|September 22, 2001|
|Rev. Virnette Hamilton|
|First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT 06776|
|Write to Rev. Hamilton|
2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
4 Then the LORD said to Moses, "I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days." 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, "In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?" 8 And Moses said, "When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him -- what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD."
9 Then Moses said to Aaron, "Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, 'Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.' " 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. 11 The LORD spoke to Moses and said, 12 "I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.' "
13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. (NRSV)
The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you." 21
Sermon: First Attitude in The heaven
Today we have a wide variety of lessons we have the Israelites complaining about the way that Moses and God have taken care of them. We have two different versions of the mustard seed story, one which likens the kingdom of heaven to the growth of a mustard seed and one which talks about the necessity for faith and what can come from one tiny action. Those are our scripture lessons, but we have another kind of lesson the inserts in your bulletins calling you to service in the name of Jesus Christ are living lessons. These lessons all have one thing in common, they are about the kingdom of heaven.
How often do you actually see the kingdom of heaven? I remember spotting it a year ago, at the top of the green. Right after September 11, the 4 way stop was actually that. People graciously and generously and politely took turns. What a thought. This week I sat there as 9 cars plowed through the intersection, all coming from the same direction. Fearing for my life, I just sat and waited, while the drivers behind me leaned on their horns. No kingdom there
Jesus says a lot about the kingdom in as our daily lives go it is like a mustard seed, like leaven in bread, like landowner that pays everyone the same, no matter how long they work. The kingdom belongs to the poor in spirit and to those who are persecuted. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field or a pearl of great price.
What Jesus doesnt say might be even more telling. He doesnt say the kingdom of heaven is like a community at worship, or a Church committee meeting. He never really equates the kingdom to anything that would be considered specifically religious. Is he trying to say to us that the kingdom is found at a more basic level? Is he trying to open our eyes to the everyday nature of Gods kingdom. Isnt he trying to remind us that the kingdom is for all people, believers and non-believers?
We can confirm that with our story this morning of the Israelites and their case against Moses. These are the folks who were brought out of slavery, who were saved from the Egyptians by the parting of the red sea. They certainly had reason to have faith, yet these are also the folks, who complained all the way through the desert that God and Moses werent doing their job and these are the folks who made a golden calf to worship. And despite their behavior. Despite their evidence of little faith, God still took good care of them. Food fresh everyday.
Gods kingdom is for all everyone and it is made of the stuff of our world, like bread and friends and generosity and tenderness. It is not some esoteric, far in the future, distant, place. It is here now and it is made of real people and their lives.
However, even though the kingdom is made of the stuff of our world, it is not like our world. Gods kingdom doesnt mirror human tendencies, Gods kingdom mirrors a divine impulse. And that is what we are asked as faithful believers to do to mirror that divine impulse, rather than our human tendencies. Remember, Jesus said, we are to be in the world, but not of the world. Not an easy request.
We are in the world. but that Divine impulse lives in our hearts. If we follow it then we will be led toward the kingdom. Gods purpose can flow through us. If not, then we will continually find ourselves stuck in the ways of the world life will be like the stop sign at the top of the green, over and over.
None of this is news to us but it is hard to live out of that divine impulse day after day, hour after hour. Lets face it, the world doesnt reward that impulse, there wont be more money in your pay check because you are a kingdom seeker. The rewards of living out of that impulse that kingdom of God impulse those rewards take place in your heart. They are like small seeds planted ever so gently in your heart. Just like any other seeds, if nurtured they will grow.
If our scripture lessons are to be trusted then we can say those seeds of the kingdom will grow to become something so large that it cant be contained by our heart it will flow into our lives. It will be shared with everyone. That is what faith is all about. Faith that God will be in that Kingdom moments, time and again and that if and when we act, those gentle and tender actions will be multiplied in the others hearts and lives. You and I become the sower of the seeds of the kingdom.
The little mustard seed on the prayer card that you received from the parish friends this morning is a reminder. A tiny seed, that when planted will grow into something so large that it will provide for all, a tiny seed of faith, that when planted can change the course of the world.
A woman when on vacation found herself shopping in a store one day, so crowded and cluttered that she couldnt really decide what kind of a store it was. So she asked the owner. Oh, he replied, we are a grace shop. You can buy anything here. Well, she said, I would like to buy love, hope, joy and peace for everyone everywhere. So off he went into the back room and a few moments later he emerged with a tiny packet. The woman looked at the small package and said, all of that is in there? Oh, he replied. You dont understand, we sell seeds.
The seeds of Grace, of the kingdom of God, have already been sown in our hearts. Just like the Israelites, God has given us the raw materials we have all that we need to transform the world. after all you didnt see God plucking and dressing the quail and he didnt gather and bake the bread for the Israelites, God provided the raw materials the rest was up to them. We have the raw materials love and compassion, we have everything that we need. The rest is up to us.
Maybe we could write some of our own kingdom parables.
The kingdom of God is like a family that brightens the life of a shut in with a gift.
The kingdom of God is like a meal delivered to a family when a crisis takes away their ability to manage their daily tasks.
The kingdom of God is like a 4 way stop where everyone takes turns.
The kingdom of God is like a Church where love and generosity are the rule.
You dont have to sign up to be a parish friend or to make meals, to be a faithful sower of that divine impulse. . How you sow the seeds into the world is your garden to design. Our task as the church is to give you more options. So we have, and we pray that you will decide to include them in your garden. Amen