the difference faith could make
june 14, 2009
So Jesus just goes around telling parables about the kingdom of God as if it were something that already exists if we had the eyes to see it, and something we already know about without actually knowing about it. Sure, we have heard of it. Jesus talks about the kingdom more than any other subject but the more we hear what it is the more we wonder what it is.
I really get this one about scattering seeds and not knowing what will happen to them. This is the truth about what we do in church. We scatter seeds, seeds of hope and wonder and faith and they take hold and they grow or they don't. Just because we want something, or hope something, or even do something, doesn't mean that anything will happen that we thought might happen if we just wanted it to or hoped it would or did what needed to be done to make it happen. And yet things are happening all the time and even though we don't always see how faith changes things, in fact faith changes things even that we cannot see. And sometimes what we cannot see is more real that what we can see. (That's in the Bible, you could look it up.) This is the beauty and wonder of the kingdom of God as that place where God's will is being done sometimes with us and sometimes without us and what this might mean for us if we think about it is that we can be a part of it but we don't have to carry the whole load of it. The kingdom of God will happen with us or without us but when we choose to keep scattering the seeds of faith and hope and love it isn't just about what will happen to the kingdom but what is happening to us for everything we do is not just about what results you get for doing it, it is also about just doing it because doing it changes us and it also changes the world even if we can't see it yet. This is faith. Faith is not something you know how to do before you do it, it is something you know how to do after you do it. The kingdom is built on faith, faith in love, faith in Christ, faith in the way of Christ who taught in parables because the truth is more than the sum total of the facts and if we are to know anything that maters we have to know more than 2+2=4, we have to know that the kingdom of god is like seeds scattered without knowing what will happen to them but with the faith that some of them will grow and give life to the world, or that the kingdom is like a mustard seed.
what I know about mustard seed is not much but what I do know is that a mustard seed is not much or it doesn't seem like much. it is very small and it has to be scattered too and sometimes it grows a mustard plant and sometimes it doesn't but when it does it becomes something much bigger than what it was when it so small it seem liked not much of anything at all and not only is it bigger but it is useful providing shelter and sustenance and all sorts of things like that that add to the quality of life not only of itself but of the life all around it and so it is that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It doesn't seem like much at first but when it takes hold and grows it becomes something bigger that provides life to other things that may not seem like much either but together we begin to see how life itself works and is meant to be with living things helping other living things to live and so the mysteries of Gods providence unfolds in the parables of Jesus.
Of course I can't be sure if this is how Jesus explained these two parables to his disciples in private but it could have been. Perhaps we learn more from the parables if we don't know how they were explained later. Learning is about wondering as much as it is about knowing I think because the more you wonder the more you will learn. The parables are meant to make us wonder I believe, to wonder about not only what the parable is saying or teaching but what that teaching makes us wonder about next and where it might take us.
One day Piglet was picking violets when he suddenly thought it would be nice to pick some violets for Eeyore. This is what happened:
'Oh Eeyore,' began Piglet a little nervously, because Eeyore was busy. Eeyore put out a paw and waved him away.
'Tomorrow', said Eeyore. 'Or the next day.'
Piglet came a little closer to see what it was. Eeyore had three sticks on the ground, and was looking at them. Two of the sticks were touching at one end, but not at the other, and the third stick was laid across them. Piglet thought that perhaps it was a trap of some kind.
'Oh, Eeyore.' he began again, 'just—'
'Is that little Piglet?' said Eeyore, still looking hard at his sticks.
'Yes, Eeyore and I—'
'Do you know what this is?'
'No,' said Piglet.
'It's an A.'
'Oh,' said Piglet.
'Not O, A,' said Eeyore severely.
And then he went on in so many words to explain the nature of education and knowing the difference between an O and an A and also pointing out quite unkindly what indeed Piglet and for that matter, Pooh, did not know.
It is curious to me that the first thing Piglet thought when he saw the sticks in the form of a letter A but didn't know what it was, was that it was a Trap of some kind. Some have thought of the parable as a trap of some kind but the parable is not concerned with whether or not you know the difference between an A or an O but whether or not you want to know more about A(s) and O(s) and what might become of you if you did. Neither is a parable concerned with what we don't know unless knowing what we don't know makes it possible to wonder and perhaps even know more.
And so it was that Jesus went around teaching in parables about the Kingdom of God so that one day we might take hold and grow and become what God created us to be. There are times we might have thought that we were not much but with faith and hope and much love we can become something bigger than not much and something useful and helpful that shares life with others and in so doing discover what our life is. The kingdom of God is as near to you as your next breath, as near as the beating of your heart, as near as your decision to love instead of hate, to give instead of take, to reach out instead of turn away.
With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? The kingdom of God is as if God loved you and sent you into the world with love to love the world and the world was loved.
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