The kingdom Of Heaven Is Like 7-16-17

In this sermon, I explore Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. Jesus shares the parable of the sower, although I focus more heavily on why Jesus used parables in the first place.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/the-kingdom-of-heaven-is-like-7-16-17

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

As we all walked into the church this morning, through the entry way and the narthex and here into the sanctuary…all we have to do is look and see the various decorations to know that something special was happening this week…More than 50 children were on hand Monday through Thursday to hear about Jesus in our annual Vacation Bible School.

Now VBS week is, admittedly, one of my favorite weeks of the year. It is fun and wild and crazy…and the church is filled with an energy that just cannot be matched at any other time throughout the year. The joy and craziness of so many of our young people, both from our congregation as well as those from the community gathering together to learn about Jesus creates a feeling and an energy in the church that can only be described as wonderful.

Now in addition to witnessing this amazing joyful energy…there’s something else that I experienced this week as well…HOLY…NOISE. Those kiddos are loud…and now I don’t mean that in a bad way…far from it…but there were many times as I sat in my office, picking away at various thing, that I was utterly distracted by the sound of singing and shouting and clapping and laughter, all of it mixed up together and seeming to originate from every single corner of the church building.

And if there was one lesson that I kept learning over and over again…its that when it comes to VBS, the joyfully loud voices of children will not be ignored. (pause) But again, I’m not complaining at all, because its wonderful…and one of the coolest moments that I got to be a part of this week happened when a couple of the high school helpers popped into my office and asked “Hey Pastor, can you come downstairs and explain the Holy Trinity?”

Apparently one of the groups had gotten on the subject of the Trinity, and they were having some trouble wrapping their heads around how we have a 3 in 1 God…and so I went downstairs and tried, to the best of my ability to explain this crazy concept that we express…but that perhaps every single one of us struggles to really understand. I told them…well it’s a mystery…and we don’t really get it…but 1 God, 3 persons is like this… (pause)

Now I won’t go into the explanation that I offered the kids on the trinity…but in thinking about that moment I realized two things…the first thing is just how hard it is to really understand that whole thing and how we really only scratch the surface…and the second…is how I kind of ended up using a parable to help them gain a little bit of understanding.

And that put me in mind of the gospel for today…a pretty well-known parable of the sower who tosses seed all over the place on many different types of soil…and that each spot had very different results. But here’s the thing…I actually think that parable stands pretty well on its own without a whole lot of explanation…and as we’re going to having parables featured in our gospel texts for the next couple of weeks as well…I really zeroed in on a tiny bit of the narration that opens up this passage. (pause) We hear that Jesus…told the crowds “many things in parables.” And as I thought about the fact that Jesus really does use parables a lot through the different gospels, I started asking myself another question…and then I happened to glance at the first verse that we skipped over today…and I discovered that the disciples were wondering the very…same…thing. (pause) Jesus…why do you speak to them in parables?

Now those of you who are familiar know that preaching on parables isn’t really my favorite thing to do….and I’ve often pondered on just why that is…and perhaps the best reason that I can come up with is that parables really don’t need to be interpreted do they? Think about what a parable is…it’s a story, intended to make a point…a story that is intended to reveal some sort of insight or truth about a different subject…it’s a metaphor isn’t it…and in fact that word parable…or parabaley in the Greek literally means to put along side.

And that’s exactly what Jesus does…the kingdom of heaven…big right…hard to put our fingers on…hard to straighten out in our heads…confusing even…so Jesus places it alongside something that’s more familiar to those that hear…

In today’s example…the kingdom is like seed landing on different types of soil…its gonna grow in some spots…its not gonna fair so well in other spots…that’s the basic gist of this one…and its true right? Some hear the gospel and it grows…others hear it and it doesn’t. (pause)
But this is just one of the countless parables that Jesus shares isn’t it? And each one has a different purpose…a different message…a different truth that is revealed as we hear it…but there are as many ways to interpret any single parable as there are different people who hear it…and we’ve been hearing these same stories from Jesus for centuries haven’t we?

And as I think about all of this stuff…and I know I’ve said a lot different things already today…I wonder just why it often seems to be that parables, and not just that…but this whole kingdom of heaven thing is so difficult for us to put our fingers on. Why can’t we get there? Why does it stay so mysterious…hazy at best? (pause)

And the only thing that I can come up with, is that when we consider the kingdom of heaven and what it is…its simply too big for us…much like God, we can only scratch the surface and no matter how big or great or wonderful or deep or any other descriptor that we might try to use, its insufficient.

But you know what, that’s okay…because if Jesus’ many parables tell us anything, its that the kingdom is there, sometimes visible, sometimes in the background…whether we can put our fingers on it or not. And maybe we need to be okay with mystery. When I was trying to explain the Holy Trinity to the kids, I went into my default…that there are some mysteries that we just can’t nail down…but when we are talking about God, that’s probably not a bad thing.

But at the same time, the amazing thing about this God that we serve…this God who has claimed us as his own…this God who chose to take on flesh and live as one of us…this God who’s spirit is constantly at work…the amazing thing is the way that God can take a simple story and reveal amazing things to you…just by your hearing it.

I can’t tell you what you should hear…what truth you should recognize when you hear a parable. It would be really arrogant for me to ever think that I’ve got it all figured out…because the Spirit might reveal something to me, but something completely different to you…and yet, both revelations…both glimpses into the truth of the kingdom are valid…that’s the amazing power of God’s spirit at work through story and experience and this amazing world that God has given us in the first place.

And so today, allow me to share a few parables…and allow the Spirit to reveal what it will as you hear them. (pause)
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who walks along a path…as he was walks he takes big deep breaths…and he encounters many different smells…first he walks by fragrant rose bushes and their pleasant aroma…but then he walks by a hog lot and the foul stench of the sewage pit…yet every breath that reveals an odor also gives him the air he needs to live. (pause)

The kingdom of heaven is like two little boys fighting over a basketball, who throw angry words at each other in one instant, and then give each other high fives in the next. (pause)

The kingdom of heaven is like the office supply salesman who calls, or emails, or stops by like clockwork, and yet always shows up when you’re not looking for him. (pause)

The kingdom of heaven is like having a meal with good friends…and you find that the joy of sitting at the table lasts way longer than the food. (pause)

Parables are funny…and they’re quirky, and sometimes confusing…but at the same time, there is great truth there. And so today, perhaps we just need to take a moment and realize that the truth that Jesus hopes to reveal to us is that the kingdom of heaven is here and in little ways here and in big way there, it will be revealed…and just like the lesson I learned during VBS this week…the kingdom of heaven is like the joyful loud voices of children. It will not be ignored. Amen.

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