Sunday, July 27

The Kingdom of God is Hidden: Sermon For the 17th Sunday Ordinary Time:

Have you understood?  The disciples are quite confident, in their understanding.  Yet, oddly the parables Jesus tells here are in part about the inability to fully comprehend and grasp the Kingdom of God.  By contrast, Solomon as he is about to take the throne of the Kingdom of Israel, sees he lacks understanding and is in need of God’s wisdom.  Solomon, doesn’t simply seek conventional wisdom but an understanding that comes from God.  The parables Jesus tells speak of the wisdom of the Kingdom of God as like those things we can’t see and may not predict.  The kingdom of God is this great risk this gamble to obtain what is hidden but invaluable.

Part of the argument for the baptism of infants and those who have yet to gain the ability to assent to the faith as outlined in the Creed and to the story of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, is that God’s wisdom and the kingdom of God our beyond everyone’s comprehension and ability to grasp. 

Our passage in Romans is a difficult passage to comprehend.  On one hand it almost seems to say that nothing bad will happen to believers, or that apparently bad things aren’t really bad in the grand scheme of things.  But if this is what Paul is saying then what of this encouragement that whatever befalls us it can’t mean that we are beyond the care and the protection of God, beyond God’s love.

There is a mystery here,  the Spirit intercedes along with Christ on our behalf yet this doesn’t prevent calamity, or health problems, or being mistreated etc.  Yet, we can be assured that it will all work together for good and God’s purposes. 

What is going on here is perspective. The perspective we are called to is to see from the hidden works of God in our midst.  We are to see God’s real at work in our world like the yeast,  like the hidden treasure, a treasure and store house that has both what is old and new at the same time.

Paul is speaking form the point of view of the crucified and risen Christ who is Jesus of Nazareth and the Son the Word of God.

What is being worked out is the slow and hidden transformation of the world, what is according  To God’s purposes and what is good for us is this unknown, incomprehensible work of God in the world.  God’s action in the world works like yeast and seeds and plants, and is like a treasure hidden whose value is unknown until one attains it and finds it is beyond price and value.  It is the hidden love of God, not our life circumstances from which we are to see the world.

It is different  wisdom than conventional wisdom, we must be schooled in this wisdom, and so schooled when we become masters and Ph.D’s, so to speak, in this hidden wisdom of God, we become like someone who has a treasury of what is both old and new.  We are to see things for their true value, not based on circumstance whether it is old or new. 

The world tells us that our circumstances are the most important thing, that our wealth, our prestige, our health tell us who we are.  Paul and Christ says that true value, even the true value of God’s work in the world, the Kingdom of heaven remains hidden, unbidden often unnoticed and unappreciated, yet it is what makes the world livable.  We are to see ourselves from this hidden perspective that isn't dictated by circumstance of false values.  So that we can say with confidence that we are Christ’s and held in the palm of God’s hand.  God works silently, under the surface free of the tyranny of circumstance and daily cares.

The point of all this is not to leave the world as it is, but to transform it like yeast transforms dough, like a seed planted that becomes a tree exponentially larger than it’s seed.  It’s not that what happens to us doesn’t matter, but that what can be found underneath the surface is so much more astounding and beyond imagination that there is no comparison, and God isn't thwarted by circumstance, the Resurrection of Christ shows that, the incarnation shows that.  God has you, God loves you, God is at work in you and the world, nothing not the worst calamity not the hugest success will change this reality.  We are called to rest and live in that matrix, the mystery of the unknown hidden beyond value workings of God in the world.  We are called to enter into this astounding risk, to risk it all to get what lies hidden beneath the surface.