The Rule of God

Genesis 29:15-28; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33; 44-52 – July 26, 2020

Hear the word of God from Matthew 13:31-33; 44-52…

Let us pray. Open our eyes to see your truth.  Open our ears to hear your voice. Open our souls to sense your touch.  Open our hearts to feel your love. Open our minds to receive your word.

***

The Kingdom of God is ….like.

Our country was founded on not having a king, so the word kingdom does not translate as well for us.  We are a country founded on laws, on rules, that we expect everyone to observe and obey.  So this morning I want to talk about the rule of God’s for and over and in our lives.  When Jesus says the kingdom of God is like, I’m going to substitute the rule of God is like…

Those of you who are into Facebook know what it is to be “liked.” on Facebook.  If you post something that people like, they click on an icon of a “gig em” hand sign, (an up pointed thumb)

Sometime ago a friend of mine shared what it was trying to make friends outside of Facebook.  He wrote, “So I have been trying to make friends outside of Facebook and thought I would try applying the same practices. Today I go outside my building and just start walking down the street. As I pass by people I let them know what I had to eat, how I feel right now, what I did last night, what I will do later etc… I thought it would be interesting to hand out pictures of my family, my dog and me doing some of my favorite things. If they were talking I would stop to listen to their conversation and then give them the good old “thumbs up” and let them know I like them.

So it actually worked!!!! I already have four people following me: two police officers, a private investigator and a psychiatrist.

In the 1952 presidential election, those who favored a particular candidate wore buttons that said, “I like Ike.” That expressed the same usage that we see on Facebook.  People were saying that they agreed with what Ike stood for. They didn’t want to BE Like Ike.  They just Liked Ike. (Who in their right minds would want the headache of being president?)

In the 80’s Gatorade came out with a commercial and a song those encouraged kids to dream of being “like Mike.”  (as in Michael Jordan) Those who used like in that way were saying that they wanted to dunk like Mike, even though most of them never would.  I drank Gatorade and all I could ever dunk was a donut.

Those who, “Liked Ike,” voted for him to elect him president.   Those who wanted to be
“like Mike” drank Gatorade.  But those who like Jesus—those who want to be like Jesus…have to love one another and others and listen when he tells them what being and loving and living like him is “like.”  In this morning’s gospel lesson we see 5 different images that Jesus used to describe what the rule of God is LIKE.

What does Jesus choose to illustrate the movement he is starting? Jesus says God’s rule is like a huge oak tree? No—he says it’s like a mustard seed, small and common, not big and majestic. Mustard greens start from small seeds, and they grow like crazy; and if you don’t pull them and eat them (as most people did and still do), they grow into a sort of bush.  (One commentator pointed out that the mustard plant is really a weed.  Left unchecked it can grow to a bush big enough for birds to nest in.  But like all weeds it comes up as a surprise.) 

The mustard seed can get stuck under the tip of a fingernail. Yet, from the smallest seed grows a shrub as large as a tree; it is not just tall but is also wide. It was known as the poor man’s fence providing shade and protection at no cost. It kept predators out and children in. The mustard plant was thick providing nesting places for birds that brighten the yard with music and color and at the same time helped keep the insect population under control.  The kingdom Jesus came to bring brings comfort, protection, and safety for the family. It is available to the poorest of the poor, a reward far greater than the investment.

The Rule of God is where God’s love is stronger than any other power, human or cosmic—it doesn’t have to look powerful, doesn’t have tanks or armies. The rule of God’ is small and ordinary; it’s full of peace-lovers and people who feed the poor. (3)”

That is what the rule of God that Jesus describes is LIKE

Here, Jesus offered example after example.  In piling “like” upon “like” Jesus stacked story upon story in showcasing how “priceless” this new possibility was for persons who could grasp its truth.

Jesus said, “The Rule of God is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

Do you know how much three measures of flour is? About eighty pounds! This woman is not Martha Stewart whipping up a couple delicate exquisite little biscuits that together weigh less than a canary. No! She’s emptying sixteen five-pound bags of flour into the biggest mixing bowl you’ve ever seen. She’s pouring in forty-two cups of water! She’s got a mass of dough on her hands that weighs over a hundred pounds! She’s kneading this lump of dough, shaping it, pounding 100 pounds of it that had been influenced by just a little bit of yeast.  That’s what the rule of God that Jesus came to bring is LIKE

A goal that is worthy deserves and demands a commitment. An Olympic athlete must be committed to training; a great violinist must be committed to practicing; anyone who pursues a goal must be committed to the disciplines the achievement requires.

After hearing a famous pianist, a lady said to him, “I would give anything to be able to play like that.”

He replied, “I’ll bet you wouldn’t give five minutes a day.”

Another said to a master musician, “I would give my very life if I could play the way you do,” and the musician replied, “That is precisely what it cost me, my life.”

Jesus is saying that the rule of God is like a small seed or a pinch of yeast that will surprise you.  As he continues he shares about more surprises.

The rule of God is like a hidden treasure waiting to be found, like a priceless pearl worth all you have.

Today people dream of winning the lottery. But in Jesus’ time people dreamed of finding treasure buried in a field. Commerce and banking were not as sophisticated as they are today. There were no offshore banks in the grand Caymans; no unnumbered accounts in Switzerland. So people who wanted to secure their wealth buried it in the ground. It gained no interest, but at least it was secure. Unfortunately, some of these people died before reclaiming their wealth. So there it lay just waiting for someone to discover it.

I have wondered why Jesus told two almost identical parables: one about a man who apparently gets lucky and finds a treasure in a field, and the other about a dealer in pearls whose deliberate search leads him to one exquisite pearl.  The stories bear some similarity. Both men are surprised when they find what they were looking for.  Both are overjoyed.  Both sell everything they have to obtain what they have found. But I wonder, is Jesus is also saying something vital about the availability of God’s rule?  

