8 Pentecost/Proper 12/Ordinary 17 Year A July 30, 2017
Luther Memorial Church Seattle, WA
Baptism of Daniel Nelson Sarff
Welcome of Vicar Laura Ferree
The Rev. Julie Hutson
1 Kings 3: 5-12 + Romans 8: 26-39 + Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52
Grace and peace to you from God who creates us, Jesus who redeems us, and the Holy Spirit, who intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Amen.
How many of us have ever played the game Truth or Dare? Briefly put, it involves someone asking a question and you either have to answer with the truth or follow through with a dare issued to you by another participant. We’re going to do a sort of version of that game this morning.
Ready? In spite of the new laws, how many of us have held our cell phones while in our cars since last Sunday? Ok. We need to stop doing that. I dare you.
Did I mention that the questions in Truth or Dare are supposed to get trickier as you go along? More awkward. More likely to make you take that dare?
How many of us are primarily here for the salmon dinner? No, no…don’t answer that.
Final question…how many of us, if God appeared to us in a dream and asked “What should I give you?” would answer….um….I’ll go with a wise and discerning mind?
In the first reading this morning, Solomon answers this question from God in just that way. In fairness, Solomon leads up to the request with a re-cap of what God has done in Solomon’s life up to this point. Because suddenly, Solomon finds that he is king instead of his father, David. He describes himself as a little child, which in antiquity was more of a descriptor of someone’s level of understanding rather than their age. Nonetheless, Solomon is king to a great number of people and he discerns that what he actually does need is an understanding mind to govern those people with fairness and equity.
I imagine if God asked Vicar Laura what God might give her as she begins her time with us, she might ask God for something similar to wisdom and discernment. After all, she’s come to internship, as every candidate for rostered ministry does, from the seminary, where she has learned complex theological concepts and she’s had to think hard. Seminarians have to do coursework and write essays to candidacy committees that prove they understand complex subjects like the Trinity and salvation and justification. This is well and good. We want our pastors to understand these things. And now, here you are, Vicar Laura, where you will learn to put them into practice. And you will also learn to set up tables and chairs and did I mention there’s photographic evidence that at least one of our previous interns learned to unplug a toilet on internship? Perhaps praying for wisdom and discernment is a good model for us all.
Because the reality is, as God goes on to note to Solomon, that our natural instinct is to pray for long life or riches or that our enemies would be smited (the Psalmists prayed for that a lot!) But wisdom and discernment would actually go a much longer way.
We can call on wisdom and discernment in all that we do day to day. In relationships. In the choices we make. In the way we treat friend and stranger. In parenting. Parenting is a big one. Wisdom in parenting is the parent standing between two battling, tired, screaming children and asking God for a dose of wisdom to deal with them and patience as well. Wisdom in relationships is knowing that listening is more productive than talking and that hearing another’s point of view goes a long way toward mutual understanding. Wisdom in the way we treat a stranger is looking at the person begging on the street directly in the eye, and smiling, because no matter what else is going on, they are children of God. They are our siblings in Christ.
What, then of wisdom in living as disciples of Christ? Because very soon we are all going to make promises to sweet baby Danny about being a community of love and support. And then we are going to renounce all that is in the world that is evil and not of God. And then we will pro-nounce what we DO believe, using the ancient words of those who have gone before us.
Still, what does it mean to live as disciples, to live, as Jesus described it, in the kingdom of heaven? The kingdom of heaven is not some place we go to when we die. The kingdom of heaven Jesus is talking about is all around us, or as he says elsewhere…at hand. Right here. Right now.
When Jesus was teaching the crowds about the Kingdom of heaven, he chose to use similies….descriptions involving the word “like”. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed or like yeast or like treasure or like a merchant in search of fine pearls. The kingdom of heaven is like a fishing net or a scribe. Here, in this section of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus deviates from his usual fish and farm parables of faith and offers up this rapid fire set of examples. Jesus knew his audience. He knew they needed lots of different, relatable illustrations to even begin to understand what the Kingdom of heaven is like.
But how many of us plant mustard seeds or go treasure hunting or catch fish in a net? We need to work a little harder on our kingdom illustrations.
So, let’s think about this for a moment. The Kingdom of heaven is like a baby….much longed for and more work than we had anticipated.
The Kingdom of heaven is like Mount Rainier…sometimes it is entirely hidden by the clouds and sometimes we only catch a partial glimpse of it and sometimes it is just OUT THERE in all of it’s glory!
The kingdom of heaven is like musicians….some sing high and some sing low or they play different instruments, but in the end, they all make music.
The kingdom of heaven is like a community of faith trying to follow Jesus together. Sometimes we do alright, and there is growth in discipleship and in servant living and sometimes we bump into what looks like a dead end. But we love each other with God’s love every step of the way.
King Solomon was the last king to reign over a united kingdom, both Judah and Israel. Most scholars believe that we have this accounting, not as history, but as a record of how leaders lead and communities live during times of trauma and exile.
Make no mistake about it, following God, even wisely following God, is not without hardship. Being a disciple of Jesus, living in the Kingdom of heaven, is not without peril. Jesus did not say, follow me and all will be well. Jesus said, take up your cross. Then follow.
But we were not left to this work alone. When the going gets particularly rough…when our internship supervisor is unreasonable or when those we love are hurt or when we cannot mend a relationship or when the plans we had made did not turn out as we’d hoped….sometimes it is hard to talk to or listen to God. Sometimes we are barely on speaking terms with God.
But the Spirit….oh she intercedes for us. She steps in and wraps herself around us and says, I’ve got this one. Your words have failed, but God still understands. God is there in the midst of every heartache and every pain and every struggle and every joy and every celebration. And nothing, nothing…not death, life, angels, rulers, things that are happening now or that will happen, height, depth….nothing….separates us…..all of us…..from that love of God in Christ Jesus.
That is the Good news for this and every day. Thanks be to God, and let the church say…Amen.