Sunday, July 26, 2020

Proper 12 Sermon

God of love and grace.
It would be so much easier to be a disciple

If I could just keep the rules;
If I didn't have to navigate 
The dangerous territories of compassion.
But you seek disciples
With hearts of flesh
And not of stone.
You seek disciples
Who are always willing
To lay aside the law
To bind up the wounds
Make me one of those kind. Amen. (Glen Jordan)

As my time with you draws to a close, I keep thinking about our call as disciples of Jesus, that we are called through our baptism to live out of those dangerous territories of compassion and love.

"You are rewarded not according to your work or your time, but according to the measure of your love." – St. Catherine of Siena

It is the measure of our love and what we do with that, from our hearts of flesh that speaks to our faith. In the Gospel for today, Jesus again puts parables before the crowds.

"The kingdom of heaven is like…
·         a mustard seed - sowed in a field; the smallest of all the seeds, the greatest of shrubs
·         yeast used in flour
·         a treasure hidden in a field
·         a pearl of great value
·         a net thrown into the sea to gather fish of all kinds

It is as if to answer the question, What is the Kingdom of heaven like? Jesus didn’t want to settle for one story, so he gave us a few little parables, each giving us a glimpse into what the kingdom of heaven is like. Each is a very faithful message drawn from the daily life of people that Jesus encountered.

It seems that Jesus did not want to just give us one image, but like holding a prism up to the light, he helped us catch different glimpses of what the kingdom is like. A diversity of images to help us all catch and delight in what the kingdom of God is like.

As Lane Denson III, put it, “Parables are not to be explained, they are to be understood, and like most of the important things in life, they are understood only by our opening ourselves to them and listening with wonder and imagination, participating in them in a way.” 

And when we do open ourselves to the parables that Jesus gives us, they we can be open to discover the Kingdom of Heaven that is in our very midst.
Many years ago, a young Maori girl in New Zealand was captivated by the teaching and good works of missionaries who came to her village. She became a fixture at prayer with the fledgling community. One Sunday, as she was leaving the small church, the girl was struck by a potato thrown by a man who resented the presence of the missionaries in his village and those who embraced this strange new religion.

The girl retrieved the potato and brought it home, She cut up the potato, planted it and harvested it. She then sought out the man who had thrown the potato at her and presented him with the bushel basket of new potatoes she had harvested. [from Connections, July 2005]

That young girl understood the parables that Jesus has given us, she found that pearl of great price in a potato thrown, and she made sure to share the abundance with him after the harvest as she had experienced with God’s love.

The kingdom of heaven is like so many things, do we have faith enough to see? To share?

It reminds me of a poem by the welsh priest and poet, R. S. Thomas (The Bright Field):
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it.

Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

May we turn aside in our lives now, in the midst of pandemic and hate, to be those who will bring light, love and compassion into our world. Be it in Monroe or South Dakota… for "love must act as light must shine and fire must burn." – Fr. James Otis Sargent Huntington, OHC

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – St. Catherine of Siena

May that be so for all of us. Amen.

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