Saturday, July 26, 2014

7 Pentecost Yr A July 27 2014

Audio 7.27.2014

I am thankful for this season we call Ordinary; these Sundays after Pentecost, these summer Sundays. This is the green and growing time. I am thankful for this season, because when the grass turns brown, and a fire may start at the drop of a spark, I need to be reminded of this ordinary time of green and growth. It is the time when we read a book for the pure pleasure of reading a book. It is the time when we take a walk for the pure pleasure of walking; it is the time when we go to a concert for the pure pleasure of sitting in the park to listen. 

The parables we have before us today from the gospel of Matthew are like this, they are about things that are organic, things that are part and parcel of daily lives. They are also parables of growth. They are stories, albeit very short stories, that begin with “the kingdom of heaven is like”. And they are stories that give us a glimpse and point us to the inbreaking of God’s kingdom. 

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that is the smallest of seeds, but becomes a great tree.
The kingdom of God is like yeast that was mixed in with the flour until all was leavened. 
The kingdom of God is like treasure that is hidden, and when found, increases the finder’s joy. 
The kingdom of God is like a merchant who finds a pearl and sells all that he has to buy it.
The kingdom of God is like a net thrown into the sea and comes back full of fish.

These stories are mostly of ordinary things. Seeds, leaven, a net thrown into the sea. We don’t know much about the treasure or the pearl, just that they must have some value, because they seem to give joy to their owners. Ordinary things, like ordinary time, are occasions for growth; occasions for transformation; occasions for thanksgiving; occasions for blessing, because they point to and give us a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. 

Ordinary things point us to God; ordinary things show us the Kingdom. Kingdom language is rather churchy language. I wonder what you think of when you hear God's Kingdom? When I say God's Kingdom, when I refer to God's Kingdom, I mean that ordinary existence which God makes extraordinary. Because it is not in the extraordinary that God finds us. It is in the ordinary, it is in seeds, it is in bread, it is in fish, and it is in whatever our treasure is. The ordinary is fully capable of showing us the way to God. The ordinary is where you and I live most of the time. God's kingdom is when we, you and me, make the ordinary seeds, and bread, and fish, and treasure, be the extraordinary things that bring healing, and peace, and reconciliation into the real places in which we live. 

And yet, this is a message that runs counter to the message that our culture sends us. There is much pressure to live in the extraordinary, so much pressure to be extraordinary. Rick and I like to watch America's got talent. Sometimes those people really are talented. But I am saddened when someone is interviewed and tell us that if they are sent on to Radio City Music Hall it will change their life, it will make their career, it will make them no longer ordinary, but extraordinary. Somewhere along the line they have not heard and experienced the reality that they are loved by God just the way they are, you are loved just the way you are, that is what makes you extraordinary, you are loved absolutely and abundantly, whether or not you can balance on your head, or sing a song on key. 

The Television and Movie fare of which we may partake are filled with images of extraordinary. I like them probably more than most, Doctor Who, or Star Wars, but the portrayal of “kingdom coming” in stories like these are just that, fantasies’, they are nothing like what God has for us now or at the final kingdom come. 

God finds us in the ordinary. Ordinary points us to God. And sometimes God makes the ordinary extraordinary. Every time we gather together for common prayer, when we gather to hear God’s word, and when we gather to eat our meal together, God makes the ordinary extraordinary. We bring our ordinary broken and blessed lives to this table. We bring some ordinary bread made from ordinary wheat made into ordinary flour, which has been combined with yeast and kneaded by loving hands. We bring some ordinary wine made from ordinary grapes. 

And God makes all that ordinary into extraordinary. God takes our broken and blessed lives and fills us with love and compassion. God makes the bread and the wine into a new reality. God shows us that right here in our midst we are loved extraordinarily.

Ordinary may be common, but ordinary is not static. God changes the ordinary bread and wine into the extraordinary body and blood of Jesus, and God changes our ordinary lives into lives transformed by extraordinary love. 

Ordinary time is a time of growth even when it seems like growth is impossible. We know that growth comes only with care and pruning. Rick has been working hard in the garden this summer, aided by the wonderfully wet weather, the roses are growing, after having been pruned within an inch of their lives and then having been left on their own last summer. Oh, but we’ve had such glorious roses. The Kingdom is like roses that must be pruned before they show forth new life. 

The Kingdom of God is God breaking into our ordinary lives, making our lives extraordinary. We pray everyday for “your kingdom come.” I could be wrong, put what I am praying for is growth and change, what I pray is that in the ordinary of my life, God finds a place to build the kingdom. 

My life is pretty ordinary, a lot like yours. I rise in the morning, and greet my husband. I get some exercise by walking in Canyon Lake Park; I greet the others who are there regularly at that time of the day. At the same time I’m walking, I say my morning prayers. When I return home I get on with my day, eat breakfast, get washed and dressed, sometimes read the paper, and head off to work. 

My work is particularly meaningful to me. At the end of my work day, I go home, greet my husband, relax for a little while, make dinner, do dishes, read a little, maybe watch some television, go to bed, and repeat. It’s a good life, I’m a very lucky girl, like most of you. 

I do believe that I am about the business of kingdom building. I do believe that in the ordinariness of my life, God’s work is being done. I do believe in the conversations I have with others, those at the park in the morning, those with whom I have the privilege of spending my day, God’s kingdom is being built. 

I have a role in kingdom building. I participate in the work that God does each day, each moment. How do you participate in kingdom building? How do you bring God's justice, love, mercy, and compassion into your ordinary life?

The ordinary is made extraordinary. God breaks into our world by making bread into love, wine into compassion. The kingdom is built by you and by me, with God’s help. The kingdom of God is like taking a walk, washing dishes, hugging a friend and finding the treasure right there in front of you.
Thanks be to God. 

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