What will we tell our congregations about the Kingdomof Heaven?What makes this Kingdom any better than what can be gotten at the mall? Is it bigger than the consumer paradise promised every 7 minutes while we watch Desperate Housewives? Is it something that can only be had in the next life, so we must patiently suffer in this life to earn it? Will we be any closer to the Kingdomof Heaven if the right Supreme Court Justice is nominated, if our kids pray in school and have the 10 Commandments etched in 20 tons of marble in front of every town hall, or if we properly observe separation of church and state? If we double the new member classes and exceed the demands of the annual budget will we be any closer to the Kingdomof Heaven?
Sure, these may sound like silly rhetorical questions. But I must confess that I regularly let things much less valuable than the Kingdomof Heaventake on ultimate importance in my life. As much as I wish to deny, repress and shove this thought into my unconscious, worldly success too often is my measure of the Kingdomof Heaven.I can easily settle for much less than the life Jesus has to offer. I think our churches and our spiritual lives suffer more from an anemic view of what being a Christian can be like and a paltry view of the Kingdom of Heaven in our midst than from doctrinal error or, God forbid, a lack of funds. When our congregations start to complain about the hymn selection or meet far into the night about carpet colors it is time to rise up and say, “What is the
Kingdom of Heaven like?” Jesus did not go to Websters Dictionary for a precise definition of the Kingdom of Heaven. Precision has its place, but here he means to stimulate the imagination. Our life with God is better than the most breath-taking thing we can imagine. We plant tiny seeds, we search the fields for it, we scour the marketplace and when we find the divine presence, nothing else can compare. It seems that the searchers in these brief parables were not quite expecting what they found. They didn’t know their seeds would grow so well, they stumbled across the treasure while working the field, while looking for fine pearls they find one so incomparable. They were searching and working, but found more than their imagination.
I take this short series of parables to challenge me into a daily awareness of the Kingdom of Heaven breaking in all around me. It is there if I can lift my attention from lesser things. Greater intimacy with God awaits my vision to sweep in a new direction. My urban ministries professor, Bill Weber, always said, “The Kingdom of God comes in inches, and we must learn to celebrate every small glimpse we can find.” Then he would talk about finding the Kingdom in every unemployed person that found a job, every addict who got sober, every poor child who stayed in school and got an education. These are the mustard seeds of hope that surround us.
What small and insignificant seed of great importance are you called to attend to today?