“To Go Before”
Romans 8:26-39,Matthew 13
July 27, 2008
Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer
I’m a car nut.
That should not be so surprising, since I grew up in Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors and both my parents are retired autoworkers. I subscribe to most of the automobile magazines like Motor Trend and Car and Driver. If you want to show me a good time, take me to a car dealership. I can remember recently visiting friends in Texas, and one of them had a new Dodge Charger. I was quite stoked that I got to ride this “muscle car.” I was a very happy little boy.
But I am also someone that takes care for the environment very seriously. I’ve been interested in alternative fuels and fuel efficient cars. Five years ago, I bought a 2002 Volkwagen Jetta Diesel. It was a wonderful car that got great mileage- upper 30s in the city and the low 40s on the highway. Recently, I decided to start looking for a new car in light of my partner Daniel getting a new car. He purchased the Smart Four Two, the little sub-subcompact from Europe that was made available in the US this year. I wanted to get a station wagon or bigger hatchback should we need to carry something big.
Of course, I wanted to get another fuel efficient car and I started looking around. There was one car that I was very wary of considering: the Toyota Prius, the grandaddy of hybrid cars.
It’s not that I didn’t like the car. I just didn’t like some the people who were buying the car. A few years ago, the New York Times reported that many people who bought the Prius bought to make a statement- to show to others that they were “green.” In reading the story, I sensed a certain amount of smugness in some of these Prius owners and I’m not into buying something to be showy. This eco-freindly car does have a reputation in the wider culture as one driven by pious and arrogant people. Indeed, the animated series South Park, poked fun at Prius owners. In that episode, the car was called...the Pious and the drivers did exhibit a certain air of superiority.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is talking about what the God’s Kingdom is like and he does it by rattling off a bunch of parables to describe it. It’s like a mustard seed...it’s like yeast in dough...it’s like a pearl of great price. Jesus just keeps piling on the similies and just as you are trying to digest one idea, he throws up another one.
What is interesting about Jesus’ description of God’s kingdom, is that he is drawing up an interested picture of a kingdom. Now, the people of that day, living as they were in the Roman Empire, knew all about kingdoms. It was all about kings, and armies and power. Even today, while we don’t live in an Empire ruled by a king or emperor, still think of governments and nations as big and mighty things. In the mid 90s I lived in Washington, DC and can’t remember a time living around so much marble and Romanesque architecture. I have to say, I was awed by the beauty of buildings like the Capitol, the Supreme Court and the Washington Monument.
But the kingdom Jesus is talking about is nothing like those places. In God’s Kingdom, there are no White Houses, or Buckingham Palaces. Instead, Jesus talks about weeds. Jesus talks about a mustard seed, being a small seed that grows into a big tree. He talks about a woman, I repeat, a woman making bread by adding yeast into it. That in itself was odd since was talking about women’s work and he was talking about adding yeast to bread, which would have deemed the bread unclean. Then there was the “treasure” that some person found in a field that he didn’t own. He then goes and buys the field, not telling the owner that there is a hidden treasure in the field.
These are all odd symbols of the God’s kingdom. What is Jesus trying to say here?
I think Jesus trying to say that the kingdom that God rules is one that is different than what we are used to. It is found in that that is considered small and insignificant.
When I was told that you are all focusing on creation care over the next few weeks, I was excited but worried. This an important issue for me, but I didn’t know how these lecitonary texts fit into the theme. What I can see in these texts is that as children of God, citizens of God’s kingdom, we are called to usher forth God’s kingdom in those small ways. When we look at issues like the environment, we tend to think we need to do BIG things. But what if all that it takes to deal with issues like global warming is doing small things? What if means biking to work or buying compact flourescent lightbulbs? Like the mustard seed, it seems like doing such things could hardly make a difference in how we care for God’s creation. But like the mustard seed, it is those little acts that make a difference and can change the world.
But there is that thing with attitude. Pride can really creep in there and make us feel superior. We tend to get “greener than thou” and lord it over others. But the parables remind us that we are to be humble in being harbingers of God’s kingdom. The seed, the yeast, the woman, were all humble things. We are called to follow the ways of the kingdom in humility, not arrogance which is the way of this world.
But living out your life according to God’s kingdom, doesn’t mean that living will be easy. Living a life of humilty will rattle those who live in the earthly kingdom.
One morning, as we were leaving a local breakfast joint another family was coming in. I had noticed the family was looking at the car and then walked towards the restaurant. I heard the mother mutter about how dangerous these small cars were and how “they” whoever “they” are, were more concerned about saving the earth than in saving the humans.
Did I tell you that their car was a Chevy Suburban?
Following Kingdom values means that others won’t get it and will make fun of you. But we know that our treasure is found in God.
Oh, about that new car. Want to know what I got? A Toyota Prius. After test driving it, I decided I liked the car after all. But I bought not to make a statement, but to live according to the ways that God has taught. To try to make a difference in the world, like a mustard seed, yeast or a pearl. May it be so with all of us. Amen.