Sermon: Eighth Sunday After Pentecost – July 30, 2017

Rev. Gregory G. Perez

 No matter how small or insignificant, God can use all of us to our fullest potential. 

The next time you feel like God can't use you, just remember...

  • Noah was a drunk
  • Abraham was too old
  • Isaac was a daydreamer
  • Jacob was a liar
  • Leah was ugly
  • Joseph was abused
  • Moses had a stuttering problem
  • Gideon was afraid
  • Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
  • Rahab was a harlot
  • Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
  • David had an affair and was a murderer
  • Isaiah preached naked
  • Jonah ran from God
  • Naomi was a widow
  • Job went bankrupt
  • Peter denied Christ
  • he Disciples fell asleep while praying
  • Martha worried about everything
  • The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
  • Zaccheus was too small
  • Paul had a “thorn in the flesh”
  • Timothy had an ulcer
  • Lazarus was dead

(From John Spinks)

Now! No more excuses! God can use you to your full potential.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his/her field.”  Eventually, that mustard seed grows into a large shrub that becomes a tree, so that birds can build their nests. 

It’s hard to believe that from something so small, so insignificant, something large can grow!  Large enough for the birds to build their nest.

Just like this yeast...small and almost insignificant, yet when it interacts with the flour, water and sugar, it grows into a large ball of dough that eventually is baked into several loaves of bread. 

These things – mustard seeds and yeast – are small items that grow into larger entities.  Can you think of something parallel in your own life?  An insignificant thing, object, that became something larger for you? 

Or how about this:  can you think of something that you found, something of great worth to you, and then having sold all your belongings, you invested in that treasure?  Like the merchant in search of that fine pearl or the person who discovered a hidden treasure in the field or that fisherman, who after having raised the net, pulls out only that which is not savory and good, and keeps all that is tasty, good – so we are summoned to invest in the Kingdom of Heaven, that wonderful Kingdom that begins as something insignificant and becomes something much larger.

This morning, Jesus is reminding us that the Kingdom of Heaven is not some mysterious, arcane kingdom in the sweet by and by.  No, in fact, the Kingdom of Heaven is demonstrated and is near each time Jesus heals someone, dines with the sinner, accepts outcasts, respects women, and shows deep compassion for those who are poor or those who are on the margins of society. 

Jesus uses no stately and magnificent images such as the mighty Cedars of Lebanon or the seven wonders of the world to describe the Kingdom of Heaven.  Rather, he uses what Talitha Arnold describes in her commentary on this passage, as a ‘Trash tree, or more accurately, a Trash bush.’  Evidently, a mustard bush or tree is one of those invasive bushes that is quite’s not like a majestic oak tree or maple tree, but it does come from such the tinniest seed there is. 

Really, it is not the kind of tree we are focusing on, rather, it is the reality that from something small, something much larger can come to exist.  One might even overlook that mustard seed for its insignificance, but today Jesus reminds us to find value in what others often overlook. 

But mustard seeds are not the only symbols that Jesus uses today.  He mentions leaven, or yeast, which in His culture was a symbol of corruption and impurity.  Yet, yeast is the agent of change in this particular parable. 

If God can use mustard seed and corrupt leaven to grow the Kingdom of Heaven, imagine how much God can do with each of us?

You and I – insignificant really, amid such a large world.  But, God can use us as mustard seeds and as leaven to grow the Kingdom of Heaven.

That mustard seed is a tiny symbol of how God is forever invading our orderly sense of things.  It just hides the sack, in the hand, in the church, in the mind of God.  Just when we want to feel comfortable, God invades our world and points us in a new direction, like the growth of a bush or tree, reaching upwards to heaven. 

And just as God sees us as mustard seeds, so God sees us a leaven, using our smallness, our humility, our broken humanity as an agent of change for the better.  God uses us as leaven to build an abundance of bread so that we might feed many, and for some of us, that is not always comfortable.  While we all want to live comfortable lives, often, God disrupts our world and our comfort and uses us to build the Kingdom of Heaven.  Like the list of names I read at the beginning, so we add our own names to that list, we add our own impurities, imperfections, our humble humanity so that God can use the tiniest of seeds within us to show forth the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.

The Kingdom of Heaven that is hidden in our midst yet grows into something large where all are welcome!  The Kingdom of Heaven that you and I are part of!  The Kingdom of Heaven that is demonstrated in each time we stand on the side of the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the dying, the refugee, even the abused animal.  The Kingdom of Heaven is demonstrated each time we forgive those who trespass against us, and each time we ask others to forgive us our own sins.  Each time we go out of our way to show small gestures of kindness that can lead to larger acts of love and compassion.  

This morning, Jesus invites us to ponder those small, insignificant things – the mustard seed, the leaven - that grow into something larger than ourselves, AND, he invites us to invest in it as well. 

Are you and I willing to invest in the Kingdom of Heaven?  Are you willing to sacrifice all that you have for it?

Are you willing to invest in the Kingdom of Heaven like the merchant in search for the finest pearl or the hidden treasure in the field?

What would this congregation be willing to give up in order to possess that fine pearl or hidden treasure?

 I often tell visitors that this congregation is small – really, it is.  We have only one building – one!  We don’t have a lot of space and we have talked about adding on to this existing building.  Even our social service building across the street is small – the staff often complains about the size, but we really cannot do anything with it at this time.  There is a plan, but for now, it is what it is. 

I dare say that even if we lost this building, (God forbid) we would still be able to grow the Kingdom of Heaven.  Our service to others would continue, our love and compassion for those in need would go on, and we would still be able to provide for others, a small glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven.  And how is that possible? 

 “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

 “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

No matter how small or insignificant, God can use all of us to our fullest potential.