Recorded Service: (7/25/2020)
Well, this is a bit strange, preaching to a camera in an almost empty church. We’ll just add this on the very long list of everything else making this year quite strange. Still, I’m glad to have the illusion of seeing you all, being with you, my dear St. Mark’s family. You are all much missed.
Today we have this gospel which is chock full of parables. Jesus just rattles them off like buckshot, hoping one or the other will connect with his listeners:
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, or yeast, or hidden treasure, or a pearl, or a net thrown into the sea. Having thrown all these images out he asks his listeners, “Have you understood all of this?” And, incredibly, amazingly, they reply, “Yes.” I don’t believe them, do you? Quite recently these same folks were complaining to Jesus about his incomprehensible use of parables. But now they get it? OK.
You all know the mustard seed parable so let’s take a minute and chat about the yeast story. “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.” That’s it. End of story. Keep in mind that three measures of flour weighs about 50 pounds. That little bit of yeast leavened all that flour! But what point is Jesus making?
Both of these first two parables are about really tiny things that grow into really big things. Yeast is ridiculously small. I can attest to this. I recently grew my own sour dough starter (because that is what everyone did in month two of the shutdown). You just mix flour and water in a container, cover it with a kitchen towel and leave it sitting out for days. The invisible yeast floating around in my kitchen found its way through the towel, into the container and started growing and bubbling like mad. Using that starter, I’ve gotten very good at baking bread and gaining weight!
But back to Jesus: small things grow into big things. A small bit of faith can move mountains. Small actions can change the world. Each of our small lives can have significant impact on others. Or, here’s a creepy example: the COVID19 virus is so small as to be almost invisible. But this almost invisible virus has killed over 616,000 people worldwide. It has also massively changed our lives, possibly forever.
One more small thing that has a huge impact: most of the population wearing masks for just one month could make this horrific disease practically disappear. Our reader board currently says; “LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, WEAR A MASK.” Quite a simple fix. Quite a small thing.
These are scary, lonely times. I wonder how you are all doing. This time feels a lot like grieving to me, fear and worry coming in waves, interspersed with boredom and helplessness. My prayer life is different. I go outside at night and pray, asking God to please protect us, please save us, please help us help ourselves.
St. Paul writes: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Sighs too deep. That’s for sure.
These parables today tell us that God’s kingdom is in our midst, hidden in even the smallest things. We can be open to the subtle signs of God around us. We can use each of our own small lives to help bring about God’s kingdom to others. There seems to be little we can do lately but stay calm, keep others safe through our actions and pray.
Let us pray:
May we who are merely inconvenienced, remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who are healthy, remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home, remember those who must choose between staying alive and making rent.
May we who have to cancel our travel, remember those with no place to go.
May we who may lose a little money, remember those who have no money.
May we who quarantine at home, remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country, let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot hug each other, let us find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.
Through Jesus Christ, whose arms of love embrace us all, Amen.