Trinity 5 Proper 12 Year A
1 Kings 3:5-12
Matt 13:31-33; 44-52
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight o Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen
The set of short parables we heard in the Gospel contain a lot of information about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.
The first thing to note is that it is a Kingdom – and thus it has a King. And God is King of the Kingdom of Heaven. This might be stating the obvious, but Jesus was talking to disciples who were used to the way that Romans operated their territories. They might well have a “King” but he was answerable to the Roman Governor, who was answerable to the Emperor. So the disciples were used to the idea of power being held a long way away geographically – and to a King who ruled at the whim of Rome. Jesus is already saying something different about Heaven – it is ruled by someone who is present, not absent.
The next thing is that the Kingdom begins in tiny ways. Jesus uses the images of a mustard seed, of yeast, of a pearl. These three things all led to something much bigger than themselves – a tree, a loaf of bread, wealth. So we learn that the Kingdom starts in small ways, but is much much bigger in its mature form.
Some of these parables, contain not only the imagery of small things, but of hidden things. A field contains a hidden treasure; the merchant has to search for his pearls of value. The Kingdom is something to be sought out, it isn’t something which is obvious.
And the last parable suggested something else about the Kingdom of heaven. The fishermen put the good fish into baskets and threw out the bad. “The evil”, says Jesus, will be thrown “into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. SO the Kingdom of heaven is under the judgment of God, and those who are evil will be refined by fire.
None of these things make the Kingdom of Heaven an easy place to find, or to enter.
Searching, seeking, takes time and effort, concentration and determination. Seeking doesn’t happen by mistake, it isn’t something that we just drift into. To find the Kingdom of heaven, we have to really really want to find it, to be looking with all our might. And it appears that when we find it, we might have to give up other things – the merchant sells all his belongings to secure just one pearl, the seeker sells everything in order to buy the field with the treasure. So the Kingdom of Heaven may be personally costly – there is no easy entrance, no free ride.
And in order to enter, we have to subject ourselves to judgment by God, on God’s terms not ours. Trying to enter the Kingdom is a risky business. In doing so, we acknowledge the total sovereignty of God over our lives.
And yet the Kingdom starts in such small ways. When we pray “Thy Kingdom come, thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we are praying for the Kingdom to start here and now.
And we find glimpses of the Kingdom of Heaven everywhere we look – in the smile of a stranger, in the offer of a helping hand, in the act of a person seeking justice for all. The Kingdom starts small, but we can all help to enlarge it, just by doing small things ourselves. When we smile at a stranger, we risk reproach or rejection. When we offer a helping hand we risk rejection, or exploitation. When we reach for justice, we may be told “no” by those in authority.
If we try to submit our lives to the sovereignty of God, we risk ridicule, of being cut off from families, friends and colleagues. No-one ever promised that the Kingdom of Heaven would be easy. But we have been given the Way the Truth and the Life – if we can only take up our cross, and follow Him.
Paul recognizes the difficulties, when he speaks of the Spirit interceding for us, with groans too deep for words. And again, when he asks what can separate us from the love of Christ. He doesn’t promise a life free from hardship, distress, persecution, famine, destitution, or peril. But he does point out that those things cannot separate us from God, unless we let them. If in all those conditions we still turn to God, then we can still rely on that love of God in Christ Jesus.
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit