Sunday Sermon - 24th July 2011

Revd Tessa Stephens

A sermon given by the Revd Tessa Stephens

How are we meant to live in the world in a way which makes it a little more godly? And what would a more godly world look like – more peaceful, kinder, more just etc. This is the world that we pray for when we pray the Our Father and repeat the familiar words “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

Jesus uses a series of parables or pictures to explain how this kind of world – which we call the kingdom of God - might come about.

The first picture is that of the mustard seed. I’m very fond of using mustard in cooking and the seeds give a fiery punch that you wouldn’t expect from their small size. But the most amazing property of the mustard seed is its ability to grow into a plant or shrub so big, that birds can come and rest in its branches.For Jesus’ first hearers, who knew nothing about biology the fact that something which seemed so small and dead as a seed could grown into a tree would have seemed nothing short of miraculous.

This image of growth continues, in the next picture which is that of yeast. Just like the seed, yeast has properties which can seem almost magical in the way that a small sachet of powder can cause a whole loaf to rise. Yeast also permeates the whole of the dough and causes the whole batch to rise. In the same way, when we live out the values of God’s kingdom that influences the whole of our community and the whole of the wider society.

The images continue with the picture of the field of hidden treasure. In this picture the kingdom is something hidden, but at the same time something so valuable that the man in the story is happy to sell all he has to buy the field where it lies hidden.

Finding the hidden treasure

 Finally, the kingdom is like the very best and finest pearl which the merchant who understands and trades in such things immediately realises is his heart’s desire. He too sells all that he has in order to be able to secure it.

So what is Jesus trying to tell us about the kingdom with this succession of images? He seems to be suggesting that the kingdom of God is something that can be found in unlikely places. It’s something that is often hidden or apparently small and insignificant but which then surprises us with the impact that it has. And it’s something very precious – of infinite value that is worth far more than material wealth and riches.  For the early church who were few and often persecuted the image of the mustard seed must have been a reassuring reminder of the ways in which God had been faithful to his people in the past. We might think of Abraham for example, who was old and had no children when God called him, but who miraculously became the father of the Jewish nation whose descendants were as numberous as the stars in the sky. The kingdom is also subversive, in that it takes hold of unlikely people and changes us in unexpected ways. This dynamic is present throughout Jesus ministry and even before his birth in the song that Mary sings when she learns that she is pregnant:

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;

He has looked with favour on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed;

The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.

He has mercy on those who fear him,

From generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm

And has scattered the proud in their conceit,

Casting down the mighty from their thrones

And lifting up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things

And sent the rich away empty.

He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,

To remember his promise of mercy,

The promise made to our ancestors,

To Abraham and his children for ever."

In this hymn of praise Mary speaks of the way in which God has defeated the strong and those who abuse their power and lifted up those who are poor and downtrodden.

So how might we live out the values of the kingdom today? One way in which I have found it helpful to think about his question is by focussing on the smallness of the images that Jesus uses. The yeast and the mustard seed do not seem large or important but they transform the world. In the same way, it seems to me that as Christians we are often called to small acts of service done out of a heart of love.

I’m still living in the immediate aftermath of my ordination where I made some significant promises, so I think that for me it’s especially important at the moment to listen to the message about the importance of small things. We are all called to value the small things. And those small things gain great dignity and worth when we realise that every meal cooked, every nose wiped, every visit made out of love is a building block for the kingdom of God.

There can be a temptation sometimes to feel that our lives are unimportant and lack meaning and a desire to do something truly significant and amazing for God. But perhaps the most amazing thing of all is that in doing every day tasks we are doing God’s work when we seek to do the simple things with love and care.  Amen.

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Past Sermons
Webpage icon Sermon for Sunday 22nd April 2012
Webpage icon Sermon for Sunday 29th January 2012
Webpage icon Sermon for Sunday 15th January 2012
Webpage icon Sermon for Sunday 18th December 2011
Webpage icon Sermon for Sunday 20th November 2011
Webpage icon Sermon for Sunday 6th November 2011
Webpage icon Sermon for Sunday 23rd Oct 2011
Webpage icon Sermon for 11th September 2011
Webpage icon Sermon for 14th August 2011
Webpage icon Sunday Sermon for 7th August 2011
Webpage icon Sermon for Sunday 31st July 2011
Webpage icon Sunday Sermon - 17th July 2011
Webpage icon Sunday Sermon - 10th July 2011
Webpage icon Sermon for The Priesting of Tessa Stephens
Webpage icon Sermon - Sunday 19th June 2011
Webpage icon Sunday Sermon - 22nd May 2011
Webpage icon Sunday Sermon - 8th May 2011
Webpage icon Sunday Sermon -17th April 2011
Webpage icon Sunday Sermon - 23rd March 2011
Webpage icon Sermon for Sunday 3rd April 2011
Webpage icon Sunday sermon - 20th March 2011
Webpage icon Sunday Sermon - 13th March 2011
Webpage icon Sunday Sermon - 13th February 2011
Webpage icon Sunday Sermon - 20th February 2011
Webpage icon Sunday Sermon - 6th February 2011
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