Dr. Tom Long, a professor I had during my seminary studies, suggests that church is like a language school for the kingdom of God. In the same way you might go to language school to prepare for a trip to a foreign country, so we come to church to prepare to live in the kingdom of God. Here we learn the language, customs, culture and expectations what life is like in God’s kingdom. It’s not just learning different words; it’s a different way of being. Here we learn things like praise, community, and welcome. This Sunday morning our focus will be on hope: we discover that living in the kingdom of God, it’s a place filled with hope. Focusing upon the parable Jesus tells about the mustard seed, we will explore the Kingdom of God and how it takes hold in us and around us. So often we think that the Kingdom of God appears in larger than life form like some big-screen epic like some Cecil B. deMille or Stephen Spielberg movie. But I think Jesus was right as he lifted a little seed from the ground and taught his disciples. The establishment of the Kingdom of God happens in the small choices we make on small days, over and over again. Small things such as opening doors of welcome here. A compassionate word there. Small things like not giving up on flawed friends. Like praying everyday. Small things like speaking truth to power. Such as remembering that if God made the universe from a little marble and rested, then we are just created and hard wired to let go of our tiny universes and rest, too.
These were some of the things that came to mind this Tuesday morning during our Bible on the Move “bible study” that takes place while exercising on the Greenway. When I returned to the office I got a phone call from a nearby neighbor who said our 80 pound Labrador puppy had gotten out yet again and had yet again shown up at her house. But no worries, she said the dog could stay with them for a couple of hours. Thinking how much I am grateful for my neighbor’s patience and help, on my way to retrieve my pup in the early afternoon I decided to stop by Las Paletas – the wonderful Mexican popsicle store over in 12South area – and get a gift certificate to show my thanks. Just around the corner from Las Paletas I happened upon a pretty bad fender bender. Standing on the curb beside the damaged curb was the driver – a grandmother with a face full of worry holding her 3 year old wide eyed grandson in the afternoon sun. Seeing that no one was hurt, I went on to fetch the popsicles. I decided to add a lime popsicle to the order and went back to the site of the accident and said that popsicles are good things for a little kid in the middle of an unfortunate accident. The popsicle was such a small thing, but with the hug the grandmother gave me you would have thought I was her insurance guy who showed up with a big check.
I share this story at the risk of coming across as self-congratulatory. But that is not my intent. Sure, I have been called a nice guy before and I have no qualms about walking up to a stranger and striking up a conversation. But nice guys are a dime a dozen. This past Tuesday as I interacted with the parable of the mustard seed in the morning and going about the tasks of the day, I was put in a position of opportunity to be reminded that life is lived in the small choices we make. Jesus says that even the Kingdom of God flourishes from the small things. I’m sure you have stories to add about seeing what we trust as the Kingdom of God; if not, I hope you will plant such seeds around you.