Good morning on this dreary Sunday. I invite you to read today’s text and lead a worship of your own at home. While we cannot be outside together, we will be together in message and spirit.
Let us pray,
Beloved and sovereign God, through the death and resurrection of your Son you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy. By your Spirit, give us your wisdom, that we may treasure the life that comes from Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Choose a hymn that you know to listen to or sing.
Old Testament Reading: 1 Kings 3:5-12
New Testament Reading: Romans 8:26-39
26The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
31[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;32it 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.”
33He told them another parable: “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.”
44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Let us pray,
Loving God, we have been given the gift of your word. Open our hearts to hear your Word as we learn of the majesty of the kingdom of heaven.
Kingdoms: places where we imagine that kings and queens live within royal courts. A place with great walls and fortresses built to protect the people who live within the walls. Kingdoms are places with grand gilded halls and extravagant decorations. Maybe even in these kingdoms we imagine there to be abundance. Abundant foods with abundant wealth living in places with abundant space.
While, these are indeed accurate images of some royal kingdoms in the distant past, I would invite you to also think about the kingdoms we see in the modern world. I do not mean to think about large countries or governments that hold power, but rather think about kingdoms where your court ruled and flourished. For me, one of these kingdoms finds itself to be in a patch of woods between my grandparents and parents houses. When my cousins, brother, and I found this patch it was a pristine place with green soft grass nestled in the woods. On either side of the grass were two large oak trees big enough for climbing. These trees looked like thrones with space to sit safely in the strong trunks or branches. Above our royal woodsy kingdom, the canopy of trees provided lasting shelter. While this kingdom was taken care by us as children, it is still there growing wild. Yet, I find that among the trees I still find places of solace and of comfort. Among the trees, I still can find glimpses into what I understand to be a most royal kingdom on earth.
In today’s gospel text Jesus gives us a list of what the kingdom of heaven is like. The kingdom of heaven is like the mustard seed, like yeast, like treasure, like a net and like pearls. These images are promises that the kingdom of heaven is full of a message of growth, joy, and riches. The kingdom of heaven is full of good news for us. These messages of the good news from heaven are also reminders that God is a God of mercy and grace. The kingdom of heaven is full of all things good.
In our text this morning we also find ourselves once again facing the words of a God that is also a God of justice. People will be sorted out of the net and there will be punishment and weeping and gnashing of teeth. While this piece of the text may make us uncomfortable, instead of ignoring it, this gives us a reminder. This uncomfortable text reminds us of the balance that God holds. God is a God of love and mercy, but God is also a God of justice.
Yet again in the midst of the God of justice we receive good news best said in the words of Paul, “38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We have been given the mercy of God through Jesus Christ so that we cannot be separated from God. While kingdoms and empires come and go, the kingdom of heaven is everlasting and good.
We carry this message forth into the world. We carry the knowledge that even though God is a God of justice, God is also a God of grace, love, and mercy. As people, it is encouraging to know that we cannot be separated from the kingdom of heaven. No matter how far we may try to walk away. No matter how many struggles we have in this lifetime. Not a single one of our downfalls or negative traits can separate us from the love of God. That is the power of God and joy of the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard see that grew from the tiniest of seeds into a strong and sheltering tree. This tree is a place where all can come and rest in its branches. The trees between my parents’ home and my grandparents’ home will fade someday. The trees serve as a reminder that the kingdom of heaven is a place where we find solace and comfort. These trees remind us that the tree of God’s kingdom is large and has room for us all to settle and make our secure nests.
Jesus ends his lesson of these parables with a question: Have you understood this? He asks of his disciples if they have understood his parables. With an answer yes, the disciples are given the message that they now have treasure to bring out both new and old. We are called to do the same. Do we understand the messages of faith we have been taught over the past for weeks? Do we understand the message of the kingdom of heaven? Yes. Take these treasures you have been given and share them forth to all. Teaching new disciples to grow in faith and to hold close the promise of God’s love and the kingdom of heaven.
Listen/sing a hymn of choice or “Jesus, Priceless Treasure”
Prayers of the Church:
Confident of your care and helped by the Holy Spirit, we pray for the church, the world, and all who are in need.
Merciful God, your reign is revealed to us in common things: a mustard shrub, a woman baking bread, a fishing net. Help your church witness to the surprising yet common ways you encounter us in daily life. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
When your word is opened, it gives light and understanding. Increase our understanding and awe of your creation; guide us as we settle in your kingdom like birds of a tree. May we settle on this earth as loving caretakers of the earth and your people. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Your Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for the saints according to your will. Help us when we do not know how to pray. Give comfort to the dying, refuge to the weary, justice to those who are oppressed, and healing to the sick (especially). Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
You show steadfast love and direct us to ask of you what we need. Help this congregation ask boldly for what is most needed. Remind us that we are never lost and strengthen us through one another. Refresh us with new dreams of being your people in this place and time. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
In the certain hope that nothing can separate us from your love, we offer these prayers to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy.
The Lord look upon you with favor and + give you peace.
Go in peace. Share the good news! Thanks be to God.