Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
28 November 2010, Advent 1A
I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’
Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there the thrones for judgment were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.’
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
Every Sunday we say these words to each other: “Peace be with you. And also with you.” Each and every worship service includes the sharing of peace—the peace of Christ, shared among the Body of Christ, and hopefully extended into the whole world.
On a day when we’re still stuffed from a feast, the tryptophan barely worn off, the leftover mashed potatoes beckoning, peace seems easy. Besides the food coma many of us are still in, there’s also the post-family-gathering peace, when we can take a deep breath and let go of the anxiety that often comes with those big family holidays. Once they’ve all gone home and things settle back into normal, the most conflict any of us expect is over who gets to eat the last bite of cranberry sauce. Things seem peaceful enough.
Of course, though, that’s not true in many places in the world. Conflict rages in homes, communities, and nations, and even within individuals. Sometimes those conflicts are supposed to lead to peace, sometimes they are waged only for monetary or political power gains, sometimes they simply end in chaos and tragedy with no redeeming qualities at all. But even when conflict ends, there’s often no peace. Because peace is not simply the absence of conflict—peace is something more than that.
The Hebrew word “shalom” is generally translated “peace,” and it’s a word we hear often enough that we often think we’ve got it down. We know that “shalom” is about wholeness, about healing, about redemption…and together, all these things make up “peace.” But when we use the word “peace” we don’t generally mean all those things…instead we settle for shallow “peace” which is really a façade behind which we suppress our feelings, and so suppress true community. The peace we generally think of is more of the calm surface, even if underneath the waters churn. But shalom is the kind of peace God has in mind for the world, the kind of peace the psalmist prays for, the kind of peace we are to make. This is peace that demands that we be real with ourselves and each other, peace that requires true listening and compassionate speaking, peace that will not settle for any to be left out or left behind. This is not only the absence of conflict, but also the presence of healing and growth. The words of the prophet Isaiah still ring in our ears even as they stick in our throats—the vision of swords turned to plowshares and all the nations walking together in God’s light. We yearn for this vision to be a reality, and yet so often we do nothing to make it a reality. Instead we do what is easy, we practice instant gratification, we turn a blind eye to peace-breaking even as we proclaim “peace be with you.”
During Advent we have an opportunity. Well, we have a choice, I suppose. Advent is a time of waiting—a time when we acknowledge the darkness and the “not-yet” nature of the kingdom of God. We wait with hope and expectation, looking for light that shines in unexpected places and for the coming of God who will bring peace on earth and goodwill to all people. We say no to a culture of instant gratification, no to the commodification of God’s kingdom of love, and no to the desire to skip the hard part in favor of the fun part of the season. The church is a place where we recognize the grief and darkness of the world even as we proclaim that God’s peace, justice, joy, and light are both coming and already here. These are good things, important reasons to observe Advent as a season even as the malls and radio stations skip right ahead to reindeer and jingling bells.
But on the other hand, Advent is a season of waiting—but that doesn’t mean a season of passivity or even patience. Too often, I think, we fall victim to the idea that waiting means doing nothing. That is not what Advent is for—because the kingdom of God is also “already” even if it is “not yet.” We are waiting for God to come and bring peace, and sometimes we forget that God has already come, has already broken in to our world, has already shined a great light, and has already sent us the Holy Spirit in order that WE may BE the Body of Christ in the world—that we may not just wait for peace, not even just make peace or work for it, but that we may BE the peace of Christ in our homes, churches, communities, nations.
We don’t just go up to the house of the Lord—we ARE living temples of the holy spirit, we ARE the body of Christ, we ARE the hands and feet, the hearts and voices, through which God works. Just as the psalmist was transformed from one among a crowd to a proclaimer of peace, when we pray and praise, worship and work, we are transformed from those who simply wait to those who embody the truth of God’s grace for all people, the promise of peace for a world prone to turn plows into swords rather than the other way around. That is why our mission statement says that “we ARE an ever-widening circle of grace.” That’s not something we’re waiting for, or something we’re like—it’s who and what we are. Have we lived up to our full potential, fully given ourselves to God’s will, completely followed God’s call to us? Not yet. But that doesn’t mean we ought to wait for God to do something about that. Instead it means that we strive to be who God calls us to be.
How can we BE peace in a world of ubiquitous violence? I don’t have an answer for that, and I suspect each of us will have to discern our ways. A good start would be to not engage in violence—and while it seems easy to refrain from physical violence, it’s much harder to discipline our words, our language, into peace. Perhaps that can be our Advent challenge—to speak only peace. Another way to be peace is to recognize where there is brokenness and work toward healing—to conspire with God to reconcile and lift up, to see truly and help wherever there is need—to feed people who are hungry, to give warmth to people who are cold, to offer hospitality to people who are lonely, and to recognize and encourage the humanity, the child of God, in each person we meet, whether we meet them at the food pantry, PADS, the grocery store, work, on the train or on a sidewalk. When we truly see one another, then we can truly have compassion for one another, and then we are on the road to shalom.
In many ways the world lives in Advent, though we don’t often recognize it. We are waiting for something…for someone to do something, for the world to get better, for God to break in and bring the kingdom, for a light to shine in the darkness. And waiting is important and good, it’s true, particularly if we can do it without filling the void with more gadgets and toys and things. Yet waiting can also be a distraction, a false idol of its own. At the risk of sounding cliché, I quote the elders of the Hopi nation, “we are the ones we have been waiting for.” And the ones God, and the world, has been waiting for. We are the body of Christ, called, equipped, and empowered to BE peace in and for the world. May that be our Advent task.
Peace be with you.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Today's Friday Five is an opportunity for you to list five of your favorite 'go-to' movies/tv shows/books. You can use images, links, explanations or netflix.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
It’s taken me a long time to find the time to focus and read just one book that isn’t for an immediate (like, in a few hours) adult ed class. But wow, I am glad I spent the time reading Carol Howard Merritt’s latest work, Reframing Hope.
The thing I love about Carol’s writing is that I feel like she may be the only person writing about a new generation without talking down-to/about-from-the-outside. I realize that she is part of this generational shift and so speaks from within rather than outside, but she also manages to write in that sort of inside voice. (By contrast, books such as unchristian, They Like Jesus But Not Church, etc, all feel like they are attempting to talk about “us” via the GenX/Millennial stereotypes and caricatures common among older generations, rather than from within.)
This book was, for me, a relatively quick read, and while I didn’t find it earth-shattering for my worldview or faith or church involvement, I could see in every chapter something that others in my church life would find surprising, new, or challenging. I also heard echoes of my own preaching, which is often characterized as “always being about community.” Well, yes, of course it’s about community—because I believe that is one of the defining issues of our time and one of our greatest needs as human beings…and something that has been so changed by technological advances over the past 50 years. Carol also talks repeatedly about the importance of community, and what community might look like in generations that have grown up in a postmodern era/the internet age, and during a generation-long distrust of institutions. (And, of course, even as these cultural changes play out we see how the turnings of culture and generations are relatively predictable—see Strauss and Howe’s Fourth Turning for more about how we now live in the midst of a culture shift that is likely to bring about a greater desire for, and building of, community.)
As leaders (ordained and not!) of established congregations, particularly in the mainline, we need to be reading this book (and Tribal Church, too!). These shifts are real, the culture change across the generations is real, and the needs of a new generation are real. New generations are not going to turn into the previous ones—there is no chance that GenX-ers are going to magically turn into Boomers as we age. Instead we continue to live out our experiences and our archetypes (drawing again on Strauss and Howe), only older. GenX and Millennials and the new generation of children are not going away, and we are not going to change to be copies of our parents and grandparents, so it’s time the church learned what that means for ministry, for community, for sharing and living the gospel, for caring and bringing hope and loving one another as Christ has loved us. This book is a good start as we seek to understand and minister to/with people of a new generation.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
more than meets the eye
17 October 2010, Ordinary 29C
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Did you know that your spinal cord is only as big around as your index finger, but contains 10 billion nerves cells? Or that there is enough iron in your body to make one nail? Or that your nervous system transmits messages to your brain at the speed of 180mph? Our bodies are incredible things, with all kinds of hidden beauty and complexity. (all facts from here)
Some of you have probably seen the exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry—the ones with cross sections of the human body, or where you can see a humongous 3-D heart. Exhibits like these, along with pictures and doctors and TV shows, have taught us much about how the body works, and just what is inside this skin of ours. Our bodies are much more on the inside than they appear on the outside. And, of course, who we are is much more than just our physical body—we are more than meets the eye.
