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This reflective worship was streamed on 7th Sunday after Trinity, 26th July 2020 by Rev Peter Russell
Rev. Mark’s Sermon for 7th Sunday after Trinity:
May I speak in the name of the living God who is Father,
Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
I wonder what the disciples must have felt like listening to these parables from Jesus. Parables about seeds and plants then followed by tales of baking bread, ploughing a field, and fishing. And a story about a rich merchant. There is no grandeur in these parables about the Kingdom of Heaven which is also referred to elsewhere in the Gospels as the Kingdom of God. Nor is there mention of revolutionary resistance, appeals for the overthrowing of the oppressive Roman Empire that would have pleased Simon the Zealot.
We might be disappointed too about these descriptions of heaven or the Kingdom of God. We refer to God as “Lord” or “King” and do not see him as a farmer or baker, but these parables help us understand in simple ways something about the Kingdom.
In these parables, Jesus tells us of his Kingdom and that of heaven and they are down to earth literally. They involve ordinary people – a farmer, fishermen, a woman at home – all doing everyday things. Hardly a revered vision of God’s dominion. But that is the point.
We believe in the incarnation which we find in Jesus Christ where there is the coming together of the divine and the human and he does not put the focus on himself in this parable but the place around him. The “Kingdom of God is like” the most ordinary things in everyday life. In Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus comes out of his wilderness experience, he proclaims that “the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” By thinking about the way Jesus lived can offer us some clues about what the Kingdom might look like too. Christ turned the world upside down.
Jesus did this a lot and the Gospels are peppered with examples. He looks at human situations with a difference and tells us something surprising and challenging. And he does the unthinkable and took many people beyond their comfort zones. Jesus shows the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven every time he heals someone, or when he reaches out to outcasts, respects women, by letting the oppressed go free, and caring for the poor. The healing of the haemorrhaging woman in Mark chapter 5, whose condition rendered her unclean and rejected is one of many stories in the Gospels that show Jesus’ will and determination to welcome, embrace and include all people deemed unsuitable and undesirable within mainstream society. Lepers too were not only shunned but considered “already dead” by their relatives and within their own society, but Jesus confronted this attitude head on, and not only healed a leper earlier in Matthew 8, but went beyond that and showed the man the personal love, compassion and tenderness of God.
The Community at Taizé in France have a chant called “The Kingdom of God” which has a line in it that goes “The Kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” which tells us something about its nature. So, we can hold onto the belief that the inbreaking of heaven has begun with Jesus and that continues today in this place and beyond. In these parables, God is involved in every aspect of life from the baking of bread to ploughing in the fields.
Jesus is transformational because he helps us to see heaven close at hand in everyday things. And the mustard seed, a common metaphor in Palestine for the smallest thing, is used as a way of envisioning God’s Kingdom. Yeast too becomes the agent for the growth of the Kingdom. If God has used these simple items to grow the Kingdom imagine what God is doing with us. So how do we become workers for this Kingdom? We are all challenged by the God who in the words of the Magnificat “has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly,” and our calling is to share the love of God with others by being here not only in this place but in our community as well.
If we look at the world around us through the eyes of Christ, we can see glimmers of his Kingdom and we can become part of its growth. Like the mustard seed, the Kingdom of Heaven creates something new. We can sow the seed through how we act and be but ultimately God is in charge and the Kingdom of Heaven is not something that we can achieve by ourselves. We have a role to play in spreading it, but it is in his power and we wait with patience. God’s purpose will be worked out in his own way and time, Kairos, and not ours, and we have to accept God’s grace to help us in our journeys in our waiting.