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    Jul 30, 2017

    Proper 12A, July 29-30, 2017, [Gospel: MT13: 31-33, 44-52]

    Preacher: The Rev. Joan Mason, Rector

    Series: Rector

    Category: Weekly Sermon

    Detail:

         If you and I were to have a conversation about what things are powerful and respected in this world, I don’t think we’d end up talking about a mustard seed, or a measure of yeast, or one pearl.  But in a Christian context, much is made of the small, the simple, and the weak.  You’ll remember the story where the rich young man is not commended for his wealth, but is told to sell all that he has.  Or the story where the scrupulous followers of the law are told that they are farther away from the kingdom than the tax collectors and sinners.  And remember the gift that Jesus admires comes not from a wealthy person, but from the widow who parts with her last penny.  In the kingdom of God, it is as if we are walking in a house of mirrors.  All our natural perceptions are distorted.  What we think of as large turns out to be small, and what we think of as small, turns out to be large.

         I think this is true in our lives.  For example, if we are fairly sure about a particular ability of ours – maybe an athletic ability, or a musical ability, or if we are good with words, or do good work with our hands, this may or may not be of much value to God. What might seem large to us (in our self-evaluation), may turn out to be a rather small feature when looked at in the fun-house-mirror of the Gospel.  On the other hand, our tentative hearts, our shyness and vulnerability, our unsteadiness in interpersonal relationships, may be just the qualities that God can use to spread some of God’s light.

         Leonard Cohen’s song called “Anthem” has the following words for a chorus: “Ring the bells that still can ring.  Forget your perfect offering.  There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”  As uncomfortable as it may make us, it’s those areas where we are a little broken, where we think we are weak, that may just be where God’s light can get in.  Our broken alleluias.

         With this in mind, we can listen again to St. Paul when he tells us today, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.”  Or when Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness”.

         Often, we may not even notice these broken areas in ourselves; but if we do, I suspect we’d try to hide them with a confident exterior.  Weakness is not valued in our society, and so we avoid it or hide it.  Yet possibly this is exactly where God is working in us and through us.

         Maybe it is not so strange to hear Jesus say that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which is so tiny; or that the kingdom of God is like a small bit of yeast, which dissolves into the middle of the loaf, loses its identity entirely, but still manages to make the bread rise.  Maybe it is not so unusual that the kingdom would be compared to something of incomparable value that was hidden in the field, or to a pearl hidden at the bottom of the sea.

         If we think about our goals and aspirations for ourselves or for our children, we often think big.  We want to write the great American novel. We want to be the next Martin Scorsese. (Scor-say’-z). We want to be as saintly as Mary, or as passionate as Dr. King.  But maybe it is more likely that God is preparing us for moments of simple acts of kindness, for spontaneous moments of solidarity in the midst of suffering.  I suspect there are virtues within us that are more the size of mustard seeds that God will be pleased to use; that the means that God has given us to convey God’s grace to others are below the surface, possibly buried deep within us.

         The readings for today are reminders for us to consider what is valued in God’s kingdom.  It’s the small, the insignificant, the weak, the forgotten, the simple, the last; it’s those who strive to serve, who offer of themselves even though it seems like it’s not enough, or even if we feel that we’re not good enough.  Value in God’s kingdom is like a house of mirrors – and can have us topsy-turvy.  God does not look for perfection like the world does; God looks for obedience.  God does not look for us to excel like the world does; God looks for a heart and mind willing to look beyond oneself to the suffering and the needs of others.

         Maybe the things that we do for God, the things that make us truly immortal, will not be the things we’d think to put on our spiritual resumes, and would hardly be considered by us as anything at all. 

         Instead the light of God shines through our brokenness and our cracks. Our broken alleluias.  What may seem small and simple to us, is mighty and powerful in God’s Kingdom.