Sunday, April 6, 2014

Signs of the Kingdom

Jesus also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’ (Mark 4:30-32) 
The lines above are among my favorite in Holy Scripture. Sometimes when we are looking for signs of God's Reign we want to see big things; if not peace on earth then maybe at least in Afghanistan. If not good will to all, then maybe at least some good will in our congregation. We expect to see "cedars of Lebanon" and then we'll know that God is at work. But Jesus teaches us to look in smaller places, with eyes that see.

No doubt the work of ministry includes watering such seeds and tending to them so they can grow up and put forth large branches. But we need to train our eyes to look for what is right before us and easily missed.

Signs of God's reign were before me all this weekend. On Saturday during the day I participated with the bishop and other members of his staff at a training for new wardens and new treasurers in our diocese. Their energy and commitment inspire me to do the work God has given me to do.

On Saturday night I joined the bishop and twenty-three high school students and a half dozen or so adults at All Saints Church in Worcester. The youth came from different congregations, many of them smaller congregations. But together they were a mighty force to be reckoned with. They were black and white and brown. They were shy and outgoing. They acted out this week's gospel reading, the raising of Lazarus, with keen theological insights. They give me hope in the present and future for the Church.

And then today I preached and celebrated at Christ Church Cathedral in Springfield. As was the case last night at All Saints, I looked out on a multi-racial congregation. They may not have come from every tribe and language and people and nation but their smiling faces nevertheless conjured up that image of John's on the island of Patmos for me.

And then at 12:15 I preached at the Spanish-speaking service. Over ninety people gathered in that same cathedral to make a joyful noise to the Lord, and to break the bread together and share the cup. I've been making the rounds lately in my new job and I value the work in every congregation I've visited. But the joy and love and inter-generational experience of being part of that worship this afternoon was one more mustard seed in a weekend where they abounded.

I am grateful for signs of God's presence, and for the gifts given to me this Lent.

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