Who we are includes all kinds of things—from our bodies to our thoughts and beliefs to our education and experiences to our actions and words. While we are more than the sum of our parts, our lives do reflect all those parts. Often we can see someone’s heart in the way they relate to others, we can see their faith reflected in their choices and actions. And we can see the changes God makes in people in the ways they live their life every day.
Jeremiah tells us of a promise—a promise given during the darkest shadow of death, in the midst of deepest despair and loss. The Israelites have been pulled from their homes and taken to Babylon and the Temple has been destroyed. In a culture and religion that bases identity on living in the land God gave them and on worshipping in the Temple where God lives, being in exile meant that they were no longer a people—no longer a nation and also no longer the people of God. They were abandoned, alone, without hope...and they were living their lives as if that were true. Until…the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah, saying “I’m still here—have courage.” God promises to stick around even in the dark days, even in the midst of horror, even when we can’t see God’s work or feel God’s presence or hear God’s breath. And to prove it: a new covenant, one not based on physical stone tablets or a small inner room in the Temple or even on Thou Shalt Nots.
At Sinai, God gave the gift of freedom and the gift of land and the gift of community, and made this covenant to remind us of those gifts. This new covenant is a little different. It’s a covenant for captivity, a covenant that can be kept anywhere, a covenant impossible to break. No matter where we are, what darkness surrounds us, or what dis-ease lurks below our surface, this covenant is for us. We shall be God’s people, because God has written the covenant inside us. When we were being knit together in our mothers’ wombs, already God was replacing our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. When we are lost and fear we might never be found, even then God’s word of life is within us. When hope has deserted us, or we have deserted it, still the Word dwells within us and God’s breath is nearer to us than our hands or feet. We may not see it, but God is there, working in and through us.
This is a covenant that changes us, changes who we are and how we live. God promises to be at work in our hearts, in our spirits, in our physical bodies and our spiritual lives…and that inner change will also bring outer change. God is in the business of transforming us, literally from the inside out, from the center of our being out into our actions and lives. God writes the word on our hearts, and sends the Living Word into our midst to be the heart of the Body. This is a community covenant, not really an individual one (though we often understand it that way). It’s a covenant with the house of Israel, with the whole body. And it’s a covenant that levels the playing field in the community, too—from the least to the greatest, everyone is a beloved and forgiven child of God, which means everyone has something to offer. Since transformation is something God does in communities, not something we do to ourselves or by ourselves, that also means that just showing up doesn’t guarantee the inside out change God promises…but at the same time that not being in the community is a hindrance to God’s work. So we need to be here and also engage our minds and hearts, not just tune out when the music or the prayer isn’t our favorite. We need to show up and also truly share our lives with one another, not just put on a happy façade. We need to come together and also pray for each other and for our community. We need to be here in this building and also out in the world working and playing together in God’s mission. We need to be a part of the community with our physical bodies and also with all that other stuff that makes up who we are—our intellects, our experiences, our resources. Then we too might experience this transformation, this change from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, from lost to found, from being confined by the smallness of our vision to being freed for God’s vision. God is always at work in us as individuals and as the body of Christ and as a part of the world community God created and called good.
Some of you may recognize my sermon title as being part of the Transformers cartoon theme song. Just like The Transformers, we are definitely more than meets the eye. But even the Transformers show their true nature out in the world! So it’s also true that this change is one that carries over into both our private and public lives, into our public discourse and our relationships and our choices, into our homes and our workplaces and playgrounds. For no matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey, we are the people of God, children of the covenant, loved and made to love others.
