Mark 4: 26-34
Third Sunday After Pentecost
June 14, 2015
Mark 4: 30
The following notice appeared in the window of a coat store in Nottingham, England:
We have been established for over 100 years and have been pleasing and displeasing customers ever since. We have made money and lost money. We have had good payers and bad payers. We have been cussed and discussed, messed with, lied to, held up, robbed, and swindled. The only reason we survive in business is to see what happens next. It keeps us hoping. We're optimistic!
Who is an optimist? According to a popular comic of the day ...
An optimist is a man getting married at the age of 81 and looking for a house near a school!
An optimist is having three teenage sons and only one car!
An optimist is having three teenage daughters and only one telephone line!
An optimist is one who takes four pounds of steak, two pounds of charcoal, and one match to a picnic!
To which we might add ...
An optimist is one who has been captured by the Christian Faith.
An optimist is one who believes in Jesus' promise of ultimate fulfillment in His coming Kingdom.
As Paul expresses it, "Now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face" (1 Cor. 13:12). Properly regarded, as means, the things of this world are at our service. Wrongly regarded, as ends-in-themselves, the things of this world become our masters. One who confuses means with ends in this manner is, in Jesus' words, "the slave of sin" (Jn. 8:34).
Jesus tells us how to live by telling us what our lives are leading up to. He has provided us with the punch ending we need to know, in order to deal with the events that will occur along the way. Jesus' testimony unravels the mystery of the Kingdom: God's Kingdom is the Kingdom of Love. We are pearls beyond price because God has loved us first. For this reason -- because we know our true worth -- we love who we are: we love ourselves. And for the same reason -- because God has first loved every last human creature born into this world -- we love our neighbor as God has first loved him or her.
Jesus said to His Apostles, "The secret of the Kingdom of God has been given to you" (Mk. 4:11). Jesus gave Himself as living testimony to the truth. Because He gave of Himself totally in the supreme act of love, the mystery of the Kingdom of God is revealed. We, too, are born to testify to this truth. We begin by recognizing our own true worth as children of God. God, who loves me, counts me worthy to have been born for His Kingdom.
Do you recognize your brothers and sisters as objects of God's love? If, in truth, you can answer, "Yes! Yes!" you will know that you are giving yourself as living testimony to the truth. And you will be seen by your brothers and sisters as a sign of the Kingdom of Love.
We Christians pray the petition of hope which forms part of the Lord's Prayer: THY KINGDOM COME! Every time we offer this petition we affirm an underlying hope that is grounded in the very core of Being Itself, in the very Essence of God and His intentions for us.
The key word in this petition is the word "Kingdom," obviously. This word comes down to us from a Greek word which, for present day understanding, might be better translated somewhat differently. For many of us the word "Kingdom" is obsolete. We don't think very often in these political terms anymore. Yet it is of the greatest importance that we understand this word because it represents the subject that Jesus talked most about. This is the "Pearl of Great Price!" This is the one thing that is so important you will sell everything you have to possess it. This is the treasure hidden in the field! What does it mean? The word can be translated as the "Reign" (That's spelled R-E-I-G-N) or the "Rule" of God. Because God is God, He is in charge, He is reigning over the world. And because God is God, we never lose hope. Because God is God we know that nothing man can do, ever, will ultimately defeat God.
He will reign. His kingdom will come -- and that's our hope. He who can take the Cross of Jesus Christ and turn it into the resurrection, can take all of man's worst tragedies and turn them into victory if He must. And so, in a world of doom-and-gloom and hopelessness, we pray everyday with glowing, vibrant hope. Or, at least we should!
Unfortunately, the problem with most of us is that we don't really relinquish all of our hopes and dreams to the Rule of God until we are at the end of our resources. The rest of the time we try to have it our own way. We want to establish our own kingdom. We want to reign over our own lives. It isn't until we're really up against it that we acknowledge our hope in God's Rule with sincerity. Only then does Jesus' profound admonition against divided loyalties begin to sink into the deep levels of our consciousness: "No servant can serve two masters," Jesus warns us. "You cannot give yourself to God and money" (Luke 16:13). What that means is that God comes first in your life, period. Whenever we do anything or acquire anything or achieve anything outside the context of God's Rule, we are saying to God, in effect, "I hate Your Rule and I despise Your Rule. I have other resources to draw upon, other masters to serve."
Possessions, power, prestige -- whatever it is that we're willing to do, or acquire, or achieve outside the context of loving service to God is a substitute for God fashioned from our own resources. Jesus speaks to the inevitable consequence of such folly. Sooner or later we will come to the end of our resources and we won't be able to cope, and we may even become active members of the worldwide doom-and-gloom society.
A pastor in a large urban parish once did a Sunday evening TV series called "The Kingdom of God." On Monday mornings he would visit sick parishioners in the hospital. On one such visit he received an unusually enthusiastic greeting from a man who had been hospitalized for weeks. "You'll be glad to know that we all watched your program last night. There was only one TV available in the ward so we had to decide by majority vote what programs we would watch. During your time slot it came down to either 'The Kingdom of God' or 'Murder, She Wrote.' You won by one vote." Said the pastor later, "I thought to myself that when we can beat 'Murder, She Wrote' with the 'Kingdom of God,' we're on our way at last!"
By God's design, the building of the Kingdom is a family affair. In Jesus' words, "The Kingdom of God is among you ... The Kingdom of God is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through" (Lk. 17:21, Mt. 13:33). And in today's Gospel Lesson, He tells us that the Kingdom of God "is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade" (Mk. 4:31-32).
By God's design, the yeast and the mustard seed have been implanted in our hearts. By God's design, His Kingdom will come to the extent that it is developed and nurtured in the hearts of His children. By God's design, His Kingdom will come when the human community comes to regard the title, "Children of God," as a profound expression of life's ultimate destiny; as something to be lived and lived up to. By God's design, His Kingdom will come when His beloved children finally learn to love one another as He has loved them.
And to the extent that we design our own lives accordingly, we are on our way to the Kingdom of Love.