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"From the Pulpit" - July 30, 2023

"From the Pulpit" - reflections on the weekly texts from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church Vero Beach, FL

[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind;48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ.

I love these readings from Matthew this summer. The parables of Jesus. It's a break from the deep, theological law/gospel texts that we hear at other times throughout the church year. They're stories, references to simple things of our lives (seeds; yeast; etc.) that make us wonder what Heaven must be like. We'll continue next week, and for the next few weeks, with these parables of Jesus, in our gospel reading.

I underlined and bolded the references Jesus makes to compare what the kingdom of heaven is like. They come at you lightning fast, one right after the other, as he rattles off his imagery, trying to somehow convey what the kingdom of heaven must be like. After all, he should know, shouldn't he? I often wonder, though, if the crowds really, really understood what he was talking about, or they just said "yes", when asked if they did understand, just to get Jesus to shut up or move on to something they really could understand. I don't know. It kind of reminds me of someone saying yeah, yeah to someone who's lecturing to them about something, "I get it", just to get the speaker to move on. You know what I'm talking about.

Anyhow, the intent of Jesus in these parables, is to convey a heavenly, or divine message, with references to common, ordinary things. Things that people of the time would be familiar with - seeds for planting, yeast for baking, fishing references, and the like. What would some of today's images be if Jesus were around, I wonder. Screen devices; internet; social media; others? It would be interesting to try to think of some of Jesus' parables back then, using modern day imagery. Maybe it's worth trying it for fun.

The point is this. God - the kingdom of heaven, is found in the ordinary things, and places, and people of our ordinary, daily lives. My message for Sunday will be about my early experiences not just in my own church, but in some of the great cathedrals I have visited, and studied. I once thought that in those huge stone cathedrals, one could really, really experience the presence of the divine. With those high ceilings, rich artwork, massive organs and other musical instruments, one could experience the kind of "get down on your knees and meet Jesus' kind of religious experience. You know, the kind of experience that brings tears to your eyes, and you just wanting to shout, "Thank you, Jesus!" And they did, and do.

But as I have matured, and experienced my faith life in smaller, older congregations, and working with regular people just like you and me, I have come to find that the divine is also in the small, the ordinary, the regular stuff in our lives. Sitting at the bedsides of our homebound and shut in's. Holding the hands of family as their loved one dies in a hospital bed. Praying around the mother and father of stillborn twins. Distributing the Sacrament each week, looking at your faces as you say "Amen" as you receive Holy Communion. Touching the furrows of your hands. Celebrating baptisms, and most recently, yes, even a wedding in our church! All of these "regular" things in our lives are also where we get a sense of the divine, the holy.

You yourselves have experienced these kinds of things. In the checkout line at Publix. At your favorite fast food restaurants when someone offers to buy your meal. And other places. This is why I ask you each Sunday where you have felt the presence of the divine - the holy. Where have you experienced God this past week? And as we grow more comfortable sharing some of these, more and more of us will learn to do the same.

Truth is, God is all around us. The kingdom of heaven is not some place far off, in another time or another galaxy. But it's here. Right now. Living among us. And I think Jesus uses these parables to remind the crowd then to look around. Look in the simplest of things, people, or places. This is where you will get a sense for what the kingdom of heaven is like. Amen!

"Victory in Jesus"

"Thine is the Glory"

"Be Thou My Vision"

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