St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Pentecost 7 2014 Sermon
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Rev. Joyce Avery

This sermon comes from Sunday Sermons, by Voicing Publications, from Summer 1993.
 
“The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.”
 
The Apostle Paul has summarized our final destiny in the one word: “heirs”.  “The fact that you are a son or daughter makes you an heir”, he said.  Because we are children of God, we are destined from all eternity to share in our Father’s estate.  Because we are children of God, we are destined to share in our Father’s Kingdom.
 
By God’s design, the building of the Kingdom is a family affair.  “The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you,” Jesus said.  And in today’s Gospel reading, he says, “The Kingdom of God..is like a mustard seed which when sown upon the ground is the smallest of all the seeds on Earth; yet when it is sown it grows and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”  And, “The Kingdom of God is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened.”
 
By God’s design, the mustard seed and the leaven 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 and heirs.  By God’s design, his Kingdom will come when the community of man comes to regard the title “Children of God” as seriously as life itself: as a profound expression of life’s destiny; as something to be lived up to.  The Kingdom will come, Jesus tells us, when we have learned to “love one another as he loves us.”  That, by God’s design, is our means of living up to the name we bear as members of this worshipping community: Christians!  That is our destiny, by God’s design, now and in all our days to come.
 
The truly marvelous thing about Jesus’ new commandment of love is that the newness never wears off.  A new and unique power to love is breathed in the heart and soul of every human creature of God.  Each human act of compassion, each act of understanding, each act of healing, each act of forgiveness, is a new and unique revelation of what love is all about—and, therefore, what God and fulfillment and eternal happiness are all about.  We can say that “we live in the Divinely created school of learning how to love” and thereby sum up God’s whole purpose in creating.  The school is as old as the human condition itself, but the curriculum is never “old hat”.  There are no limits to the diverse ways in which we can draw closer to the Divine through the experience of love.  The New Commandment of love is eternally new.  And Jesus wants us to understand that, in expressing our love for our Father, God.  But merely to know this does not complete the lesson.  To understand love, one must experience love.
 
“The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed… It is the smallest of all the seeds but it is the biggest shrub of all.”   Jesus’ “Parable of the Mustard Seed” beautifully and profoundly comes to life in the person of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  She speaks of her mission to people who have been tossed aside and left to die in filth and degradation in these words—“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean.  But if that drop were not in the ocean, I think the ocean would be less.  I do not agree with the big way of doing things.  To us what matters is an individual.  To get to love that person we must come in close contact with him.  If we wait till we get the numbers, then we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person.  I believe in person-to-person: every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, that person is the one person in the world at that moment.”
 
“The Kingdom of God is like a leaven, which a woman took and mixed in three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.”  How to be a leaven in society?  What to do?  The late Thomas Merton once wrote that he tried to develop his own lifestyle based on the best answer he could give to the question, “What’s best for the folks around me?”  Surely that profoundly beautiful response to Jesus’ New Commandment of Love would enrich all our lives.  More specifically, why not try to develop our lifestyle based on the best answer we can give to this question: “What’s best for the children?”
 
There’s a wide-eyed little fellow
Who believes you’re always right.
 
And his ears are always open
And he watches day and night.
 
You are setting an example
Every day in all you do.
 
For the little boy is waiting
To grow up and be like you.
 
That is the last stanza of a little poem which inspirational author Og Mandino pasted under a small photo of his son, Matt, right after he was born.  Years later, Mandino wrote of what he termed “the terrible agony of helping his son pack his things, standing outside the door with the boy’s mother and waving to him as he drove off to begin his own life in an Arizona State University dormitory.  Mandino said that after his son had gone, he walked down the hall and sat in the dark, in the boy’s room.  “I prayed,” he said, “that my wife, Bette, and I had provided Matt, and our oldest son, Dana, with the guidance they would need to deal with the many adversities of life they were certain to face. 
 
A short time later, that father went on a promotional tour for one of his books (which usually sell in the millions).   It went well, until…I found myself doing a morning talk show on a Los Angeles radio station.  The other guest with me on this live show was a very famous woman novelist who shall remain nameless.  Somehow, the discussion had drifted around to our families, and especially our children.  The lady novelist quickly seized command of the microphone and bagan a long and nasty tirade against her two teenage boys.  She admitted that she couldn’t handle them, their father was no help because he was never home, and thes kids were driving her “bonkers.”  They were never on time for meals.  Their rooms were always a mess, and they both played their stereo set so loud, with different stations.  Of course, the noise was also driving her “bonkers.”  After hearing that ugly word “bonkers” perhaps a dozen times while this celebrated author put down her children before a rather large listening audience, I finally lost my cool and interrupted.  “You know,” I said, “The day is going to come when you’re going to walk past two very empty and quiet rooms—and then you’re going to ask yourself, ‘Where did they go?’  Why don’t you go home right after this show, hug your boys, and just tell them you love them.”
 
We gather together here as a People of God, Children of God—all of us.  Suppose that, somehow we all suddenly came to the conclusion that God our Father doesn’t love us, that he’s too busy to be bothered with us except to constantly remind us of our misdeeds, that our heavenly Father didn’t even consider the question, “What’s best for the children?”  In his Plan of Creation, would our self-esteem go down?  Would our sense of worthwhileness hit bottom?  Would our spirits sag?  Would our security vanish?  Would our faith be diminished?  Would our hope be shattered?  Would our lives be in shambles?  You bet they would!
 
Try to develop a lifestyle based on the best answer YOU can give to the question, “What’s best for the children?” and you will find yourself on the very threshold of the Kingdom of God.  Remember always: what’s good for the children is good for you!
 
We are not far from the reign of God.  What have Jesus’ word for that.  But to cross over the threshold, to venture into the kingdom itself, we must live out the dictates of the New Commandment of Love.  We have Jesus’ word for that too.  We are not far from the reign of God!  We know the way!  The door is open!  Jesus is waiting!  Amen!


 
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