May it be so.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Schoolhouse Beach--with smooth (and strangely velvety feeling) limestone gems rather than sand. So many of these have been taken from the beach that it's now illegal to remove them--and the fine if you're caught is $250 PER STONE. It was super pretty and the rocks were very tempting...but not $250/rock tempting.
we became "leafers" for just a few photos...because who wouldn't? We even climbed the 188 steps of the "mountain tower" for this one:
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Monday, October 04, 2010
Saturday, October 02, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Jeremiah 32.1-3a, 6-15
26 September 2010, Ordinary 26C
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was imprisoned in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had imprisoned him.
Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.
And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.
I have to confess that, in spite of my sermon title, I don’t know very much about investing. The things I know are, in no particular order: that it involves money, usually large amounts; that the purpose of investing is both to support a company and to make money for myself, preferably lots of money for myself; that we should work to invest responsibly with companies that we trust and that don’t engage in activity or policy we find horrible…and that for many people that last point is optional.
So I’m probably the last person who should be talking about the basics of investing—I need to take that class, not teach it! Except that I think our usual investment strategies and portfolios are missing something—something that Jeremiah might be able to help us out with.
Now I know, you’re all sitting out there thinking that Jeremiah, and especially this story, is even harder to understand than the finer points of finance. Between the hard-to-pronounce names and the fuzzy historical details, the significance of a story like this is easily lost on us. We can barely make out what just happened, let alone why it was an important enough story to be told 2600 years later.
Here’s what happened: Jeremiah was in prison for doing his job well—for speaking the word of God to the people in power. The Babylonian army was camped all around Jerusalem and was using all the surrounding villages and fields to feed the troops. Jeremiah’s cousin came and offered him the deal of a lifetime—to buy a piece of prime real estate smack in the middle of the siege, a piece of real estate conveniently located under the tents and weapons of the Babylonian army. And Jeremiah, never one to pass up a good opportunity for symbolic action and metaphor, paid his cousin actual money for this piece of worthless land.
This is not unlike a Palestinian farmer buying a piece of land from his neighbor—a piece of land that just happens to be located under an Israeli settlement.
Or, if we leave the land part of the story behind for a moment, it’s a little like a conservation worker trying to save the pandas, even though the numbers don’t look good and the bamboo forests are being cut down and the people are moving further and further into the panda habitat.
Or like the architects who designed, and the patrons who financed, and the laborers who built, those cathedrals in Europe—cathedrals that took an average of 150 years—three lifetimes, or 4-5 generations of workers—to build.
The thing all of these people have in common is a vision—a vision of a future that others can’t always see, a vision for life in all its fullness, a vision of the kingdom of God. And they have invested themselves—their time, their imagination, their money, their energy—in that vision.
Just a few chapters ago, God reminded Jeremiah that God has a vision for the people—a vision for a future of hope. But if we really believe this—if we really believe that God keeps promises, that the promise is for a future of hope, that Christ came that we might have life in all its fullness, that the Spirit moves among us bringing life and light and hope, that God is widening the circle of grace even more than we can imagine, or (to use the words of the song we just sang a few minutes ago), “In you, O Lord, I put my trust” / “My hope is in no other save in Thee”…why aren’t we investing too? We’ve even been given investment guidelines: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our mind, and all our strength—in other words, with everything we are, everything we have, everything we do. This is an all-or-nothing investment strategy, one in which we put God, not ourselves, at the top of our portfolio list. We invest in God’s future of hope, not in securing our own futures. And Jeremiah shows us what that looks like—we put our money where we say our faith is. If we believe that God has a future of hope in store, that houses and fields and vineyards will again be bought, that occupying armies will leave and peace and justice will one day rule, that abundant life is possible and even desirable for every part of God’s creation…if we believe that God’s covenant is for real and we are a part of it, then it’s time to invest. It’s time to spend our money, our time, our reputations, our energy, our creativity, our resources, all our capital, on showing that we believe these things to be true. Because without investment, businesses don’t grow—and in this sense the kingdom of God is a little like a business. When we pray “your kingdom come” that must mean that we want it, so it’s time to back the words up with actions and resources.
