I love how Jesus tells the crowds about what all the different ways the Kingdom of heaven is like. And then he gets done with all these sayings and asks everyone, “So, do you get it? Do you understand?” And without missing a beat, they all chime in, “Yes. Yes, we get it!”
It reminds me of when we were kids leaving for a night out with friends and our parents yelled after us, “be good.” And we said, “We will.” We said yes so we could leave the house and have fun. We didn’t care much about being good, we cared about having a good time.
Do you get what the Kingdom of God is like? If you say yes without thinking, I’m not sure I believe you. We say yes to go along with the crowd. We don’t want to stand out by being the one person in the room who “doesn’t get it.” We don’t want to look like the fool or a misfit, but we sure want to see the next miracle.
The “Kingdom of heaven” is like…over and over and over Jesus says. Do we get it more than they did? Do we really know what Jesus is talking about? I don’t think many of us have the guts to stand up and say, “Gosh, you know Jesus, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I want what you describe, but it seems so unavailable.”
And given what is happening in our world right now, it would seem that we have no idea what this heaven looks like. It can’t possibly look like the virus ridden, racist, politically charged, impoverished place we call home. But, if heaven is better, I’ll take that! “Where or what is this place? If we say ‘yes,’ can we go there? Most of us are getting kind of tired of where we are now.”
I said a couple weeks ago that parables were meant to be subversive stories that would challenge and transform its listeners. A parable should leave you uncomfortable. Things could change in a big way if you really listened to it and took it to heart. That discomfort is an invitation to let go of an old way of being and take on something radically different.
Maybe that would be a good thing to do this morning. What’s the thing you most treasure? Maybe it’s something others would also think was valuable. Maybe it’s something that means a lot only to you. But what is it?
With the crowd all gathered around him, Jesus invites them to imagine that the kingdom of God is like so many valuable things.
What if you take one of those things Jesus mentions – seeds, yeast, pearls, and substitute the thing you most treasure. Jesus always uses things and images that we can relate to.
All of these metaphors take a common thing in the lives of common people and make them into something much bigger and more significant than first thought. And in those moments the Kingdom of heaven breaks in and becomes real. So, what is something so valuable that it is worth everything you have? Your family, your health, your friends, your vocation? Those things reveal the Kingdom of God.
Most of us have experienced a moment of encounter with the Holy
and know it is real. These things happen regardless of what life throws at us, as individuals, communities, or nations; they are all around us. But, when we recognize them, we are filled with a moment of awe or blessedness.
And in all this variety of images, the emphasis seems to be on two things. The first is growth. Mustard seed becomes a huge shrub that birds nest in. Yeast ferments in dough and becomes a loaf of bread, to feed hungry mouths. Simple fishing nets are filled with a huge catch – a net full of good and bad. The Kingdom is a place for us to grow. Not taller or fatter, but deeper into a relationship with God and others so we see this kingdom more easily. Is the thing you value like that? If so, maybe you can start to say yes.
The second point is that, each of these things is hidden: In the ground, in the dough, in the field, in the sea. The Kingdom of heaven is revealed when whatever it was that was concealed is finally seen for what it is.
The other thing about parables is that they often have multiple interpretations and understandings. They are like the facets of a prism where you can see one thing from one angle and when you turn it, you see something else.
Now, we usually think we should be out searching for the treasure and pearls. But the reality is that we are actually the seeds and the yeast and the treasure and the pearls. We aren’t necessarily the merchant or the farmer or the bread baker, because that role belongs to God. And God’s joy is in naming that for us so that we start to see who we are and just how valuable we truly are.
If you were to spend a little time this week being yeast or a mustard seed, would you be changed? And if your life changed, even if just a little bit, would that cause the Kingdom of heaven to be revealed a little more authentically? Then your Yes, would mean yes and there’s no telling what might happen.
There’s one more twist to this story. The person who makes the discovery of treasure in the field wasn’t looking for treasure. He just stumbled upon it. But, the dealer in pearls who found the costly one was presumably an expert, someone who had perhaps spent a lifetime looking for the perfect pearl. Perhaps that’s the way it is with the kingdom of heaven. Sometimes we stumble upon it, unaware and it’s thrown in front of us.
Sometimes it is finally given to us after a lifetime of struggle and searching. We may give up next to nothing for this gift, other times we pay with more than we thought we had to give.
Some people would say that the Kingdom of heaven is so thoroughly hidden that only mystics would or could search for it. Others would suggest that God has played the oldest trick in the book and hidden it in plain sight in front of all of us from the beginning. I think Jesus knew this to be the truth because he keeps referring to it in the most ordinary of things. Why else would he talk about heaven in terms that farmers and bread bakers and fishermen would understand?
Today Jesus might talk about heaven for marching moms, baristas, computer programmers, or front line medical workers. Maybe Jesus meant for us to figure out that heaven is to be found in the things we do and see every day, all the time.
Whenever the kingdom comes close to us, it’s important is to respond with hope and joy. We don’t have enough of that in the world. Think of your own feelings when you’ve finally figured something out or stumbled across some new thing. Isn’t joy the thing you feel?
For Jesus, the nearness of God is everywhere, even on the road to Calvary. It is in Portland and Seattle and anywhere people are standing up to injustice. It is in every hospital in the world as well. It is found in the most ordinary of things.
If we were to open our eyes to see life as it is, we would actually recognize the Kingdom of heaven…right here in front of us. It’s close enough to touch and see and taste.
If you find joy or hope this week rejoice! You have found the Kingdom of heaven.In the midst of it all you have found everything! In the midst of it all you have been found by God and been named as treasure. Do you get it? Then say, “Yes!” Amen.
The Reverend Patty Baker, Vicar
St. Clare Episcopal Church