Monday, July 31, 2017

my July 30 sermon

The Little Things (St. Andrew's, Northford)

You've heard people say, I know you have, and have probably said yourselves, "it's the little things that matter."

A mustard seed and yeast. "Little things" by any reckoning, and yet, it today's gospel lesson we learn how much indeed they matter.

Finally, after several weeks of readings, Matthew's Jesus really tells some parables! If you've been here you've heard me complaining that the 'parable' of the sower and the 'parable' of the seeds haven't been parables at all, but allegories that Jesus explained to his closest followers. An allegory is a story where everything in the story stand for something else and has to be explained.

A parable, on the other hand, as the name indicates in Greek: para-ballein--means to 'throw out together". A parable is a simple story with one 'point', one meaning and can't be explained any more than you can explain a joke. I imagine you've tried to explain a joke to someone who didn't get it. That didn't go to well, did it? Parables and jokes--people either 'get it' or they don't.

So today, Matthew's Jesus gives us two remarkable parables--the mustard seed and the leaven (or as we usually call it, 'yeast').

"Little things" that not only 'count' or 'matter', but make all the difference in the world...that reveal to us, if we 'get it', the very nature of the Kingdom of God. What could 'matter' more than that?

I went down to our spice drawer after I read this gospel earlier this week, and found a container of mustard seeds. And they are tiny! They are about a quarter of the size of a peppercorn and peppercorns are small enough. And yet Matthew's Jesus tells us they will grow into a shrub, a tree, so large that the birds of the air will nest there. And that's what the Kingdom of Heaven is like....

The Kingdom is like a tiny seed.

Then there's yeast. I used too make all our bread for several years. I don't even know why I stopped but I did. The yeast I used came in little packets that weren't nearly full. The grains of yeast wouldn't fill the palm of your hand. Yet, when mixed with several cups of flour and some water, the whole mixture would swell and expand and grow.

The Kingdom is like that. Just a little yeast leavens the whole loaf.

Little things matter.

It pains me to say it, but we live in the most divided culture in my memory. We are divided by walls of race and class and nationality and religion in ways that frighten me to the core. We have become 'tribes' not 'one nation under God'.

Maybe we need to start back at 'the little things' to find our way forward, to find a new unity.

There was a bumper sticker I don't see much anymore that says "Practice Random Acts of Kindness". That's the kind of 'little thing' I'm talking about--small kindnesses, small appreciations, small admiration's, small moments of forgiveness.

Smile at the clerk who checks you out in the grocery store. Ask the guy in the gas station how his day is going. Make eye contact with people different from you and smile. Say 'I love you' more each day. Listen to someone you disagree with rather than arguing or walking away. Nod and say hello to people on the street. Get your eyes off your smart phone and look at the people around you.

I know some people don't like 'political correctness'--but I do. It keeps people from saying things they shouldn't say. Keeping quiet is a little thing that makes a big difference in life. Saying things out loud give them a life of their own. Keeping quiet--knowing not to say it--let's inappropriate things wither away. Thank God!

And I know this: when the White House 'communications director' can give an interview with a major national publication and use language so vile and insulting that even a 12 year old should know better, 'political correctness' needs to come back from the intensive care unit it's in....I'm not even sure anymore that the satirical things said about the President should be said out loud. I laugh, but those things divide us further.

The Kingdom is like little things.

We need to get back to the 'little things' of civil and polite and mutually respectful life before we can fix the 'big things' that divide us.

We need to look at someone and whisper to ourselves, "that too is a child of God", even when we don't agree with them or look like them or even like them.

If we simply admitted that every face we see is the face of a child of God, can you even begin to imagine what a difference that would make in our nation and in the world? Such a little thing--mustard seed sized--could bring in the Kingdom in some profound way....

And our job--like the job of the mustard seed, like the job of the yeast--is to be the 'little thing' that calls forth God's Kingdom. Just that. That and nothing more. Try it for a week and see how the world begins to shift in your life....Amen

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.