“Face-to-Face with the Kingdom”
Several years ago I came to one of those “moments of truth” in my life that enabled me to see more deeply into myself and into the challenge of the Christian gospel. Interestingly enough, the issue at stake was my emotional attitude toward the weather. In order to appreciate this situation, you need to realize that all my life I have had a special affection for snow. Of all the seasons of the year winter is my favorite, and the part of winter that I like best is the coming of that “icy white stuff.” As long as I can remember, I have loved to see it fall, delighted to walk in it and slide on it, and to my wife’s dismay I do not even mind driving in it! I am never happier weather-wise than when a big snow is either on the way or has already arrived. For reasons I cannot explain I simply came into this world with an emotional bias in favor of snow, and for years this predilection colored the feeling of my whole existence from November until May. I would watch weather forecasts with the emotional involvement of a partisan sports fan. If snow were predicted for the next few hours, I would swell with anticipation and go to bed exuberant. If, however, clear sunshine were the prospect, I felt like turning off the forecaster and would go to bed depressed.
Now, you may wonder what this account of my belated coming-of-age emotionally has to do with the sermon topic, but believe me, there is a connection! You see, there is a profound kinship between the words “the kingdom of heaven is like…” and my reactions several years ago in relation to the weather. The parables of Matthew 13 represent a way in which we as humans can relate to something that is larger than our world of reality. It is a way that we can look at things we understand: a mustard seed, yeast, a pearl of great price, a fishing net. These represent ways we can understand not only how the kingdom works but how valuable it is. The parable stories help us resolve “to take the trip of life by bus and leave the driving to God,” moving from an essentially egocentric approach toward life to acknowledging and accepting the other realities of life. It is getting the relation of the creature and the Creator into their proper sequence as far as structuring reality is concerned. It is deciding who does the acting and who does the reacting in life, or put another way, how human desire and historical reality are to be related to each other.
There are obviously more messages in these parables; however, Jesus seems to be trying to get people to see what is right in front of them. Parables have a way of moving us into a room to look at the photos on the wall, only to have the door shut behind us and see the photos are of each of us. The first two parables of our lection have to do with growth. In the first, the mustard seed grows from a tiny seed to a large shrub or tree. The second also represents growth, but a growth of yeast as it almost secretly goes throughout the dough. These two parables seem to be letting us in on something about the kingdom that we do not always see….