Monday, September 19, 2011

Pentecost 14 2011

Life in the Kingdom 

 A lot of what Jesus talked about was how life should be. He called it ‘The Kingdom’ and he was forever saying what the Kingdom was like, and talking about how to find it, and most importantly, saying it was already here.

The Kingdom of God is like… Well… we could probably fill in the blanks – what sort of world do you think God would want us to be living in, what would it look like? What would we do? How would we treat people?

Everyone in the world really wants a good answer to that question – we try really hard to create our own little piece of heaven on earth, whether it is at a cottage, or our own backyard, or with family… We spend our whole lives searching for happiness. And one of our main problems is that we simply do not know what happiness would look like.

With the Kids – Daily Bread 

So you might remember that last week, in our Old Testament reading, The Israelites crossed the red sea and followed Moses out of Egypt and into the wilderness. Well, when our reading picks up today, they’ve been traveling for quite some time. Have any of you ever been on a really long trip or a really tough hike? How do you feel after you’ve been traveling and traveling and traveling? Bored, Tired, thirsty, and hungry. Well guess what? They felt that way too. In fact they were so tired and hungry that they got mad at Moses and asked him if he’d just brought them all out there to die.

Some of them even wanted to go back to Egypt where they had been slaves, but God heard them, and God sent them some food. Does anyone remember what it was called? Manna. That’s right, the next morning, when the Israelites woke up, they found this fine flaky bread on the ground and they were told to pick up what they needed in order to have food for the whole day. Does anyone know what the manna was like? (Have examples of different breads on hand) Was it like filo dough? Or wonder bread? Or crackers?

Well actually, no one knows. Even the Israelites, who got to look right at it and touch it and taste it, had never seen anything like it. “Manna” actually means, “What is it?” But whatever it was turned out to be good, and filling and the people liked it. Now who do you think got the most manna? The people who got up first? The people who gathered more than others? Moses, because he was in charge?

Actually God told everyone to gather the same amount, and that amount turned out to be exactly what each person needed for each day. If you went and gathered more than that amount, the manna went bad, really bad. It became full of worms and started to stink really badly, so badly that everyone else knew you’d taken more than you should have. Why do you think God made the manna that way? Do you remember the Lord’s prayer?

What do we say in the middle about bread? “Give us this day our daily bread.”

God wants us to trust in him to provide enough for us each day. We don’t have to hoard what we have or be afraid to share because God will always make sure there is enough. God wants everyone to have food to eat and he’s made sure that we have enough here on the earth. The trick, is that we have to be willing to only take what we need so that everyone will have enough. So remember that the next time you have a little more than others, and be ready to share so that everyone can enjoy the good food that God has given us. 

Standing Firm in Rejoicing 

 I don’t know how many of you say grace at home before your meals. I try to remember but I do not always do it myself. I also see other people doing it in restaurants, even in McDonald’s and I think t myself, that I should be doing that too. It is a simple thing, but it changes a lot. What if we remembered to say thank you?

What if, unlike the Israelites in the desert, we did constantly give thanks for what we had around us? I think our attitude towards things would be quite different. The Psalm we read together is a hymn of thanksgiving, it was written to express the joy people felt when they found out that God would really provide for them.

It is not always easy to do – right? We all have things happening in our lives that cause us pain, or wonder, or disheartenment…. But…. But… when you look back over your life; on the other side of the painful events, you can usually agree that there was still much to be thankful for.

For all his faults, Paul really believed in what he did as a Christian, he was sick a lot of the time, arrested, persecuted… his life was pretty uncertain. And he wrote to the churches he had founded and offered advice.

Today, to the Church in Philippi, a Roman sea port, he says this: “Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit…”

Think of it this way – life doesn’t always look like what we wish it would… jobs end, relationships end, sickness sets in, friends move away… but Jesus kept saying, even in the face of massive suffering and hardship, that the Kingdom of God is already all around you – just open your eyes and look.

The Vineyard 

So here is Jesus again telling his followers “The Kingdom is like” and then weaving a parable – but let me ask you this, you have just heard this story… so what is the kingdom like? What is Jesus point? Could it be that the kingdom is like a place where everyone gets a chance to work? Is the kingdom a place where everyone gets the same pay? Is it as simple as that?

This story is totally connected to the story of the manna – you see that right. This is a story in which we are talking about whether something is fair or not, whether some people deserve more or not…

When God provided Manna for the Israelites, the story tells us, they could gather what they could eat. If they tried to take more, it would simply rot; if they decided not to trust and packed away some for tomorrow, again, worms and mildew.

So what about it, The Kingdom of God is like a place where everyone gets exactly what they need, and no one has too much.

Senator McCarthy is probably rolling in his grave, especially because to anyone who has ever read the Bible, it is pretty clear Jesus was a communist. Ok, not a communist, but a socialist. He certainly would have got into trouble preaching these things in Washington during the 50’s. But that is just it. God’s plan for everyone is abundant life. God wants happiness. And having too much of anything, just like having too little of anything, leads to unhappiness.

So what if, whenever possible, we tried to provide for everyone equally? What if we made more choices that were asking how life could be a little fairer for everyone involved? Would that be the Kingdom breaking through?


Do any of you remember the Bobby McFarin song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!” it was kind of simplistic – but it was one of those songs that got stuck in your head…

Here are some of the lyrics:
 In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
 Don't worry, be happy......

Ain't got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don't worry, be happy

The land lord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
 Don't worry, be happy

Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Ain't got not girl to make you smile
But don't worry be happy

I know, if only it was that simple… but to some extent it is. The Kingdom of God is like a place where we can let go of our worries and know everything will be all right. I think we can do that because look around, there are all kinds of people here who care about you, who pray for you, and would help you in a heartbeat.

Life is rough, but God’s grace surrounds us… thank God.

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