Sunday, November 19, 2017

Some Parables

         It seems two things are true this time of year
—that the days get shorter, and that Matthew’s Parables of the Kingdom of Heaven drop into still greater gloom.
         These parables are building, leading us to the Passion of Jesus—the culmination, the centerpiece, of his Gospel.
         Then the early church was left, like these servants, these slaves—forced to function with an absent master, to struggle on as disciples without Christ’s clear footsteps to follow. To wrestle with the consequences of getting it wrong, of misusing the Grace of God given to them, of wondering and speculating how their actions looked from the other side of heaven.
         Infusing all of that into these stories given to them by Jesus—telling each other about the Kingdom of Heaven, what the Rule of God was looking like in both good times and bad.
That’s what these parables are about.
Let us pray.

         In the last month or so the #MeToo movement—women opening up about their experience of sexual harassment, has hit the world like a spotlight sweeping over a dirty kitchen floor—stunning a herd of cockroaches before they can escape back under the fridge and in the shadowy cracks of the cupboards.
         Powerful men in Hollywood, the Church, Academia, Sports, Politics, Journalism, and Medicine have all been caught flat footed and exposed—there may be actual consequences for their actions, there may be a measure of justice for those they hurt. Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven is a little like that.

              My cousin Anna from Minnesota was recently my houseguest—and I did warn her, the Parsonage is a bachelor pad with 2 shedding cats in it. And she excused my mess, but did leave me with Marie Kondo’s book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing…
         I imagine there are 2 potential version of me. One who can get past the statement that “socks stored in your drawer are on holiday” and reads through the book and gets something good out of it
—and one who scoffs at the idea that socks have feelings and puts the book into his “never read” pile.
              That first version of Chris might take seriously his stuff and take the time to ask what objects give him joy and which do not, and gladly purge and pass on the things that aren’t doing it for him.
              The second version of Chris might not take the time to figure out what things of his are important to him and thus be afraid to let go of any of it.
              The first would learn to let go of things, for they weren’t his in the first place…
the second would eventually need a storage unit to fit everything in.
              The one who let go would find joy, the one who held tightly would not. Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven is a little like that.

              Yesterday was National Adoption Day. A day when adoption agencies all across the country push to finalize adoptions, and a day when families formed through adoption tell their stories.
Yesterday at the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth, 9 families formalized their adoption; one mother, Keisha Archibald, for whom this was her second adoption, said, “It’s not a job to me, it’s a purpose in life.”
              Similarly, Arthur Brooks—a fellow who writes about charitable giving—wrote, “giving to charity is proven to make people happier, healthier, and richer—but in truth, I don’t know or care what the adoption of my daughter has done to my income or health—but my happiness? It spikes every time she looks at me and I remember that magic day we met.”
              Putting in the time and love it takes to raise a child, adding to it the hurdles of the adoption process—it’s all nothing compared to the joy received back double and more, the grandest of celebrations— Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven is a little like that.

              A homebound parishioner reading this sermon later in the week will think, “That’s great, but my abilities are on the wane—what can I do to fit into this story? Can I only be the servant who buries her coin?”
              Doesn’t she know, when one of our Sunday School students created a card for her, and another went and visited her in the nursing home—they received so much,
you allowed them to grow and make connections with people of different ages who weren’t family
—you richly blessed their life by opening up to them like that.
You cracked open the Kingdom for them, so they could see it! Thank God. Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven is a little like that.

              Margaret—this is your last day with us as Director of Music.
Can you believe it will be just under 4 months? You’ve done so much in such a little time. The gifts God has given you, you have made use of and passed on, so generously.
The All Saints Hymn Sing,
opening your home to the choir,
offering up whole new worship settings you’ve composed,
the leaven your whole family has been to all of us here at St. Stephen. Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven is a little like that.

              And finally. Last week’s Agape Meal was amazing, at least for me as the Pastor.
You see… on a typical Sunday so much of the service is me doing all the Holy Things… right.
But Last Sunday, I got to simply be an emcee of the Holy,
I was just there to moving the crowd
—I just transitioned us from Holy Thing to Holy Thing
—I wasn’t doing any of it
—it was plain, at least for me…
it was plain to see that none of it was my doing, it was all just gift,
all just the things God was already doing here among us…
I’m sure the Discipleship Team, heading up the service,
was less aware of the sheer grace of things last week, but let me tell you
—God is doing wonderful things in the lives of everyone here,
and it is so good to take a long glimpse at it every now and again!
Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven is a little like that.