Emerson Ave. Baptist Church
27 July, 2014
The Big Bang Theory
Wow! It has been two weeks since I have stood here to preach. For those who were not here two weeks ago, we were blessed to have our friend Rev. Lisa Harris Lee bring us some Good News from the Master Teacher, and then last week I hope you all enjoyed the sing-along. But Here we are, back in the Gospel of Matthew.
If you remember the last time I preached, we heard the promise of Jesus to bring about the Empire of God – all we need do is trust him. Depend on him and great things will happen. Had I preached the last two weeks, we would have encountered Jesus, breaking down what the empire of God is. It is Jesus story time. It started with the parable of the good seeds. The Word of God is like seeds thrown out into a field. Some times it falls on unhearing ears and bears no fruit. Sometimes it is heard but not understood. And other times it is heard and bears good fruit. Jesus’ point being – spread the word – the seeds; don’t look for the good soil, just cast it out there and let God do the rest.
Then we would have heard the story of the field that had been planted with wheat, but in the night the enemy comes and sows weeds that look like wheat. Jesus says to let it all grow and save the sorting till the end of the process – because if you try to make the decision, you might throw away the good with the bad. He is speaking about, again, trusting God to do the work of sorting – we should just keep at the mission we have been given. Sowing the seed and harvesting the wheat.
These stories build to today’s series or parables. Jesus has been telling us what our job is, and now he is explaining what the Empire of God is like. And it isn’t something grand and glorious. Or at least that is what is sounds like.
The Empire of God, he says is like a mustard seed. It is like some yeast. A treasure found by a thief. It is like a fishing net. All strange things to describe the Reign of the One who created the Cosmos.
Let’s look at this for a few minutes –
A mustard seed. If you are sitting near one of the kids, look at their mustard seed. If you are not – they are tiny. Those of us who have grown up in the church have often heard about the mustard seed. Jesus uses it often as a metaphor – I think he may be a true Chicagoan with as much as he loves mustard.
The mustard seed is so small that it was often sown out in field without the knowledge of the sower. Birds or mice could have dropped them into the wheat seed reserves and they are invisible in contrast to the other seeds. Enemies may have come in and tampered with ones seed reservers mixing in the weed with the good seed (sound familiar). It would not be until it started to grow that one would notice that their field was infested with the weed – and it was considered a weed. This small obnoxious – invisible seed begins to grow and fast and take over the field. The mustard plant was considered an invasive weed like sumac or kudzu.
Then Jesus compares the Empire of God to yeast. Yeast was considered a contaminant to the Hebrew people. Before passover, they would have to spend days cleaning their homes to rid the house of any sign of yeast. It is something that if it falls into certain foods will begin to ferment them making them inedible – or if inebriating. Yeast was considered dirty.
There is the treasure found by a thief and the fishing net. The Empire of God sounds kind of odd. Kind of — dirty. Subversive? Unremarkable. Hard to see and ever harder to understand.
Most of us here this morning have heard the news about what is going on around the world and in our own streets.
My heart aches for the lives that are being lost in Gaza – the children being slaughtered. I don’t care what side of the conflict one may be on – the fact that the disproportionate number of victims of the violence in Palestine and Israel are children in unconscionable. The indiscriminate bombing of a city the size of Detroit is bound to cost countless innocent lives.
The blood flowing on our streets, here in Indianapolis. The friend of 40 years beaten by a deranged ex. The police officer shot down. The innocent bystanders caught in a wave errant bullets. The blood in our streets tells the story of a community that has lost its bearings. That has sought insulation rather than communion. The murder rate here in Indy is astounding. And all that seems to happen is that people throw around blame. I hear, “Oh, it is black on black violence, so the African-American community needs to do something.” “There are not enough police – if only we had more then the killing would stop.” “It is just the drug users killing the drug users, so we will be better off.” The problem is rooted in the fact that people are seen as small and as insignificant as mustard seeds.
The Empire we are ruled by sees us as mustard seeds and is blind to the potential that lies within.
We hear of Fundamentalists in Iraq threatening Christians and bombing churches. These fundamentalists are misusing their Holy Scriptures to justify their actions, when in fact the message of the Quran is one that seeks to reconcile Christians and Muslims – it acknowledges the humanity of each. They are no different than Christians who for centuries have used the Bible to justify murder, war, bigotry, slavery, and oppression – They, both, think that the Empire of God is one of blood and dominance. They see the Reign of God being ushered in by sword when in fact it is found in a kitchen. Yeast.
There are the cries of the poor echoing in our streets. The working poor. Those who are working 60 hours a week and still needing to visit the food pantries. Those who want to get to work, but don’t have a way to get there. Those who have been out of work so long that they have lost any benefits that may have helped them stay afloat. Those drowning in debt. Those buried in medical bills. They are us. And the response from the powerful is to let them eat cake.
