Sermons from Emmanuel: July 30, 2023
Sermons from Emmanuel Church, Dublin, New Hampshire: Sunday, July 23, 2023
Proper 12, Year A (RCL): The Very Rev. Gideon L. K. Pollach
Parables of the Kingdom
One of the joys of working on Long Island is that I have a large number of colleagues in our clergy group in our region who are rabbis. I love my rabbinical colleagues, we get along much better than my Episcopal Church colleagues. I don't really understand why that is.
But regardless, my rabbi colleagues and I share a great time always, and one of them has an incredible sense of humor. He is the Rabbi of the congregation Lev Ta’hor which is a small synagogue in Syosset.
Anyway, Rabbi Jay is his name. Jay, this week, posted on Facebook some teachings, he said, were some Jewish versions of Buddhist teachings.
I shared with some friends already, so you have to forgive me but these are Jewish versions of Buddhist teachings. Here's just a couple of them, since we heard so many great teachings from Jesus. Here's some Buddhist teachings.
“If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
“Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?
“Drink tea and nourish life; with the first sip, joy; with the second sip, satisfaction; with the third sip, peace; with the fourth, a Danish.
“There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that?”
Today we encounter another stack of profound parables from the teachings of Jesus. They follow a series of parables we have been enjoying for the past few weeks.
The Parables of Jesus use a traditional rabbinic form of teaching wherein two ideas are placed side by side in the form of an aphorism. Technically, they are extended similes and sometimes simile stories. The form was quite common in rabbinic teaching and points to teh Jewish roots of Jesus teaching practice.
As examples, Jesus used experiences and things that his hearers would know about: fish, pearls, fields, farmers, nets. In Jesus' teaching practice Jesus used parables regularly, but Jesus' parables were all about one thing: The kingdom of Heaven.
When I was a high school teacher, I used to challenge my students to creatively write new parables from their daily lives. Inviting them to think creatively about how Jesus might teach, if he were here among us now. This week, I have been writing parables about my life here in Dublin. Here are few. They are not very good, but they are kind of fun to create.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a porcupine in a raspberry field, it can eat all it wants, and still more raspberries will grow.”
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like looking for your golf ball in the woods upon going into the woods a golfer finds three balls for every one they lost.”
“The Kingdom of Heaven Is like getting undercharged at the Pearl Restaurant; when the diner draws attention to it, they receive a free dessert.”
I invite you, you know, over the next few days, to write your own parables and send them to me by email. I'll enjoy them back on Long Island.
Each parable is meant to tell us more and more about the idea that animated Jesus whole ministry: The Kingdom of Heaven.
To interpret the parables, we need a sense of who God is. We need to have an idea about God’s habits of life and then, having encountered the reality of God, or the idea of God, we are invited to interpet the parables in ways that give new life and meaning to our practice of faith, aour practice of patient endurance, while we await the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.
And we encounter that God most clearly and uniquely, in the person of Jesus. Jesus’ whole life and ministry were about the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God.
The kingdom of heaven is, however, a poor translation of the concept that Jesus was trying to explain. The Kingdom of Heaven evokes in our minds many allusions.
First, is the idea of heaven - which when we think about is often synonymous with the idea of a location - a place and a time that succeeds the course of ordinary life. For many of us we immediately think about heaven as the promised place and time of our resurrection. But for Jesus, it is not clear that he was talking about a place. A more accurate translation of what Jesus was talking about is: the reign of God. The reign of God is a season, not a place. It is the ultimate reality of the purpose of creation. All creation waits with eager longing for the reign of God. The time when God’s will is done on earth as it is already done in heaven. It is a time beyond time. It is a state of being to which the cosmos is purposed.
Jesus lived for the reign of God. Jesus taught about the reign of God. Jesus died to show the centrality of love and sacrifice and the depths of God’s love under the reign of God.
His fellowship pracitce anticipated life under reign of God. His healing practice exposed the reign of God’s right-making and healing power when confronted with illness and death.
His nature miracles anticipated the shared, healed life where all creation falls under the rule of God and finds harmonious balance.
Here’s another Dublin parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like an angry poodle in the rectory; the door is zealously guarded, but once inside he is the sweetest of all dogs who wants to do nothing more than protect the inhabitants. But, knock first.
The parables, whether O wrote them or Jeus, tell us that the Reign of God is precious, more precious than anything we could trade for it. The parables tell us that the Reign of God is Dynamic - its growing in us and through us and yet out of our site. The parables tell us that the Reign of God is hospitable - able to give shade to birds. Its inclusive - good fish and bad, weeds and wheat - all of it is welcome and comes in under the reign of God.
The reign of God, the rule of God, the kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of heaven is that reality for which the church longs for and anticipates in its acts of hospitality - evangelically welcoming all into its fellowship. It is the reality we anticipate in our fellowship where God is the reason we gather together, and care and love are the habits of our interactions.
The reign of God and its abundance are hidden in the eucharist, where a little bit of bread is shared and a little wine. And yet, they are vessels of God’s grace and presence that can transform our lives, like leaven in a loaf.
The reign of god is that reality for which we pray, turning our minds over to God and remembering all those who are in danger or those who have died and all those whom we commend into the reality of God’s kingdom now.
We pray for strength to live the transformative values of the reign of God in our lives outside of the church so that we may be slowly conformed to the patterns of love that God offers us. We pray that we can form our families and their lives into a reflection of the self-sacrificing love of God that nurtures us, forms us, and allows us to grow and thrive in the supportive company of siblings, parents, spouses, and friends.
We gather to pray for a greater sense of the presence of the Reign of God, even amid the complicated politics and economics of our present age.
Expanding the reign of God into life in this present age is the reason that churches like ours exist. We are embassies of the Kingdom of God. Embassies of the Kingdom of Heaven in which we, the citizens of that kingdom, gather for nourishment, refreshment, sanctuary, sanctification, and fellowship with one another, and communion with God.
These are the places in which we can declare with confidence: “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? … Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We experience that love here. We practice that love here. We revel in that love here. We experience a glimpse of the kingdom here in our worship, in our music, in our prayer - even right now.
It is a very precious and holy thing, and it is a blessing to be a part of it. Each year, I look forward to the inbreaking presence of God’s kingdom right here with you. And each year, God never fails to make Godself present in this place to me and to my family. I thank God and you for it.
Well, friends, we’ve done it.
You wasted a perfectly good month listening to sermons from this itinerant preacher.
I will miss you. I will pray for you. I will long to be back. And I look forward to being with you soon. In the meantime, may the reign of God make itself fully present in your life. May the love of God sustain you. May the peace of God surround you. May the joy and hope of the reign of God fill your life. Amen