The first man apparently is digging in a field and gets a lucky and unexpected break. He stumbles across the treasure, buries it again and goes and sells all he has to get enough to buy the whole field. The second man seems to be a searcher. In his very deliberate and painstaking efforts to locate fine pearls, he finds one to which there is no equal. Yet, even though these two people are very different, and their ways and their efforts quite unlike, one thing is true for both: the treasure, their discovery, is a marvelous gift, a great surprise and a cause for great joy. .

The Council of Joyful Life has led you through two meetings with the Bishop’s Associate to consider becoming a redevelopment congregation.  Should you vote as a congregation to embark on that process the Synod will begin searching for the person who will serve as your next pastor like the man who looked for the pearl of great price or maybe, just maybe, you will get lucky and that person will be discovered like a treasure in a field.

Is life with God just for the lucky ones who just happen to stumble upon it or is it only for the searchers, those who search for years?  Maybe you have thought, “If only I were as lucky as he. His faith seems so easy, so natural.” Or maybe you have wondered, “If only I were a deep thinker with a great mind like hers.

When we think those things, we risk not hearing Jesus’ words about the rule of God being widely available to everyone.  So don’t spend your time wishing you were some other kind of person. When you have heard about Jesus, you have encountered the treasure. You had help—through Jesus.  When through Jesus you catch a glimpse of how wonderful life is living under God’s rule no price is too high to pay for it.

When a young man is smitten by love, he counts all other romantic relationships as worthless compared to knowing his beloved. He becomes like Jacob in our Old Testament lesson who had to serve seven years to be able to marry Rachel, but the years “seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.” (Genesis 29:20)

The Rule of God over our lives will always cost us something. But as we give ourselves to it we discover an amazing thing. It begins to take root in us and grow. And it creates within us the very best we can become. It calls forth from us the very best we could ever be. And, like all good investments, it will provide in us and for us wonderful dividends. 

A boy came home from Sunday school one Sunday and told his mother they had learned about inheriting blessings from god. They studied what it means to inherit something. Then he said to his mother, “I’d like my inheritance now.” His mother answered, “That’s too bad. I’m not through with it yet.”

In the rule of God rule however, you can have your inheritance now. Saint Paul wrote to the Romans, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” Provided we “suffer” with him that we might be glorified with him.”

That’s why you better think twice before you buy into it. Because buying into the rule of God means giving up old habits and ways of doing things that are destructive to us and others. It means giving up the kind of stinginess that finds us holding back from God.

Last week we read parables where Jesus likened God’s rule to a field sowed with both wheat and weeds. Jesus revisits the lesson of the “weeds and the wheat,” with the last parable of a net that catches “fish of every kind.”

Back then, observant Jews could only consume those “fish” that had both scales and fins (no lobster, crabs, scallops, clams, and shrimp). Those bottom-feeding “fish” that were not “kosher” were simply thrown back into the sea.

Organic farmers are all about returning nutrients to the soil through the use of organic, natural composting materials — stuff that decomposes and enriches the soil, giving the next generation of plants the best possible “launching pad” they could hope for. 

The fishermen are doing the same thing.  The fishermen are winnowing out the “clean” from the “unclean” fish.  Although they had no knowledge of marine ecology, by returning all the “unclean” bottom-feeders to the sea, the Jewish fishermen were helping create a better environment for the “fins and scales” fish they were interested in harvesting.

The image of the rule of God’ here is not of trees and dough or treasures in fields or pearls of great price, but a gospel net that catches all kinds, red, brown, yellow, black and white, whether we like it or not,  and the good are gathered into the boat and the bad are tossed away.

However you may find the rule of God in your life, whether it sprouts up in your back yard without you doing a thing to make it happen or it works its way in your life like tiny bit of yeast in a huge lump of dough, or you stumble across it coincidentally in an everyday task, or  discover it finally after a life-long search or are caught up in its net before you know what God has done to you — however you find yourself living in the of God I hope you don’t pass up the chance to buy into it. It will be the greatest investment you’ve ever made and the greatest adventure you’ll ever take that will never end. When you find yourself living under the rule of God you will find your true destiny which is worth more than anything. Finding out why you and I are here on this earth is “more precious than silver and more costly than gold more beautiful than diamonds… Finding that treasure in your life is all about what it means to live in and under the rule of God.  

Let’s pray.

Lord, surprise us.  Sprout up before us, work your way into our lives.  May we seek you and find you and be willing to let go of the things that hinder us from fully experiencing the joy of following where you lead so that we will be in the boat and not thrown back.

Lord, sometimes we do not know how to pray.  Knowing that Jesus intercedes on our behalf we are emboldened to come before your throne of grace. We pray for those who are not seeking you or have not yet found you.  Surprise them. 

We pray for those who are in need….for children without shelter, like birds who have no place to nest.  We pray for those who do not know where their next meal is coming from.  We pray for those who live in fear of what is coming next.   May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is being done in heaven.

We pray for those who are fighting.  For those who are fighting for their lives.  For those who are ill, who are facing surgery, undergoing therapy, struggling in recovery and for those whose journey is nearing an end and a new beginning. 

We pray for the places in the earth where your peace is not present.  We pray for all of those in harm’s way. We pray for the Place we call the Holy Land.  We pray for the places where missiles fly and land, and where planes crash.  We thank you for a cease fire and pray that it can hold and lead to more permanent solutions.

 We pray for missionaries who leave home to take the good news of the kingdom where it has yet to go.  We pray for our mission that through us God will change lives and make disciples through the transforming love of Jesus.

  • Michael Vinson d365  7-21-14
  • David Hayward  “the Naked Pastor” daily cartoons
  • Michael Vinson, d65 7-21-14

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