Kingdom-Oriented Life and Activity

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” 

Reflection

“I gave a little blood on that bridge,” said the late US Rep. John Lewis from Georgia years later after reflecting on what happened to him in Selma, Alabama on “Bloody Sunday” when at age 25, he helped lead a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge for voting rights in 1965. Lewis’ skull was fractured that Sunday when he was struck by an officer with a club during the march across the bridge. Lewis went on to say, “I thought I was going to die. I thought I saw death.” Today, a military honor guard will escort Lewis’ body across the bridge for the last time as part of a six-day memorial ceremony honoring his life.

Jesus explains in today’s gospel reading what a kingdom-oriented life and its activity in the world is like through the use of symbolic speech. The promise and vision of the kingdom of heaven to come orients his disciples to care about public living conditions and safety. It orients activity that kneads hope and potential into whatever sustains and nourishes life in our world. It orients one to a seriousness and unswerving loyalty to the kingdom values that have both present and generational implications. It orients a disciple to a perseverant search of the depths of beauty and goodness in the world no matter how tumultuous life around can be. And a kingdom of heaven-oriented life never tires of casting an invitation to others to join in the gracious and life-giving activity of God in the world. 

The kingdom of heaven is here and it is to come even when it appears to be invisible. Like a seed planted deep in the ground, yeast mixed in with dough, a hidden treasure in a field, a pearl of great value at the bottom of an ocean floor, or fish swimming underwater, the kingdom of heaven is not visible to the naked eye. But those awakened and oriented toward its reality and Christ-promised fulfillment know by faith it exists. They commit their loyalty to its promised fulfillment. They trust that God is actively growing it. They see signs that it is fermenting stale life with flavor. They desire to discover more and more of its infinite value. They search out the unfathomable limits of its greatness. And they never tire of casting and believing with conviction in an assured hope of its ultimate actualization, as they remain anchored by faith in God’s faithfulness rather than human hope alone.

John Lewis attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis bridge 55 years ago because he and so many others with him that day and across our country saw a better day ahead for all people, even when not all people could see it. On that Bloody Sunday in 1965, his kingdom-oriented actions sowed a tiny seed of promise, they added yeast that would flavor life for people with staled lives, and they showed forth the treasure of a new humanity made possible by Christ on the cross. His courageous actions were committed to a kingdom vision of racial reconciliation and justice and his actions openly proclaimed what he believed and hoped for in the depths of his soul. 

We each have our own bridges to cross on our march toward the promised kingdom of heaven on earth as it is in heaven that includes and seeks the well-being of all of God’s children; especially the most vulnerable.  We are grateful for all that have gone before us and have “given a little bit of blood” along their walk toward a vision of a world where all people live in harmony. In the meantime, we orient our lives and actions toward the kingdom of heaven, believing for those that do not believe, loving for those that will not, dreaming for those that cannot, until God – in cooperation with our actions – makes what we hope for a reality. 

Prayer: God of all creation and hope of all nations, orient our wills and actions in the power of the Spirit toward your vision of your kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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