It’s Like This…

8190857925_4857bf05d1_zIt’s Like This…

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

July 27, 2014

 

There’s a video which I’ve seen passed around a lot recently…

In the video 3 German students stop by a homeless man on the street.

They surprise him as they sit down on the ground next to him,

and start playing music.

 

They’re pretty good, and a crowd gathers to listen.

They put tips in a hat.

 

The man is at first hesitant to see these strangers sit next to him.

His eyes dart back and forth.

But as they play and sing,  you can see that he’s changed.

By the end of the song, he’s pleased.

The students give the tips to him, thank him, and walk away.

 

When Jesus wants to talk about the kingdom of heaven…

When Jesus wants to speak about the way God works in the world,

he tells stories.

Stories touch us.

Stories help us remember.

Stories are meant to be shared – in person or by social media.

 

Jesus’ stories usually weren’t as straightforward

as the story of the homeless man and the three students, though!

 

Perhaps the most ridiculous statement in this passage full of stories

is in verse 51…

Jesus asks his disciples, “Have you understood all this?”

and they say ‘yes.’

C’mon…!

They haven’t understood anything Jesus said the whole time they’ve been with him!

 

And here he shares with them parable after parable..

stories which are meant to be confusing…

stories which are supposed to make them think…

stories which by nature are not straightforward…

 

And they say, ‘Sure, yes – we get it!”,

(proving that “No,”  they don’t get it!)

 

One classic definition of a parable is that it is a metaphor

that leaves us in sufficient doubt

that we are led to think!

 

When we hear a parable,

we’re supposed to wonder what Jesus meant.

It’s okay to say to Jesus,

“No, I don’t get it!” and then let it work in your head some more.

 

Today is a good time to practice thinking about parables,

because there are five of them…

all about the kingdom of heaven,

and what it’s like.

 

The kingdom of heaven is like…

a mustard seed;

it’s like yeast;

it’s like treasure,

it’s like a merchant looking for pearls;

The kingdom of heaven is like a net of fish.

 

The kingdom of heaven is not straightforward.

God does not enter our lives and announce,

“Here I am!”

“Look at me!”

 

God comes to us in subtle and even sneaky ways…

like the one who comes and sows mustard seed,

that wild weed that then grows and takes over the whole field

where it wasn’t planned or planted.

 

 

On the other hand, God sometimes is less subtle,

and explodes on the scene in abundance…

like yeast that a woman mixes with 3 measures of flour…a bushel of flour…

yielding enough bread for a small village!

 

On the other hand, God sometimes comes to us bringing such joy,

that we are willing to give up everything else for it.

God comes to us in precious and priceless moments.

 

On the other hand, God sometimes comes to us more like a net of fish,

some good and some frankly rotten

and it isn’t always easy to sort out which is which.

 

The kingdom of heaven is like all these things.

Watch out!

The kingdom of heaven gets into things,

it takes root, it grows, it spreads, it infiltrates,

it takes over and it does surprising things.

 

Watch out what you pray for!

Watch out when we pray “thy kingdom come!”

There are consequences!

 

As Lutheran preacher David Lose says,

the kingdom of God comes into our lives and

we find ourselves giving away things we thought were ours;

and questioning our professional callings;

and writing checks to charities.

The kingdom of God comes and it takes over…everything.

 

Several of you described this experience this summer.

You’ve been sharing about how God comes to us in the

most ordinary, everyday things and experiences.

 

Nate Osburn read a Facebook post,

(a very ordinary and everyday thing)

and then God took over everything –

even his vocational calling.

 

Mary Bernau took a trip because she didn’t want to be left home alone.

At the end of a long day, feet covered with blisters,

she stumbled into a church,

and then God took over everything.

In the words of a simple blessing given by a priest,

she realized the gift of love and family.

 

Patrick Anderson took a job because it paid the bills,

and then God took over and sent a client

who was needy and demanding and rude and ungrateful and even disgusting…

and he discovered that blessings are often mixed;

that sometimes God’s kingdom leaves us with more questions than answers.

 

Mary Lee Stoll came upon some plants thrown into the trash,

and discovered her call to rescue discarded things,

so that God could take over and give them roots and growth and beauty again.

 

Jen Moore discovered that forgiveness

can be as backbreaking and repetitive and as difficult

as weeding.

 

The Kirby family goes to a quiet part of the lake,

and discover a perspective greater than their own

as they look back at the shore.

 

I have been inspired by these stories…

these have been parables of their own!

 

The kingdom of heaven is not straightforward.

God doesn’t enter our lives and announce

“Here I am!”

“Look at me!”

 

The kingdom of heaven is like…

a Facebook post;

it’s like blisters on your feet;

it’s like a rude client;

it’s like something you find in the trash;

it’s like backbreaking work;

it’s like a catfish.

 

The kingdom of heaven is like

three German students who sit with a homeless man and play music.

 

When we pray “thy kingdom come,”

Watch out!

It’s here.

 

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