In our Gospel reading today, Jesus tells two parables about the kingdom of God. The first is a parable about a man scattering seed on the ground, and the seed grows until the grain is ripe. The one who scattered the seed does not know the seed grows and the grain becomes ripe, but he is ready to harvest it at the proper time.
The point of the parable is that the one who scatters the seed is not in charge of how the seed grows or how the grain becomes ripe. If we think about the kingdom of heaven as salvation, the parable reminds us that we are not in charge of how salvation is won for us. Neither are we in charge of who gets in the kingdom or not. But we still get tempted to try to dictate who is worthy! Why do we do that? Are we afraid of what God might do? Maybe we just don’t trust God enough to know better than we about who should enter. I know it sounds preposterous to put it in those terms. We know God knows better than we, don’t we? But at the same time, we can find ourselves spending a lot of energy in condemning of others, confident that God will see the rightness of our opinion. But we are not God. Our first reading from Ezekiel reminds us of this, using the image of trees: “… all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.”
The second parable is about the tiny mustard seed growing into one of the largest of plants, giving shelter and shade to the “birds of the sky.” For me, this is not only a great image of the kingdom, which is intended for all, but also of the church. If we let go of trying to figure out who would be excluded from the kingdom, we can be a church that welcomes all to come. There are people who are like the birds, flying far and wide, looking for a place to land; looking for shade and relief. We are called to be church and live our lives in such a way that they can come and find what they are looking for. They can find the love of God in Jesus Christ which can fill the void in their hearts.
To welcome the stranger, the “other,” can be uncomfortable and even downright scary. But that is our call, and God will give us what we need. In our second reading from 2 Corinthians, St. Paul writes: “So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
May we welcome the searcher, the stranger, the other, in faith, and help build up the kingdom.
Fr. Phil, CP