Sunday, June 14, 2015

“In the Least of These . . . the Kingdom of God” (Mark 4:26-35)

Jesus began with a simple parable to describe the Kingdom of God . . . the Kingdom of God is like a man scattering seed upon the ground . . . and, the seed grows.  It grows whether the man is awake or sleeping . . . it grows night and day . . . all by itself it grows.  The man does not understand . . . he does not understand how it grows, but it grows and provides food for his family and an income to support his family.  It is a mystery that the man cannot explain, but it happens.

The presence of the Kingdom of God is a mystery.

But, Jesus does not leave his explanation of the Kingdom of God to the mysteries of agriculture . . . no, he takes it a step further in order to explain it.  Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed—the smallest of seeds that can be planted in the ground.  Despite its diminutive size this tiny seed grows into the largest of plants . . . big enough for the birds of the air to build nests in it.

Apparently the Kingdom of God springs forth from the littlest things in life.

A while back my wife, Dana, bought a book for the family library . . . also known as the bathroom . . . written by Fred Rogers.  Fred, for those of you who may not know, was the star of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood on national public television for many, many years.  Though he was a children’s show host he was also an ordained Presbyterian minister . . . in other words, he was a deep thinker.  Dana bought this book for those times when folks had a little extra time in the library while they were taking care of business . . . something to pass the time away.  The title of the book was The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember.

I will have to admit . . . I have had plenty of time to peruse this little book and the “things to remember”.  One particular quote I want to share with you this morning.  Mister Rogers writes:
“I often think of what Will Durant wrote in The Story of Civilization: ‘Civilization is a stream with banks.  The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting, and doing things that historians usually record—while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry, whittle statutes.  The story of civilization is the story of what happens on the banks.’” 

And, so it is with the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God is what happens on the banks while everyone is looking at the big show . . . always has, always will.  The big show just distracts us from what is really important when it comes to our relationship with God . . . with our relationships with others . . . and, with the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God is always discovered and experienced in the “least of these”.  It is on the banks that the story takes place . . . that the Kingdom of God is lived.

Apologist C.S. Lewis wrote one of the classics of the Christian faith . . . The Screwtape Letters.  The book was written just prior to the Second World War.  It is a simple premise.  A young devil is given his first assignment on earth . . . he is to “convert” an individual over to Satan from the “Enemy”.  He is to use whatever he can to subvert the individual over to Jesus and his beliefs.   Being a young devil out on the field for the first time he decides that it might not be a bad idea to seek the advice from an older, more senior devil . . . in particular, his uncle.  His uncle is named Screwtape.  Thus the book is basically a book of correspondence between a junior devil and a senior devil.

Wormwood, the nephew, writes his uncle.  In one particular chapter of the book there are rumors of war . . . which the uncle affirms as something good.  It is a means of distracting the individual away from the “Enemy” . . . a way of getting him to think of other things than the life and teachings of Jesus.  It becomes a BIG distraction.  Focusing on war the individual does not have time to deal with God . . . to deal with others . . . to deal with the simplest things of life.  It is focusing on the stream while the story is really taking place on the banks.

Isn’t that what happens to us?

Isn’t that what happens to us when we get “hooked” by the latest news that we are watching on our televisions or hearing on the radio?  Isn’t that what is happening when we get snagged on the hottest post on our Facebook page?  Isn’t that what happens when we are constantly looking for the “big bang” while life is happening all around us?

We get caught up in the distraction.  We get lost on what is really important . . . our relationship with God and with one another.  We forget to follow in the footsteps of Jesus . . . we forget to live the teachings of our Lord and Savior.

And, yet . . . we all know.  It is in the “least of these” that the real action is taking place . . . that the Kingdom of God is being experienced.

If you were to take a moment to reflect upon your life’s journey . . . where is it that you have experienced the presence of God?  Where is it that you have stepped into the Kingdom of God?

I would suspect that for most of us—if not for all of us—that it is not in the “big show” of the world around us, but that it has been in the simpler and more innocent moments of our lives.  I cannot speak for anyone else . . . only for myself . . . but, it is in the simplest things that I have found myself the closest to God and to others.

I have found myself in the Kingdom of God . . . with a simple compliment spoken . . . with the hug from my granddaughter . . . in a tickle and giggle from a granddaughter . . . in a good book . . . in hug at the end of worship . . . in the soaring voices of the congregation singing . . . in a visit with another . . . in a singing bird . . . in a starry night . . . I have found the Kingdom of God . . . the presence of God . . . in those places where I least expected.  I have found God in the daily and ordinary of life.  It was not in the extravaganza of what the world tells me is important.  No, it has been in what is taking place on the banks.


Well, to be honest, I do not know.  It is a mystery to me . . . yet, it has been in the littlest of things that I have discovered the greatest thing . . . I have encountered the Kingdom of God.  When I consider the Kingdom of God . . . well, it continues to be more than I could ever imagine.  It is a mystery, but also the greatest of all gifts.

Jesus began the discussion with a simple parable.  It was a simple idea . . . a simple reality.  It could not be explained, but it was as real as the world around the disciples.  It was a mystery.  In the simplest of things . . . in relationships with God and others . . . the Kingdom of God is entered.  I know that we have all experienced it . . . and, true, it is hard to believe that the Kingdom of God is found . . . not in the grandest and most flamboyant of things, but in the “least of things”. 

May we all discover the Kingdom of God . . . not out there, but right here where we are . . . in the “least of things”.  Amen.

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