Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday was the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. But these sure don’t seem like ordinary times right now! Our world is engulfed by a pandemic that is crippling economies, sickening millions, and killing tens of thousands. With many of us staying at home more, we need to carve out some time in our daily routines to look for the divine in the ordinary events of our lives. This is what the ancient Christian mystics called on people to do. Before there were dogmas, doctrines, and denominations, early Christians looked for God in their daily living. We have, for the most part, lost that focus and that part of our faith.
In our Gospel lesson for Sunday from Matthew 13, Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. He goes on to say that this Kingdom is like a mustard seed, yeast, fishing, finding a lost treasure, and acquiring a precious gem. These are certainly not ideas of kingdom that most people then or now have. When we think of kingdoms, we see images of crowns, robes, palaces, kings, queens, princesses, and princes. But Jesus saw the kingdom in ordinary daily life—right here, right now.
The great paradox of these parables is that Jesus says this kingdom is worth a great treasure and gems. And yet this kingdom is made of mustard bushes, nets and fishing, yeast and bread breaking. Really, though, this isn’t so much a paradox when you consider that all was created by God and is of God.
It was so nice having Carolyn back in our class and at worship. I know she had a great time visiting family in Pennsylvania, but we sure do miss her wisdom when she is gone. The scripture that was the focus of our Sunday School lesson was Nehemiah 9: 9-17 and 32-33. Nehemiah and Ezra are trying to bring back to life a people and a nation that had somehow survived generations of captivity and slavery. The conditions on the ground were dire and there seemed to be little hope. Our author said, “Reality has a way of challenging our faith, especially in times of grave need and tragedy.” Nehemiah’s starting point in this rebuilding was to remind the people what the God of Israel had done for their ancestors—and that he had never forgotten them. He describes God as ready to forgive, merciful and compassionate, very patient, and truly faithful.
It is hard to believe it is almost August. Our church has been collecting cans of ravioli and spaghetti for Community Christian Services. Sue and I will see that these cans and some checks get to CCS this week. It is always nice to see friends among the wonderful volunteers there. In August we will be collecting children’s underclothes and socks (the original “Undie Sundays”). We usually do this in coordination with the beginning of school, which is, of course, a big question mark right now for districts around our nation. But the need is there: greater this year as parents, families, and seniors worry about rent, mortgages, bills, jobs, and just getting food on the table. As retired educators, Sue’s and my hearts go out to school districts everywhere trying to balance safety, health, and instruction.
Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.