Sermon: The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (A) – 27th July 2014

St Alban’s Anglican Church Epping 7am, 8am and 10am

Readings: Genesis 29:15-28   Psalm 105:1-11   Romans 8:26-39  Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

The Kingdom of God was always on the mind of Jesus. There are almost one-hundred and fifty references to God’s Kingdom in the New Testament, fifty-two of them in St. Matthew’s gospel alone. The more Jesus spoke about the Kingdom the more unreal it seemed to his listeners. Perhaps that’s because in a world gone insane, sane things seem to be unreal. How do we cope with gross inhumanity: in shooting down a civilian plane, the madness of Middle Eastern wars, the kidnapping of hundreds of young girls.

In today’s gospel account Jesus referred to the Kingdom as a hidden treasure buried somewhere in a field. Likewise He spoke of the Kingdom as a precious pearl found by a businessman who astutely sold everything he owned in order to buy it. He spoke, too, of the Kingdom as a fishing net filled that contained fish both good and bad. Later he referred to the Kingdom as a mustard seed and as yeast. In other places he uses other metaphors for the kingdom.

We wonder what the Kingdom is for us, in everyday terms, as we live out life here in our modern Western environment this week, next month, throughout the rest of this year, and beyond. How do we identify and describe God’s Kingdom here on earth? Where is God in all this madness? Some people think of the Kingdom as a remote and distant heaven in another world at the end of life. Others think it’s an ideal political and economic order. Some people think that the Kingdom is exclusively God’s business, not ours and we have only to wait and receive it from God’s hands. Some identify the Kingdom as the Church; what’s inside the Church is the Kingdom, what’s outside of the Church is not a part of God’s Kingdom.

What is the Kingdom of God? When did it start? Where did it begin? How did it come into being? For the answer one must go back to the beginning. In the beginning God divided light from the dark. Then God divided the land from the water. Then God made the earth fertile so that living things would grow in it. Then the oceans, lakes and rivers were made to crawl with reptiles and be filled with swimming fish. The lands God filled with climbers and creepers, bushes and great trees. The air and the sky God filled with insects and birds and on the ground wondrous animals and creatures of all sorts and varieties.

Then God made the likes of you and me. God blew the breath of life into our forebears, saying: “Live you woman! Live you man!” “ Live as I live. I place you over the world as my agents, my ministers, my stewards … my sons and daughters. I give you all the earth that you may return it back to me with all that you have done to make it fruitful, productive, wondrous and beautiful, filled with people for me to love and who love me in return. Have life! Be joyful! Give life! Give happiness and joy, give your love and your life to each other and to all. Give my life that I have placed within you to your children and your children’s children forever and ever. Live together in my love.”

Where is the Kingdom of God? On earth, here as it is in heaven, in us … as it is in God. It is our human life, that sacred space in which lives the Spirit of God. If that’s not true then the Incarnation is meaningless. The Kingdom is found where God wants to establish it, in our human relationships with each other. That is when it started; that is where it began; that is how it came into being. Jesus is tireless in pointing that out to us.

God’s Kingdom is where God’s will reigns. It is God’s desire for humans to live quality lives. God’s Kingdom is the expression of God’s will that your life, and those who live in your life, might be filled with God’s joy, God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s justice, God’s truth, and God’s peace.

Whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer we pray to God: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth…” God’s desire and will is nothing else but that we be filled with the fullness of well-being, happy living, total life. Nothing else is God’s will. The Kingdom of God here on earth is human life, high quality human life, filled with His glory.

The reason Jesus was recognized as the Son of God was because those around him discovered in him the same exclusive divine purpose. That was to work for the well-being of all people. So we read in the verse before this portion in which we read last week it is recorded Jesus as saying: “Let any one with ears listen!”

“Stop being blind! That’s no good. Receive your sight, see!”

“Stop being crippled. That’s no good. Throw away your crutches and move!”

“Stop being mute. That’s no good. Speak and make a joyful noise!”

When he met the bleeding woman he said: “Stop bleeding. That’s no good, may your body be restored to normal!”

When he met the widow of Nain holding her only child, dead in her arms … and the dead daughter of Jairus, and he wept at the tomb of his dead friend Lazarus, he cried out: “Come forth! Live!”

It was God’s Word, the same Word that God shouted into the black chaos of the cosmos back in the beginning of creation, went forth from Jesus’ mouth and came back bringing life, life in its fullness, life fully healed and complete in his glory.

Jesus gave life; he restored life; he repaired life; he affirmed life. He lived life among the broken, prostitutes, adulterers, widows, and the aged … among orphans, street people, crooks, vagrants and the outcast. He unbound Zacchaeus, a greedy, grasping, mean man who sat on piles of ill-gotten money. Who when he was freed, became prodigally generous, unreasonably and unbelievably generous. Zacchaeus became just as unbelievably and irrationally generous.

Jesus detested injustice; he hated unfairness, he was distressed by sickness, deformity and disease; Jesus was disgusted with violence; he set His face against oppressors. When the prince of darkness and father of lies tried to conquer him, he stood on the ground of his Father’s kingdom. Even death itself could not do away with him because he lived for the well-being of all humans, having in his heart the same will of his Father for all human life.

Are we living for the Kingdom? Do we sacrifice our own personal comfort and convenience for the well-being of those around us? Does our work give value added to the lives of those around us? Does it add to the sum total of the happiness in their lives? Do our choices, our attitudes and decisions, contribute to the well-being of others? Do we give them life, or do we drain life from them? Do we give them joy or take the joy of living away from them? Are we like Zacchaeus before he met Jesus, or are we like Zacchaeus after he started to really live following his encounter with Jesus?

For if we are a wise businesspersons we will invest only in that which will last and in that which will allow others to value us. After all, God’s total personal investment was in the humanity of Jesus. Jesus risen in glory as the Christ who was given by God to enable us to live in his kingdom. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God invested God’s own Spirit; God’s own life, God’s Holy Spirit in your humanity and mine. In the Spirit-filled humanity of the risen Christ, God gives us the opportunity to share God’s very own life. That reality is more real than anything this world can ever dream of offering us.[1]

 

 

[1]Based upon a sermon by the Reverend. Fr. Charles E. Irvin, M.B.A., M.Div., J.D., St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Manchester, Michigan