Before the gospel, I gave each child a symbol of one of the parabes: mustard seeds, yeast, a pearl, a treasure chest and a fishing net. When they heard their item mentioned in the gospel reading, they brought it up and placed it on a table at the front.
May I speak in the name of the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Here in front of me we have five items: some mustard seeds, some yeast, a pearl, some treasure, and a fishing net. I wonder, is there anything they have in common?
Jesus uses all sorts of things to help people understand more about what the kingdom of heaven is like. None of them tells us what the kingdom of heaven is exactly. The God’s kingdom isn’t a mustard seed, or a pearl, or a fishing net. But each of them tells us something about what the kingdom of heaven is like.
And we need these ways of exploring, wondering, thinking more about what God’s kingdom is like, what God is like. Because the kingdom of heaven is beyond any words we might use to describe it, and so is God. That’s why stories, parables, are important to help us come closer to understanding that which is beyond words.
This brings us back to the start of our first reading: “The spirit helps us in our weakness”. God knows that we can’t understand everything about the kingdom of heaven. And so, just as the Holy Spirit prays through us with sighs too deep for words, so too the Spirit speaks to us beyond words in these parables Jesus told.
In the way he uses parables and stories and examples to reveal things about God and God’s kingdom, Jesus shows us that there are more ways to approach and understand God than just by the intellect. The parables are a starting point, and jumping off point for exploring and discovering more about what God is saying to us. And that often works better when we explore and wonder together.
I’d like us to explore one of these parables together this morning. Please could everybody take a mustard seed.
[mustard seed reflection]
? [silence – reflect on another object]
? [Taize – The kingdom of God is justice and peace]
So what can we say about the kingdom of heaven? Many things, perhaps. But one that I want to say is this: the kingdom of heaven is already here.
Some churches are fond of talking about “building the kingdom” but I don’t think that’s what we’re called to do. God has already built God’s kingdom, which is both now and not-yet, both here and to come.
“The kingdom of God is among you” Jesus tells the Pharisees, and it is among us too, if we will only have eyes to see. The kingdom of God is among us because God is with us and, as Paul reminds us in today’s first reading nothing – absolutely nothing – can separate any one of us from the infinite love of God, on which God’s kingdom is built.
Our task is simply to abide in God’s kingdom, to look for it amongst us, to seek it out and to point it out.
And parables help us with that. They help us to make sense of what we experience but cannot fully understand. These stories Jesus told become interwoven with our own stories, as we seek and see the kingdom of heaven here on earth.
When priests are ordained in the Church of England, the bishop reminds them that “they are to proclaim the word of the Lord and to watch for the signs of God’s new creation.” That task is shared by all of us. I wonder what signs of God’s kingdom you see? In your workplace, school, family, neighbourhood? What signs are there of the kingdom of heaven, God’s new creation, in this church? How is love shown, prayer answered, blessing given?
Watch for those signs, wait in expectation, and when you see them, be ready, be eager, to proclaim the coming of the kingdom.