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Pentecost VIII

Proper 12a

July 26, 2020

Genesis 29: 15-28

Psalm 105: 1-11, 45b

Romans 8: 26-39

Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52

Sermon: The Rev. Fr. Robert L. Hart

When I was first ordained I had the great good fortune to serve a parish in England.

It was my first curacy, or assistantship as a priest. Just as we always pray for the president, in the Church of England at every service the Queen is always prayed for. Those prayers are called the State Prayers. Imagine me, this young American, heir of the American Revolution, standing up and leading the prayer for Our Sovereign Lady Elizabeth in my distinctive American accent. It amazed me at first. I can’t imagine what the congregation thought.

Americans have no real experience of kings and queens, of monarchs. When we read in the Bible about God as King, about God’s reign or rule, we can’t really feel what the ancients knew from experience. Monarchs truly reign both in splendor and with power.

The same is true when Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. But for all his disciples’ experience of kings and emperors, they too must have been puzzled by what Jesus himself meant. And, make no mistake, the Kingdom was central to the message and ministry of Jesus.

So Jesus taught them in parables. We heard five of them this morning. The Kingdom of Heaven is:

1. Like a small seed that grows into a tree.

2. Like yeast that leavens bread.

3. Like a treasure hidden in a field that someone is willing to sell everything to buy that field and that treasure.

4. Like a pearl of great value, again so valuable one will sell everything to obtain it.

5. And last, like a net cast into the sea to catch fish.

After Jesus gives his disciples all these short examples, parables, Jesus asks, “Have you understood all this?” The disciples answer, “Yes!” I’ll bet they didn’t understand one bit, at least any more than we do at first hearing. That quick “Yes!” is too much like the teacher’s pet on the first row of the class who gives an enthusiastic “yes” to everything the teacher says. 

Nonetheless, the Kingdom of Heaven is central to who Jesus is and what he taught and did. We come to awareness of the Kingdom by faith for the Kingdom of Heaven is both a vision of who God is and a practice—something we are called to do and live out. 

The Kingdom is mysterious in its workings like a seed or yeast. 

The Kingdom is worth absolutely everything like the hidden treasure or the pearl of great price. 

The Kingdom encompasses everything and everyone like a net full of fish, some worth keeping and some not.

The Kingdom of Heaven is God’s force within human affairs, the affairs of this earth, this nation, this community, the parish church. That’s why we pray “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” And the promise of the Kingdom, God’s reign, is that people will finally realize divine justice and peace, God’s Shalom.

Ethically this means we are called put into practice what we see and know of God.   “Thy will be done,” we pray. We see God’s will, and so we strive to do God’s will—acts of mercy, compassion, love, forgiveness, and justice.

I know from what I see that Christ Church is committed to the work of the Kingdom. The faith of this congregation radiates the beauty, truth, and goodness of God.

In this time of transition within the parish and in our world, keep the Kingdom of Heaven first and foremost, make that hidden treasure and pearl of inestimable value the goal.  Keep your eyes on the prize.

The anxieties of our time and the concerns of being without a rector pale before the tree of the Kingdom filled with the birds of the air.  For the shelter of God’s Kingdom in Jesus Christ is peace, the abundance of mercy, and the fullness of love.