â€œItâ€™s a present, so be presentâ€
Todayâ€™s Gospel reminds me of the trip we went on to pick up Joshâ€™s puppy Kobe. Taking a detour along a dirt road due to the floods we came upon a train crossing and as I was looking along the track to see if it was all clear, Cathy remarked that â€œI think weâ€™ll be fineâ€, and as I turned my head I saw four sheep standing under the shade of full size tree, growing right in the middle of the railway tracks.
But as we sat there I laughed at what this would look like to a local who knew and used this road regularly. From the perspective of the locals, who knew, that whether it be day time, raining or at night, knew that without even looking they could cross safely-because that tree, which started as a seed that somehow lodged where it did, now not only shows that they are safe from destruction from an oncoming train, but now grown-gives shade to their sheep.
Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God, will grow, is growing in and amongst all the nations of the earth-that they nest, that they live their lives in the kingdom of God. It is a wonderful picture of today and of the end. Living in Godâ€™s growing kingdom today and knowing of what awaits us at its earthly fruition.
Like at that railway crossing-one side the tree giving shelter to the sheep who we will join forever on our last day and on the other, potential peril, but peril we can cross in the knowledge that we are both on our way and already are part of his kingdom.
John Lennon in singing of his then young son Shaun sang â€œI can hardly wait for you to come of age, but weâ€™ve got a long way to go and for now I guess weâ€™ll both just have to be patientâ€ evokes imagery of our sure promise, united with those gone before us in glorified bodyâ€™s-no fear and no pain-the full realisation of the promise that the Lord has given you.
But John Lennon goes on and sings of the beauty that he is experiencing with his young boy-the beauty of his life while he is still growing but then also the contrast â€œbut weâ€™ve got a long way to go, a hard road to flowâ€
We too suffer those contrasts in our lives on our road to the joy of what awaits. Contrasts, that given what life can dish up can start us to doubt. It would seem, and indeed we are told by some climate people that we are living in a time of unprecedented disasters. Whether it is true or not, it would seem that in the Western world the Church is in times of unprecedented decline.
Where we as individuals continually seem to get it wrong, self-serving instead of serving others, seeing the stick in others eyes but not the log in our own. Spiritual attacks reminding us of our sinful disposition and constantly pushing in thoughts to make us doubt where we sit in Godâ€™s kingdom. Itâ€™s like a one two punch in boxing, first we hit with the truth, youâ€™re a sinner-and then the knockout blow-to either make us believe weâ€™re beyond help, or to make us think that it relies on us in the way of our deeds, our works. Itâ€™s a smart trick because if not for the Word of God telling us the truth, in our human disposition we prefer to live in the profit side of the margin-where in the short term we get confused with the big picture.
Like in our world, we catch the train to work and make money from which we pay taxes. The taxes of which are partly used to subsidise the train fare. A cost centre to bring a greater profit but in another area. But know, every aspect should be running in profit-so the train ticket prices go up and guess what-less people travel by train and back to square. So sell it off to private investors who to make it profitable need to reduce costs-slash the wages, meaning less tax paid, less money to spend-less tax collected from retailers.
I know this is VERY simplistic, but my point is in our lives-sometimes there are times, short term costs that bring profit, bring growth-spiritual growth.
For the Kingdom to grow, for our growth in it, sometimes there has to be a cost centre. Testing times, hard times-but times that bring fruit that allow Christ in-to form us, to grow in us.
A Jewish legend tells that King Solomon once approached a jeweller and asked him to design a ring on which would be inscribed words that would be true and appropriate at all times and in all situations. The jeweller brought the king a ring on which was inscribed: â€œThis too shall passâ€ In times of pain the king looked at the ring and was reassured. In times of joy and exultation the king looked at the ring, and felt sobered.
We too on our road know of those joys and pains-situations where we wonder where God is in it all, and times where we would like to see some action, to see a response to our works, to see His kingdom grow-in the world, and in us.
When this happens, donâ€™t be too hard on yourself-Jesus knows the gig down here, he knows the distractions and the confusion they cause. Thatâ€™s why he walked to the cross-because he understood. He told his apostles what he was doing and it confused them. Yet through Christ on the cross and his raising the kingdom of God has spread. Yet through normal people, first the apostles and the ones that followed-through telling of Jesus and announcing the Word of God the kingdom has grown.
And now, just like the apostles, now itâ€™s our time-our time to plant the seed in the world and to let the seed grow in us.
How will that happen? I do not know, but I do know what tools we have available-and that is the Word of God. A powerful tool as Isaiah 55:11 tells us â€œThat the Word will not return empty to me, but will accomplish what I desireâ€, and we are comforted by 1 Corinthians 15:58 â€œLabour in the Lord is not in vainâ€.
The Lord says the kingdom of God is Growing and when, where and how he does it is his concern. What is our concern is planting the seed-the tool he has given us-the Word-to ourselves and others.
So how does that look, for us-for me and you-present ourselves before the Word, read it, study it-let it work in you. You may not feel it working, but I can tell you it is-because Christ said it is.
How does it look, we present ourselves before the world, in our workplaces, homes, sporting clubs-wherever you are-and live life now knowing that that tree is on the train tracks, that in Christ-no matter how things appear he is there with you, just like we will be with him at end.
Do we stand on a soapbox-we donâ€™t need too-God has placed us exactly where he wants us at this moment-we live life but loiter with intent knowing that he will bring before us someone that will want too or need to hear his Word.
Tour the world like Billy Graham preaching the Gospel-if thatâ€™s your calling, go for it.
But generally, it can be just being who you are in Christ: A world renowned theologian and teacher at the sem. Is an absolute book of knowledge-it is incredible the amount of in depth information he retains in his mind.
Yet from his classes there were two seemingly insignificant things that did and still do speak to me.
I had only completed one week of study when I was given some time studies after my brother tragically died. I was confused but I did return and after I entered my first class back, he clasped his like in prayer and looked to the heavens in thanks. That one small thing, helped sustain me for the next five years.
And the other, in class we were discussing what it means to grow as a Christian and after all our discussions, he said you are growing as a Christian is when you understand more and more those Words â€œChrist have mercyâ€.
The task of the church is not to usher in the kingdom, but rather to make ready the way, and we are growing in it and with it.
We stand before the Word of God and in the Word of God, and we present ourselves to the world in the Word of God and with the Word of God.