A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Extraordinary Kingdom, Ordinary Stories: A Lectionary Reflection on Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

The proclamation of the Word depends, not only upon the preacher, but upon the hearer. There will be those who will reject the truth being proclaimed no matter how poetic the preacher and how convincing the argument. Others will receive the word gladly, only to allow the cares and frustrations of daily life to choke off the excitement.

Jesus comes proclaiming his Kingdom. The preacher and the message are the same. Yet throughout Matthew, people receive his Word differently. It is an explosive message he proclaims, which is why he speaks in parables. Just as one cannot look directly into the sun, so the proclamation of God's Kingdom must be given in a type of indirect speech, a kind of code language, a way of speaking about the things of God in a way that reflects the truth of the Kingdom, in the same way as one sees the sun be observing its rays shining on the grass and the trees. It is a radical message to those who believe that the Kingdom will come by violent power and might, and it is an extreme proclamation to persons who want to keep the Kingdom from coming. The former will reject Jesus' Kingdom message because of the way he says it is now breaking in; the latter because it threatens the status quo, the benefits of which they enjoy.

The Kingdom of God is surely here, but it does not come in the way the religious leaders and the masses expect. So, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom in ordinary ways with ordinary stories containing ordinary things. The Kingdom is like a growing seed, even a tiny mustard seed. It has been planted and now it grows right under the noses of the religious establishment, those who are supposed to know about Kingdom things. The disciples must pay attention to what is being said. The more they understand and the more they seek to understand, the more they will receive the benefits of the Kingdom. If they don't attend to the things that will deepen their faith, they will eventually lose what little they have. Grace is not an excuse to be lazy when it comes to discipleship.
The mysteries of God's Kingdom are the treasure that must be sought. It is more valuable than fame and fortune, even that one pearl of great price. That Kingdom will continue to move and grow with or without us. Jesus' call to all to repent in response to God's Kingdom come as an announcement and an invitation. It is an invitation to join Jesus' Kingdom movement, and it is also an announcement that the Kingdom has arrived and will not pause and wait. There is no time to waste. Those who reject God's Kingdom come in Jesus because it does not come in the way they want or expect will find themselves left remembering the invitation they missed because the announcement was not heeded.
The ends never justifies the means. It not only matters that God's Kingdom comes-- in what way it comes is also of great significance.

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