Waiting for the Kingdom

Opening Reflection

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning. There is no darkness with you, O Lord. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plenteous redemption. There is no darkness with you, O Lord. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. There is no darkness with you, O Lord.  From Psalm 130:5–7

A Reading from Scripture               Matthew 13:31-33 NIV

31 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

33 Jesus told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[a] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

I think that all of us agree that we find waiting difficult. Our current lifestyle is changing: Before the pandemic, we found ways to avoid waiting. We would go to the grocery store with small lines or we would be impatient with traffic and find alternate routes. I am certain that you can think about other ideas of being tired of waiting. Waiting is a norm now.  We have learned to not have to wait and now with the increased level of infections of Covid-19, we wait and wait – especially for the vaccine.

Advent is about waiting – waiting for the arrival of Jesus. Today is the second Sunday of Advent, we continue our three-week theme of waiting for the Messiah King with a study of two more of Jesus’ “kingdom” parables from Matthew 13.  Jesus is a master teacher using these simple, brief stories to convey deep truths about the way the kingdom of God works.  They speak of the unique nature of God’s way of restoring the broken world using the metaphor of a mustard seed and yeast to illustrate the Kingdom of God or sometimes spoken of as the Kingdom of Heaven.

Before we look a little deeper into the two Scripture verses for today, let us take a moment and look at just what Jesus means by the Kingdom of God. This is a term we see many times but really do not understand what this involves and how it affects us today. The Gospel stories about Jesus continue to remind us that Jesus is ushering in a new era of life on earth. A new way to live. John the Baptist continually calls “Prepare the Way for the Lord” Jesus is the One. Jesus is God’s plan to bring humanity back into harmony with God. Jesus is the initial or launching of the plan to redeem the world from the sinful ways that it has been following. All of Jesus’ parables reflect just what life can be like if life is lived for God. Jesus is showing us how to live in the dash (date born dash date of death – numbers on tombstones).

Two Biblical prophecies show what the Kingdom of God will look like. In Isaiah 11: 6-7  The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. Revelation 21:6 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” The Kingdom of God is about peace. There will be peace—no more war, violence, anger, bullying, or anxiety. In fact, even the animals will be at peace with each other and humanity. Justice will be pervasive in the Kingdom. The poor, orphans, downtrodden, and less fortunate will get their just due. The arrogant, wicked, and rebellious will be destroyed so that there will never again be someone to take advantage or harm the people of God.

All the people in the final Kingdom of God will be holy. They will no longer be tempted to sin. The struggle will have been won, and they will be empowered to live righteously every moment of every day forever. Jesus is ushering in the Kingdom of God. And it sounds like an impossible dream or an impossible hope. But the impossible begins as a little seed or explodes as yeast in bread mixture – metaphors of how the Kingdom of God will explode on earth.

Both mustard seed and leaven are described as small and hidden, yet they result in having large and apparent results.  That which seems almost unnoticeable produces change that brings good things to life that have widespread benefits.  The seed grows into a large tree that gives shade, protection, and security.  The leaven so affects the dough that it provides food that many, many people can enjoy and be nourished by.

In my garden, I plant a single kernel of corn into the fertile soil. After many days, it explodes into a seven-foot plant with at least two large ears of delicious, sweet white corn.  Ann and I buy frozen croissants. When I take them out of the freezer, they are about the size of a golf ball. We are instructed to place them on a cookie sheet and cover them and allow them to warm up – takes hours and the effects of the yeast are very visible—they explode into wonderful sized croissants.  

Jesus is giving us help to adjust our expectations about His kingdom and how it works.  We are so prone to desire and require immediate results.  We want to see the whole picture from the start.  Often, we do not consider something to be real unless it is fully shown all at once.  We have trouble waiting for the development of things.  We are impatient with process and want the result we desire to happen quickly.  It is hard to believe the Gospel when, in this life, we never see the full picture of the reality we have put our trust in.  We have a crisis of belief.  There is always something missing that we long for.

These parables are clear.  The smallness of the Gospel, the hiddenness of the process of growth, and the incompleteness of the results do not remove the reality that is yet to come.  The result is certain.  The seed will grow into a beautiful tree.  The leaven will affect the dough and create wonderful bread.  Many will enjoy the effects that started so imperceptibly.  The power and force of the potential that is in the seed and leaven is irresistible. 

Looking at the life of Jesus and His ministry can help us cement the message these parables describe.  Jesus brings in the kingdom but comes to do it as a baby, helpless and weak.  His ministry is powerful, and we see results in healing and restoration, but they are a drop in the bucket for a needy world.  Jesus method of building a movement leaves much to be desired.  He chooses ordinary men, and only a small number to lead His kingdom.  Often, Jesus drives away people with His message.  At the end, Jesus ministry leaves Him all alone, weak, and unjustly put to death.  For the disciples it ends in utter disappointment with seeming no good result.

Yet, Jesus leads a kingdom that is irresistible and inevitable.  Through suffering and death come resurrection and life.  The small band of nobodies becomes an irresistible force spreading the gospel throughout the world that has and continues to grow unchecked.  Following Jesus example and His message here in the parables urges us to change our mind.  We are to glory in small things, insignificant beginnings, and in weak suffering steps.  These are seeds of the kingdom, the leaven of the world.  We are urged to trust in God’s way of using the small, the hidden, and the incomplete to bring about the great, lasting results of the restoration of all things by God’s action and power.

We are living in the in-between time. The enemy continues to sow other seeds — wars, pestilence, poverty, racism, separation of people from loved ones. The list is endless. Meanwhile the faithful continue to preserve. We are unwilling to succumb to the ravages of the endless evil that is around us. There is hope – plenty of hope as shown by the followers of Christ.  People who strive to live a godly life – who want to help people who need help. Christians who seek to love neighbor and to be generous with their love and compassion. Oh, yes, the Kingdom of God is slowly emerging But Jesus is coming! Hope is coming!

Come Lord Jesus, Come!