Seventh Sunday after Pentecost July 27, 2014
(1 Kings 3:5-12 Psalm 119 Romans 8:26-39 Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52)
“May Your Kingdom of Justice Come!”
Over the past few weeks, the current immigration crisis has boiled over in a way we’ve not seen before now. We’ve seen literally thousands of children fleeing poverty and violence in their Central American homelands.
This weekend, with a Gospel text that opens all kinds of possibilities as to what the “Kingdom of Heaven” may look like in today’s world I’d like us to listen in to a few conversations between Jesus and his disciples that may help us to imagine what would Jesus have to say about all this?
Let’s travel to first century Judea.
Jesus sees Peter and Andrew in a heated discussion, so he walks over to them and says, “Hey, you two brothers, what are you arguing about this time?” Peter, being the spokesperson, says, “so Jesus, here’s the issue: there are thousands of children spilling over the southern borders into our country. I think there’s something fishy about all these children wanting to come here all at once. They say they are trying to escape the violence and poverty in their own countries. I don’t believe them. After all, our country can’t handle all these new people. We have too many poor people already! And we don’t have enough food to feed our own people, and not enough jobs, so why should we take in more? Master, don’t you think we ought to secure our borders, preventing these foreigners from sneaking into our country? And the ones who somehow got through our security, don’t you think we must send them back? But my brother, Andrew, here he doesn’t agree with me in any of this! That’s what our argument is all about! Jesus, you need to give us an answer so my brother and I can stop arguing.”
So Jesus looks at these two brothers with loving eyes, takes his time to choose the correct words and then says: “Simon, first of all, knowing you two, there’s nothing I can say that will stop your arguing; and secondly, remember what I said that time when the temple priest brought me a Roman coin? I’ll say it again: ‘give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.’”
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He then moves the discussion to a whole other level. Jesus begins talking about the human heart and human needs. Jesus isn’t going to debate how a government secures its borders. Jesus will move the discussion away from the earthly kingdom of governmental security systems, and push the people to begin thinking in a way that is other-worldly. Jesus will remind his friends of something he told them before about his Kingdom—that his Kingdom is not of this world, even if it has come into this world.
Jesus then invites all the apostles to stand closer around him, and he reminds them of the Beatitudes he had just taught them on the mountain a few days before, and how counter-cultural his message truly is—how the poor and blind and lame and captives are not only included in the Kingdom but they are the priority. Jesus is very clear in saying how their hearts need to be expanded to such a wideness to include those who somehow don’t seem to fit in.
Then Jesus tells them again the story when he was a baby and his Mom and Dad had to flee the violence of King Herod for the very same reasons the South American children are fleeing their countries. He reminds his friends how life would have ended for him had his family been forced back to Judea because they did not have the proper documents to stay in Egypt. He even invites them to gather around a TV set to look again at the news report where protestors were stopping buses, and Jesus would say to them, “Don’t they realize the kids on those buses are me?”
Jesus then begins to let his anger show, as he looks the apostles straight in the eyes and says, “based on everything you’ve heard me teach, I honestly expected you guys would have been people who would always come down on the side of radical hospitality and welcoming all people—immigrants, refugees, Samaritans, alcoholics, homeless, gays, Latinos, African Americans, even those who don’t smell too good when they come and sit next to you in church—all those people who are being hurt by society and are being pushed to the margins.”
And I think Jesus, even in his anger, would pause and look at this group of friends who were trying so hard to understand his teachings; and I know Jesus would feel compassion for them, telling them that he understands their struggle in doing the work of God’s Kingdom.
Then one final story Jesus tells them, of a day when, as a little boy in Nazareth and he was helping his mother to bake bread, and how he was so intrigued when he would help her mix the flour and water and put in a little yeast, and she’d say to him, “Now Jesus we have to wait for the bread to rise.” And together they would cover it and put it in a dark corner, and several hours later the bread would have raised to almost twice it had been when they put it away.
This would trigger more images to describe God’s Kingdom So Jesus begins by saying: “a sower went out to sow seeds…and the seeds are words of the Kingdom…. And: “the Kingdom of heaven is like a farmer who sowed good seed in his field… Jesus would continue: “the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…. the Kingdom of heaven is like yeast…..the Kingdom of heaven is like a hidden treasure…..and like a merchant in search of fine pearls……and like a net thrown into the sea…..
So is the work of God’s Kingdom—to love every human person, no exceptions, as an image of God; and to believe God’s Kingdom has come and continues to come, even when it is difficult to see!
Today, our world needs images of mustard seeds and sowers and nets and hidden treasures and fine pearls—and yeast. Because if life can grow anew in a lump of dough, Jesus would say life can happen anywhere: that hope beats despair and life prevails over death.
You and I have been entrusted with this powerful message to bear the Good News of this Kingdom of justice, for all people. My deepest prayer is that each one of us lives every day of our lives, truly believing that God’s Kingdom can happen, is happening, even in dark and unlikely places, and that we each one remains awake to God using us to make God’s Kingdom alive! Amen.
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost July 27, 2014