“The Surprising, Expanding, Confounding Nature of the Kingdom of God”
June 7, 2020; Texts: Luke 13:10-17, 18-21
Have you ever wondered how God works in the world? What the fulfillment of God’s promises to us looks and sounds like in our own earthly experience? Jesus sought to teach us something about the kingdom of God breaking into earth when he presented the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast. He said that the kingdom of God was like a mustard seed that a man planted in his garden, and the seed grew into a tree until the birds perched in its branches. He also said that the kingdom of God was like yeast that a woman took and put into a large amount of flour, and it worked all through the dough.
These images give us a sense of how the new reality that Jesus is bringing about cannot be stopped once it is started. They give us hope in the expansion of God’s work, transforming everything in its reach. But they also speak of an experience of disruption. If you know something about mustard plants, you know they are incredibly invasive! They can take over an entire garden very quickly, pushing out what is already there. If you also know how the ancient Jewish people viewed yeast, you remember that it was not always a welcome substance in bread. Leavened bread could not be used in many holy rituals; it was forbidden for certain feasts and considered common at best and impure at certain times.
When Jesus used these images, he gave us a head’s up that the work of God in the world can challenge our sense of control and even our understanding of purity. Jesus experienced this in his time, as he had conflict with some religious leaders who took issue with the way that he brought healing and liberation into the world. We know that this still happens today. If we are too focused on traditions and convenience, we can take issue with the surprising, expanding, confounding way that God works in the world. In this day and age, the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast help us suspend quick judgement in favor of discernment. When we feel uncomfortable, when new events and unrest arise in the world, these parables challenge us to look closely at everything that happens around us, asking: “What is God doing here?” “Is this disruption a holy disruption, even when it makes me uncomfortable?” We must remain curious about the way that God works in the world and be open to listening to Jesus teaching us about the way that God chooses to fulfill God’s promises to us.