARMER FOUND WHAT HE WAS NOT LOOKING FOR. HE STUMBLED ON A GREAT TREASURE AND HE DOES NOT REST UNTIL HE POSSESSES IT. THE FARMER’S EXPERIENCE CAN BE COMPARED TO US WHO SUDDENLY COME UPON SOME TRUTH OR SOME LOVE OR SOME EXPERIENCE OR INSIGHT OF THE KINGDOM WHEN WE LEAST EXPECTED TO FIND IT.
THEN THERE IS THE PARABLE OF THE PEARL, WHICH IN JESUS’ DAY WAS AN OBJECT OF GREAT VALUE AND SOUGHT BY ALL. IN THE STORY, THE MERCHANT IS SEARCHING FOR FINE PEARLS. WHEN HE FINDS A PEARL OF GREAT BEAUTY HE CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT IT, HE SELLS ALL HE HAS – HIS ENTIRE STOCK PORTFOLIO, IN ORDER TO POSSESS THE COSTLY PEARL. IT’S LIKE BONO THE GREAT ROCK STAR WHO HAS ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD, AND YET HAS FOUND FULFILLMENT AND MEANING IN HELPING POOR THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES GET ON THEIR FEET. THIS WAS HIS PEARL.
THE KINGDOM IS LIKE A NET THROWN INTO THE SEA AND CAUGHT FISH OF EVERY KIND. THE KINGDOM CAN INCLUDE ALL, BRING IN ALL, AND EXCLUDE NO ONE. THE KINGDOM HAS AN OPEN IMMIGRATION POLICY. LATER ON, GOD WILL DO THE SORTING. THE MESSAGE IS THAT THE KINGDOM MEMBERSHIP IS GOD’S BUSINESS, NOT OURS. WE’D BETTER BE CAREFUL IF WE EXCLUDE.
FOR JESUS’ HEARERS, THEY DID NOT ALWAYS UNDERSTAND WHAT JESUS WAS GETTING AT IN ANY OF THESE PARABLES. WE DON’T ALWAYS UNDERSTAND EITHER.
CHRISTIANITY IS FULL OF PARADOXES. A KING BORN IN A MANGER. A KING WHO RIDES INTO TOWN ON A DONKEY. A SAVIOUR CALLED WHO IS MOCKED AND DERIDED AND DIES ON A CROSS. A KINGDOM SYMBLIZED BY A GARDEN HERB RATHER THAN A GREAT TREE.
A KINGDOM, WHICH COMES TO US IN LITTLE GLIMPSES RATHER THAN BOLDING US OVER BY DRAMA OR POWER.
IT TAKES FAITH TO LOOK FOR THESE LITTLE GLIMPSES. JESUS SAYS PEOPLE WITH FAITH CAN DO THINGS, WHICH CAN SEEM IMPOSSIBLE. FAITH MEANS TRUSTING IN GOD DESPITE ALL OPPOSTION AND DISCOURAGEMENT, VENTURING TOWARD AN UNKNOWN FUTURE, BELIEVING THAT GOD HAS A PURPOSE FOR US AND FOR THE WORLD.
FRIENDS OF OURS FROM LOUISIANA ARE GREAT COOKS. THEY TAUGHT US TO PUT MUSTARD SEEDS IN OUR BAKED BEANS. THESE TINY SEEDS MAKE A WONDERFUL, AND SUBTLE DIFFERENCE IN THE TASTE OF THE BEANS. THE KINGDOM IS LIKE THAT.
SO IT IS WITH THE KINGDOM OF GOD. HARDLY RECOGNIZABLE, TINY LITTLE ERUPTIONS OF THE KINGDOM ABOUND. THESE ERUPTIONS GROW AND FLOURISH AND THE KINGDOM IS BUILT AS GOD INTENDS. JESUS TEACHES US TO NOURISH THE SMALL GOOD THINGS, AND IN TIME GOD’S KINGDOM WILL COME.
ONCE THERE WAS A WHITE MAN WHO TIPPED HIS HAT AND STEPPED ASIDE AS A BLACK AFRICAN WOMAN WALKED BY WITH HER LITTLE BOY AT HER SIDE ON THE SIDWWALK. THE MAN WAS ARCHBISHOP HUDDLESTON OF AFRICA. THE WOMAN WAS MRS. TUTU WITH LITTLE DESMOND HOLDING HER HAND. MRS. TUTU DECIDED ON THE SPOT THAT IF THAT WHITE BISHOP COULD TIP HIS HAT TO HER AND LET HER PASS BY, SHE WANTED TO JOIN THE FAITH HE REPRESENTED. SO THE FAMILY BECAME ANGLICAN CHRISTIANS AND HER LITTLE SON BECAMSE AN ARCHBISHOP.
A THEOLOGICAN SAYS GOD IS SUBVERSIVE, OFTEN QUIETLY UNNOTICED, FREQUENTLY CHANGING THE WORLD FOR GOOD BY SMALL STEPS WHICH LEAD TO GREAT THINGS.
NOWADAYS WE ALL ARE ENCOURAGED TO CHANGE ALL OUR LIGHT BULBS, REPLACING WHAT WE HAVE WITH THOSE THAT USE A TINY BIT OF ELECTRICITY. THERE IS A PAMPHLET ENTITLED “HOW MANY LIGHT BULBS DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A CHRISTIAN.” THE POINT IS THAT SMALL GOOD STEPS CHANGE US, AND MANY SMALL STEPS CHANGE THE WORLD.