Now, unlike most of our investments, the purpose of this one isn’t to improve our own lot in life, to ensure our own security, or make ourselves wealthy. We may not even see the returns on this investment. Like the architect who never saw his cathedral realized in his lifetime, we are people who invest in something that may be a ways down the road. Jeremiah told the scribe to put the deeds in earthenware jars so they might last a long time—and Jeremiah never saw that field in his lifetime. The Palestinian farmer who holds onto the deeds for his land on the other side of the separation barrier may never see his fields or olive trees again, but he has hope. The conservationists may never see the day pandas are successfully reintroduced in the wild, but they work in hope. The patrons and architects and laborers may never see their sanctuary, their refuge, their symbol of God’s presence finished, but they know it will be important for others they’ll never meet. But, as Oscar Romero points out, we are workers, not master builders, so we may never see the end results. We are prophets, and investors, in a future not our own—God’s future of hope.
May we be faithful workers, for the building up of God’s kingdom.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Our title comes from a quote popularly attributed to St. Augustine: "He who sings prays twice." A little Googling, however, indicates that Augustine didn't say exactly that. In fact, what he said just doesn't fit well onto a t-shirt. So we'll stick with what we have.
"Singing reduces stress and increases healthy breathing and emotional expression. Singing taps into a deep, age-old power available to all of us. When we find our voice, we find ourselves. Today, sing like you mean it." And let's talk about the role music plays in your life and worship.
1) Do you like to sing/listen to others sing? In worship, or on your own (or not at all?)
2) Did you grow up with music in worship, or come to it later in life? Tell us about it, and how that has changed in your experience.
Since I didn't grow up in the church, no...I didn't grow up with music in worship. However, I did grow up a Camp Fire Girl, and we had our own rituals that included plenty of music...and my mom was a Camp Fire Girl before me and sang all the time...and we had plenty of music in my house! And some of those Camp Fire Girl songs still make appearances every now and then...
3) Some people find worship incomplete without music; others would just as soon not have it. Where do you fall?
I believe music is required...for me. I also believe worship isn't about me. So while "Sing to the Lord a new song" is one of the most important commandments, in my opinion, I also work really hard on at least wondering what my neighbor in the pew might need to worship more fully...so a range of worship experience, style, etc is important.
4) Do you prefer traditional music in worship, or contemporary? That can mean many different things!
Okay, so I used to be THE BIGGEST FAN of traditional worship (old hymns, organ, brass, professional level choir, nothing else) and THE BIGGEST HATER of "contemporary" worship. BUT...I have come to believe that a) all worship is contemporary and traditional in its own ways, and b) we have painted "contemporary worship" with this praise-chorus-brush that is not always true. I think we often think of contemporary worship the same way that the unchurched world thinks of Christians...we've been painted with the Religious-Right-Conservative-Politics-Megachurch brush which is not at all the way most Christians are. The same is true of contemporary worship music--it is not all the way we have stereotyped it (some is, it's true, but some Christians are like the stereotype too).
5) What's your go-to music ... when you need solace or want to express joy? A video/recording will garner bonus points!
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Thursday, September 02, 2010
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
29 August 2010, Ordinary 22C (off lectionary)
Jesus said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’
And again he said, ‘To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’
Have you ever noticed that Jesus is like the king of the one-liner? “love one another as I have loved you,” “the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed,” blessed are the cheesemakers…”…well, okay, peacemakers, but still…Jesus is good at the one-line sayings—he packs more into one sentence than most of the scholars who try to explain them can say in whole books, and certainly more than I can say in a whole sermon!
Perhaps this is also a case of the form illustrating the content—a one-liner, just a little sentence, whose meaning expands until it’s illuminated our understanding, our faith, our life as people of God’s kingdom…like the tiny mustard seed that grows into a huge plant, a weed really, an invasive species that takes over the whole garden. Or like tiny grains of yeast that lead to bowls of dough rising to overflowing.
