The Kingdom of Heaven is Like…
When I was a senior in high school I had to take a Science course taught by my least favorite teacher. He was boring and a strict disciplinarian. I don’t remember what the class was called, but I do remember it being about the existence of all different kinds of life. When I was a senior in high school I had to take a Science course taught by my least favorite teacher. He was boring and a strict disciplinarian. I don’t remember what the class was called, but I do remember it being about the existence of all different kinds of life.
One of the class sessions was a field trip. The instructor handed each of us little magnifying glasses mounted on a stand. Our assignment was to go out into the school yard and zoom in on approximately one square inch of ground and write down the different forms of life we saw. We had one hour.
When we returned to the classroom we had to share all of the different kinds of life that we saw. Some folks saw dirt and grass. Others listed ants and spiders and mold and grass and weeds. Some found small flowers and leaves depicting the beauty of autumn.
I learned something very important that day: the world is a unique and wonderful place that is always unfolding and revealing itself. It is never the same and it is always changing and evolving before our very eyes, continually revealing itself to us.
In the Gospel reading Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52, Jesus reveals the kingdom of heaven in the same way. It is simple and complicated and beautiful. And if we stop to take it in and listen to it, the kingdom of heaven will blow our minds. The kingdom of heaven is all around us and we are part of that incredible kingdom.
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. One of the smallest seeds teaches us that size doesn’t matter. Great things come in small packages and we are constantly learning the wonder and the mystery of something as small as a mustard seed.
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast. I grew up with homemade bread at every meal. “Store bought” wasn’t an option in my house. My mother handmade six loaves of bread every week.
There is nothing like the smell of homemade bread. The yeasty aroma fills the whole house. It invites you to cut a slice; slather it in butter and feast on the wonder of the ingredients.
The yeast is a transformative power that changes the flour, water and salt into something beyond description. The yeast changes something simple and ordinary into something extraordinary. The yeast, like the kingdom of heaven transforms us and is all around us in each of us.
The kingdom of heaven is like a hidden treasure. I’ve preached many sermons about this parable. What do we do when we find a treasure? We want it, so we do everything in our power to keep the treasure that we’ve found.
What I have often missed in this parable is the word joy. In his joy at the discovery of the treasure, because of the joy, because of the dancing, heel-clicking wonder of the discovery, the bubbling up and out-joy that cannot be contained, he gives up everything for the joy. The joy is worth everything that you have. It is the joy that comes when we discover God’s love for each of us. In that discovery, God reaches out His hand and invites us into the joyful dance that has no end.
The kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price. What do we value? We have, in our families and in our community of faith, the gift of love. That gift is the pearl of great price. It is what gives us meaning and life and it is worth everything we have. We have been given the kingdom of heaven and in that gift with everything we need. It is something we must value above all else.
The kingdom of heaven is like a net. A long time ago I worked on an island off the coast of Maine. One of my joys was to go lobster fishing. I loved watching the traps slide off the boat into the water. Baiting the traps with decaying red fish however was not very lovable. One the interesting things was when we pulled the traps a few days later. In addition to lobsters there were fish, hard shell crabs and a variety other sea creatures and sea debris. All though they all came up in the same trap (aka “net”) they had to be sorted, the good and the bad. We are a diverse people and the kingdom of heaven has room for us all. And now the gospel concludes with the kingdom of heaven and the scribe. And Jesus asks: 51“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52And 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.”
Now here is where wisdom rears her head.
Jesus says look, here is what this means, we have been trained for the kingdom of heaven. It’s what our Sunday School, Confirmation classes, adult education classes have been about. We have been trained for the kingdom of heaven and what that training teaches is that out of our treasure we bring “what is new and what is old.”
I’ve been a parish pastor for a long time. One of the gifts that I have been given is the flickering glimmer of wisdom that lets me learn from every people of God that I have ever served.
I have learned from the young, new ideas. I have learned from the old, the value of tradition.
Each week in our worship we receive something old and something new, we are given an opportunity to do a new thing, be an old thing, and put them together and become the kingdom of heaven in the world. And after all these years, each Sunday blows my mind, because each week the kingdom of heaven comes alive in the people of God in this place.
The kingdom of heaven is like each of you; the kingdom of heaven is like this church. God comes to us in all the forms of this parable and creates in us, ordinary everyday us, the kingdom of heaven.