June 17, 2012
1 Samuel 15:34—16:13; 2 Corinthians 5:6-17; Mark 4:26-34
I’ve always been fascinated by kaleidoscopes. Bits of color, a tube that holds the pieces of color, and a set of mirrors, kaleidoscopes constantly change the view of the image within the scope. If I look into the scope, then hand it to someone else, chances are strong that what I saw will not be what another person will see.
When I read a Bible story, I often get something different out of it today than I did when I read it three years ago, or even earlier in the week. And what I get out of a Bible story is not necessarily what someone else gets out of it.
It’s the same thing with life. We all see something different in every encounter, every event, every relationship. Just think about the different stories siblings and parents tell about family dinners!
And it’s the same between us and God. We humans have one set of values; God has a different set. God looks at our human lives differently than we do. That is what our Bible texts are about today.
Last week, Samuel reluctantly anointed a king to serve over the people. Saul started out well, but even God has become disappointed in him. God has now sent Samuel to anoint another person as king. He has been sent to the family of Jesse, who lives with his family near Bethlehem. Samuel does not know which son will be chosen, and is waiting for a sign from God.
We are familiar with the story, but as it was happening, no one knew which son would be the chosen one. Youngest sons were pretty worthless in Israelite eyes. They came in last in property distribution and family power. That David even existed was sort of an afterthought for Jesse. He’s just the shepherd boy – the kid pulling grass out in left field.
Of course, it will be many years before David is actually crowned. He must first learn from Saul how to be a soldier and a leader. He must stay alive when Saul realizes he has lost favor in God’s eyes and tries to kill David. And then, Saul and his army must be defeated before David can begin his reign. To Jesse and the other boys, David is just the kid brother; but to God, this kid is just the right person to lead the kingdom.
In the gospel, we read two parables about the kingdom/reign of God. The kingdom of God is not a place. It is not the here-after life with God in heaven. It is the activity and presence of God on earth here and now, even though what it to come is not yet fulfilled.
In the first parable, we are reminded that crops grow slowly, in God’s time, and mostly without human help. We can work to make it easier for a plant to grow and produce fruit. We can weed and water but only God actually makes the plant sprout and grow tall and bear fruit.
Like any plant, the kingdom/reign of God will sprout and grow and bear fruit in God’s time, not ours. And, again, we can make it easier for the reign of God to grow but we cannot make it actually happen. We can plant seeds by sharing our own stories about Jesus’ presence and activity in our lives. We can invite folks to come and see what God is doing at Hope. We can learn as much as we can about Jesus by hearing sermons, reading and studying the Bible, praying, and paying attention to what God is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us.
In the second parable, Jesus describes the reign of God as a mustard seed which grows and grows until it is large enough for birds to nest in it. The mustard plant in Israel is a weed, an undesirable plant. The seeds germinate as soon as they hit the ground so the plant can easily take over a cultivated wheat or barley field. Unlike the small mustard plant most Americans know about, the species of mustard Jesus is talking about is a large bush, about 3 feet high, certainly large enough for small birds to nest in.
So, why is Jesus describing the reign of God as a weed? Because he wants us to know that the reign of God is as uncontrollable as wild mustard. No matter what we do to try to keep God’s reign out of some places, the reign of God will take root and grow wherever God wants it to be.
In Jesus’ time, this means that no matter what the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees and priests do, the reign of God will come in Jesus. Once again, Jesus is throwing down a gauntlet, and letting the people know that they will not be able to stop God’s activity.
In St. Paul’s various writings, and even within the same letter, Paul gives us somewhat different views on judgment and resurrection. His timeline varies; Jesus’ return and our judgment may come immediately, or it may come some day. What matters for Paul and for us is that God will judge us, but that the judgment will not be like human judgment. Jesus has died for all, out of his love for us. The result of his death is that we become a new creation, with no sins, no human faults, nothing at all to prevent God from loving us.
When we look at life through our human eyes, we see all the limitations and disappointments of human existence. But when Jesus sees us, Jesus sees no limitations, no disappointments. Jesus sees neither slave nor free, Jew nor non-Jew, male and female. All of those characteristics that define us as human disappear when Jesus judges us. We are new people, with our sins wiped away through the gift of Jesus’ love for us.
God definitely sees us differently than we see each other. When God looks at us, God looks on the heart. God chooses the youngest son, the most unlikely persons to help fulfill God’s plans and purposes. God’s reign is like a plant, growing with God’s power and purpose to produce fruit. God’s reign is like a mustard seed, growing uncontrollably, even where it is not wanted. And God’s reign is a new creation, in our lives, each day.
It’s really hard for us humans to see into one another’s heart, because we tend to hide our true hearts from each other. We don’t want to expose the softness, the fear, the impurity that lies within our true selves to others. But God sees past all the yucky stuff of our humanity and into the goodness of each human heart.
This week, try to see in those you spend time with the new creation that God sees. Try to see others – and yourselves – as God’s chosen children, as called to fulfill God’s purposes right here in Citrus County.
Please pray with me: Merciful God, help us to see ourselves the way you see us: as new creations. Help us also to see others the same way, as your new creations. And help us to share that good news with those who need to hear that God looks beyond whatever they have done into their true hearts. Amen