My mother loved to cook and bake. I remember watching as she mixed yeast and slightly warm water, I remember watching it fizz and then seeing it disappear into the bowl of other ingredients…and then the whole bowl disappearing under a towel. A while later, like magic, it would have doubled or tripled in size…and sometimes, depending on what she was making, this would even happen in two shifts. In between there was the punch-down-let-the-air-out move and some kneading…and in the end we would have a huge loaf of something very yummy, or we’d have bagels, or a braid of bread. Whatever it was, it always seemed so mysterious how it worked. I knew that yeast was some kind of living thing, and that it grew and it involved air..and that’s about it. And actually, now that I think about it, all these years later that’s pretty much still all I understand about how yeast works, but I can see now the beauty of Jesus’ one-liner too—the kingdom is stealthy but kind of fizzy, it works it’s way out into the world, it’s full of the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, it’s tasty…
What’s so interesting is that generally in the Bible, the holy things and holy days require unleavened bread—yeast was corrupt and unholy and impure and inappropriate for holy places and holy days and holy worship. Yet Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like yeast mixed into flour…as one of the scholars from our Saving Jesus class last year said, “until all of it was corrupted.” (Bernard Brandon Scott)
It’s hard to imagine this kind of parable—the kingdom of God is like yeast that was mixed in until all the flour was corrupted, until all of it was impure. Corruption has no place in the Kingdom of God, right? The kingdom is about purity and holiness, so unholy things don’t belong in the kingdom, so where did Jesus come up with this one? And come to think of it, why on earth would anybody plant an invasive species of weed in their garden anyway? Mustard is even worse than strawberries gone wild—it just grows and grows and chokes out other plants and takes over the whole space, not to mention looking kind of unruly!
For an idea about what Jesus could be talking about, I looked back at the story right before this one, right before the “therefore” at the beginning of today’s sayings. It’s the story from last week of the woman that Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and the leader of the synagogue who was so angry about Jesus “working” on God’s holy day. The people in power, the people who depended on things being done they way they had always been done, the people who needed for others to stay in their place, were upset that Jesus healed a woman when it should have been against the rules…a little bit of unruliness in a system that depended on dotting every I and crossing every T.
Could it be that the kingdom of God, in its mysterious workings, looks, feels, and even tastes like “corruption” of the values of the status quo, the values of the world’s power structure? That healing, speaking truth, sharing love would be unruly and unholy according to the rules?
Could it be that grace, like yeast and weeds, keeps growing, wider and wider, pushing the boundaries of the bowls and the garden plots, taking over…leaving no room for hate, no room for injustice, no room for self-righteousness and self-serving systems?
Could it be that we are called to be the yeast of the kingdom in the midst of the world…fizzing and working gently and mysteriously to make room for Holy Spirit to move and blow where she will, widening the circle of grace until the Love of God has taken over the world…could that be what “your kingdom come” means?
If these things could be…then what does it mean for us to be the yeast of the kingdom? What does it mean to be the agent of corruption of this world’s power systems and values, to be the ones who work to change the world from the inside out?
One thing is for certain—yeast doesn’t do anything if it stays sealed up in its little package. Yeast works by being activated by water and air and then by being mixed in to other ingredients.
I know you can already hear where that metaphor is going, right?
If we’re yeast, we must be activated for service by our baptism—by water and the breath of the Holy Spirit…and then we’re sent out into the world to do the work of the kingdom wherever we are. We’re not only the church, the Body of Christ, the people of God, the yeast of the kingdom when we’re gathered together but also when we’re out in the world. We’re participating in God’s mission when we are at work, when we are at play, and when we are at home. Each of our jobs is a ministry in some way, each of our relationships is a place for the Spirit to move, each of our actions is a chance for grace, love, and peace to overtake the values of gain, power, and violence.
Jesus is good at the one-liner, but none of these are throwaway lines. Even the smallest sentence, the smallest seed, the smallest grain of yeast, the smallest action, the smallest person, the smallest change, can work to change the world into the kingdom of God.
May it be so.