In Mississippi, the state legislature has acted in such a way that the public education system is underfunded by $3.1 billion, meanwhile in order to keep Nissan they offered them $3.1 billion in tax cuts. You see, the powerful think it is better for corporations to benefit (and themselves in the end) rather than work to fund education for the poor.
Here in Indiana, the Healthy Indiana Plan – a medicaid supported plan to help the working poor is no longer accepting applicants. The powers say there is not enough money to fund the program; mean while Gov. Pence refused the federal medicaid expansion that would have helped these same people. Why? because taxes are bad. Because it is better to keep our money rather than make sure sisters and brothers receive essential care. Never mind the fact that the state is sitting on $2 billion.
Don’t worry, the other party isn’t any better with its constant acquiescence to the corporations who contribute to the campaigns. It seems that the Empire of America thinks it is a treasure to plunder – taking from those with less to give to those with more. The current Empire sees the poor as thieves and the wealthy as the keepers of the power. But that isn’t what Jesus says. He says the Empire of God is treasure found by a thief.
We see the pictures daily of the children stuck at the southern border of this country. Some see them as leeches coming to prey on us – carriers of diseases. There are people who stand in front of busses full of children calling them vermin. Telling them their lives are some how less than their own. They want to cast a net to keep them from entering, but The Empire of God is like a net that casts out and takes in Good Fish and Bad Fish.
The Empire of God does not make sense. It isn’t what the disciples were expecting. It isn’t what Rome was expecting. It isn’t what we are expecting. There are some many songs that speak of golden crowns and the good things that will come, and yes – we have heaven to look forward to, Jesus keeps speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Empire of God in the present tense. Is is something that is happening now and in the future. The Empire of God is near. The Empire of God is here!
The God who created the Cosmos from a Big Bang is the same God who is always creating . This is the God whose Empire is a constant Big Bang. Taking what we see as useless and mundane and exploding it to something new and transforming.
The Empire of God is like a fishing net that catches the good fish and the bad fish. It is a net open to all who swim into it. It does not discriminate. It does not close borders to those who are in need. It takes the time to get to know each person coming through the borders and hearing their story. The Empire of God take time to see the human face of tragedy. When the Empire of God is allowed to be present – there is a big bang and something new is created. A Community that sees each other as sisters and brothers – in different to country of origin.
The Empire of God is like a treasure found by a thief. The thief is snooping in his neighbors field and finds something so valuable that he is forced to sell all he has in order to obtain the treasure. We don’t know what that treasure is, but it was important enough that the thief was willing to let go of all that he was hoarding in order to take the treasure.
The Empire of God is one where we trust in the abundance of the treasure trove of God and share all things. Where we, again, build community by caring for the least among us. Where we unburden ourselves with the weight of our egos and power and embrace the treasure that is life from God. Someone sacred and beautiful. Someone deserving of education and healthcare – even if it means I have to let go some something. The Empire of God is a big bang that explodes our notions of what is our and and what is God’s. It creates the knowledge that all is God’s and we get to share in God’s abundance.
The Empire of God is like yeast. Like yeast that is mixed with flour and becomes leaven bread. The Empire of God is not found at the end of a sword but in a kitchen. The empire of God is found around the breaking of bread. The sharing of a meal. The Empire of God is a big bang that creates the bread of life, and not the dung of war.
The Empire of God is like a mustard seed. Small and insignificant it gets ignored and thrown aside. It endures years of systemic oppression. It gets referred to people as The Swamp. That piece of land where no living water enters in and those that live there begin to turn on them selves and begin to kill. The Empire of God is like a mustard seed – not so small and insignificant – it explodes into a plant that consumes the land. It is a big bang that in its forgoten-ness brings new life.
The Empire of God begins with one person. One congregation. One community of faith saying that enough is enough and that life is too precious to be ignored. It is when people who have heard the Word of the Lord stand up and tell the powers “NO MORE!” When people, who have been through the fire burning all the chaff away stand together and say in a world of hate “We Love You for who you are-” that is the Big Bang of God’s Empire. When the church becomes the model for an upside down Kingdom where the least among us and the powerful among us gather at one table to eat – to share in the Body and Blood of Jesus – That the the Big Bang of God’s Empire. When children and elderly are both looked at and seen as assets – for their exuberance and their wisdom. That is the Big Bang of God’s Empire. When the faithful explode from the safety of the sanctuary into the streets and homes; into the the schools and offices; into the town squares and hospital rooms; prisons and rehab centers; into the detention centers and halfway houses – That is the Big Bang of God’s Empire.
The Empire of God is like a mustard seed. Small…at first, but explodes into something that can scarcely be imagined. Let’s imagine. Let’s be agents of Change. Let’s be part of the Big Bang.
Thanks be to God!