Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17
Finally, the rain stopped, am I right? Seems like it hasn’t been that long but it was just Thursday when we had our last surprisingly hard rain. And the best part is that I don’t have to think about changing our front sign anymore…
I know, we’re living in the “Lower Rainland” so I should expect it to not always be sunny, but man alive is the sun ever welcome when it finally shows up. It’s like, my mood is better and I more easily look past things that would normally infuriate me. It’s like, the world is a happier place and I am more inclined to be friendlier with strangers. It’s like… it’s like…
Doesn’t that song just play in your head when the sun comes out? Well, if it didn’t before, it will now… at least for the rest of today.
But as good as summer makes me feel, and as much as I look forward to summer, sort of like how a talking snowman would, I was surprised to read that there currently is no scientific proof that summer or warmer weather does anything for the brain. There is no evidence so far that people who live in warmer climates are happier than those who don’t. There is actually no proven biological reason why our moods should be better in higher temperatures.
There have been studies, but nothing conclusive. There are theories, but nothing that led to any verifiable fact. And there are stories and testimonies that this is the case with many individuals, but it just seems like it isn’t true across the board. While a great many people feel better in warmer weather, there are also a great many people that don’t and actually prefer and work better in the colder months of the year.
I know, weird right?
But as strongly as I believe that summer is better for me, all the evidence tells me that it is actually just in my head. It is just my own idea that I should be feeling better in the summer so I just feel better. So it’s like a placebo effect, proving yet again how strong my mind can be in tricking myself to believe what I already believe.
And you know what? This isn’t unlike the kingdom of God. I’m not saying that the kingdom is always sunny or always happy, but I’m saying that God’s kingdom, God’s rule in the world, God’s influence and work in and through and all around us, changes us. It moves and wanders and breathes into us, and it opens our eyes to what is out there, the beauty all around creation, and the endless possibilities of life, joy, and community, even if there isn’t any conclusive evidence of it.
Jesus compares the kingdom of God to two different things today in our gospel reading. But before we go into that, maybe we need to talk real quick about parables. Namely, what is it?
Most would say it is like a fable, a story with a moral. Others will say it is an analogy. Yet others will say it is a riddle to help us figure out the bigger picture of what Jesus is talking about. And to all that I’d say yes! But also no.
Quite literally, a parable, a para balloo in Greek means “thrown beside” or “to throw beside”. So what Jesus does with his parables is that he throws God’s definition of something beside our definition of something. He takes what the world already knows to be true and parallels it with God’s truth. He shows us what is this and then what is that.
And sometimes we get it, but sometimes not so much. Not so much because sometimes we are, as a human race, very ingrained in our paradigms, in our worldviews, in how we already see things and understand them to be. We like to think that we have everything figured out so we don’t need to learn anything new. In fact, we want to tell others a thing or two, show them that we do actually know our stuff. Or at least, we can fake it really well so it looks like we know our stuff…
So in these parables, these worldviews that Jesus throws beside ours, they do change things up a bit. At least, they would in the time that Jesus told them. First Jesus talks about a farmer who farms his stuff. He doesn’t know why what he does works, but he just trusts and believes that it will work. And then one of the more popular parables Jesus talks about the elusive mustard seed, one of the smallest seeds on earth but then grows to be one of earth’s greatest shrubs.
At first glance you might be, yeah ok, but in digging a bit further you’ll see that these don’t seem to make any sense. I mean a farmer can’t just let the seed grow on its own, the farmer needs to work at it to grow. He needs to encourage that seed to be all seed and stuff, needs to properly water it in the dry middle eastern climate, and needs to fertilize the soil to ensure health. In other words, that farmer needs to take control.
And the mustard seed isn’t the smallest seed. It’s small, but it isn’t the smallest. Nor is it by any means a great shrub. It’s a shrub. A weed. An invasive plant that chokes out life. You don’t plant that stuff, you get rid of it. You pull it out of the ground. You blast it with some Round Up and hope it never comes back.
And yeah, Jesus says that is what the kingdom is like.
So we are left scratching our heads, because we are still relying on our understanding, our worldview, our paradigm as to how things are just supposed to happen. We are supposed to be in control. We are supposed to know things. We are supposed to say what is right and what is wrong, what is cool and what isn’t, what is beautiful and accepted and what we need to remove from society and our lives.
To that Jesus says no. For that Jesus changes our ideas of how things should be. Beside that Jesus throws in the truth of God, that the kingdom informs us of our faith, not being in control but recognising God’s control, and that there is beauty to be found all around us even in the ordinary, the regular, the mundane. The kingdom is not bound by our worldview, but the kingdom lives and breathes and changes us from within.
Just as how the summer months evoke in me a different mood, so the kingdom of God informs us of a different way of looking at life. As the warmer weather sparks in me more joy and patience, so the kingdom of God reveals to us the underlying joy of life and a grace that surpasses understanding. As I personally look forward to summer because of all that it brings, so the kingdom of God is something to look forward to as it bring us peace, love, and community.
See Jesus isn’t telling us how we can bring the kingdom to us and to others, or how to control the kingdom to do what we think is right or should be done, or putting the kingdom on such a high pedestal that we could never reach it. But Jesus is telling us that the kingdom is here, now. The kingdom will do and will be and will act as it shall, and we can just learn how to hop on for the ride. The kingdom isn’t just reachable, but it is present in all areas of life, granting all things majestic wonder as we see God working all around us.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” My friends, God’s kingdom, God’s rule, God’s influence and work is present in the here and now, informing us of our faith, empowering us in our love, and revealing to us the beauty that God so graciously gives all things, that we might embrace the blessing of God and learn to live in love and community with all people.
In this season after Pentecost may we see God working in the world as God’s kingdom, that we might see where God is moving and acting and maybe even hop on for the ride. Thanks be to God. Amen.