Sermon – July 27th 2014
7th Sunday after Pentecost
By Roland Legge
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
What is the Kingdom of Heaven for you? Is it the place good Christians go to when they die or is it the world we live in right now? For too long the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven has been abused. It has been an oppressive tool for the church and governments to keep people in a state of poverty through the promise of a better life after they die. This is not what Jesus was talking about!
For Jesus the Kingdom of Heaven was to be lived out each day in the here and now. The Kingdom parables were told to encourage people in their faithful journey through life.
In the parable of the Mustard Seed Jesus was using this little bush as a symbol of the Kingdom. It is kind of like the dandelion flowers we all have in our gardens today. First the mustard seed was small and when it landed on the ground it was prolific. It was a small ordinary bush that never gave up. Why would Jesus have used this ordinary innocuous bush as a symbol of the Kingdom of God? It could be interpreted in a nice feel good way, in believing that this Parable shows us how small acts of ministry can have a huge impact. Now this is very true. But this story goes much deeper in suggesting that the Kingdom of heaven is like a weed that confronts, challenges, corrupts and subverts us often in most uncomfortable and disturbing ways. So no matter how hard we might fight against it, God will never give up.
I love the imagery of the women who hides the leaven for the bread. In Jesus day leaven was a symbol of moral corruption. But none the less, she takes it and makes a 100 loaves of bread which will feed many hungry people. So here this women takes the subversive power of God, in the leaven, and makes use of it to transform many lives. This is no picnic! This is all about the radical transformation of God through the most ordinary things of life, the most irritating people and sometimes the things we consider dirty to manifest the Kingdom of Heaven. God never gives up! God will find a way to get through to us.
Who are the pesky people that never give up on Kingdom building? There are many and you probably know someone who has that fiery passion to transform the world. I think of Dorothy Day who led the Catholic Workers Movement much to the annoyance of church, corporate and government officials. Dorothy was born in New York City in 1897. She was a radical women for her time and known for work in non-violent resistance (Pacifism) and women’s suffrage. She was arrested a couple of times, one of the times protesting for the woman’s vote in front of the Whitehouse in Washington D.C. She went on a hunger strike when we she was imprisoned. Dorothy annoyed a lot of people. She often got called a “Communist”. I think God the Spirit was well pleased.
In think of Malala Yousafzai a courageous young woman from Pakistan who refused to be obedient to the Taliban who does not want girls to be educated. She never gave up on getting an education even when she and her family were being threatened. Malala and her Dad remain determined to today standing up for girls around the world who are being oppressed. They refuse to give in! They are like those pesky mustard bushes and dandelions who won’t go away. I am sure the Spirit is pleased.
I love this story from Joyce Hollyday who tells of some Brazilian women who refused to be pushed out of their community. Here is how God worked through these courageous women.
A small group of peasants lived on a piece of land in Brazil, which was wanted for development by government and private business interests. To make their land seizure legal, those who wanted it got the Congress to declare the land theirs. The peasants were pushed off the land, their houses and crops destroyed.
As the people moved on to start over, this action was repeated several times. Whenever the peasants tried to resist, the police came in with force, wounding and killing some of them. Their burden of suffering was tremendous.
So when it became known that they were about to be pushed off their land yet again, one person asked, “Why should we resist? It will just mean that more of us will lose our lives. “Another pointed out that even if they were not killed, they would die slowly of starvation. Without land, they had no way to live, no way to plant or grow food. Despair was the prevailing mood, until some of the women got an idea.
With a little research, the women found out where all the members of the Congress lived. While the government officials were at work in their offices, the women went with their children — each to a different house — and sat on the front lawns of the luxurious homes.
These were some of Brazil’s most prestigious neighborhoods, and the sight of ragged women and their children on the lawns was an extraordinary and curious vision. After a while some of the wives of the Congress members went out with bread. The mothers told them, “We want no bread from you.”
Some of the wealthy women came out with money. “We have not come here for money, ” said the mothers. And eventually each wife asked, “What do you want?”
The peasant women answered, “We are going to die. And since this is a nice place, we thought we would like to die here. “
Then the wives asked, “Why are you going to die?”
And the mothers told of how their land was about to be stolen again, how their children were going to starve, and how the Congress was voting to make their doom legal.
The phones at the Congress began buzzing. Every wife called her husband to plead with him not to vote for the bill in Congress. And in the end, the people kept their land and their future.
God works through each of us to bring in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus reminds us that there will be many ups and downs on this path toward holiness. But the Spirit will always be present using us in surprising ways to subvert, turn around, and challenge God’s family to live with love, justice, dignity and generosity.