Sun July 26, 2020:  9th Sun Pentecost “Mustard seeds and roller coasters” 

          Eyes to see, hands to sort, hearts to hold

          Join me in a quick prayer:  And now O Lord may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, Our Rock and Our Redeemer.  We’re continuing our short summer series of Jesus’ Parables. Jesus loved to use short stories to illustrate deep spiritual truths.  He did this because stories are so much easier to remember than dusty and dull doctrines of faith.  Stories also lend themselves to being understood by differing ages at different levels. Stories also most importantly, Good Stories, meaningful stories lend themselves to be retold again and again.  And Jesus wanted us to share these stories of faith to encourage our faith in God to be shared and nurtured.

          Today Jesus short stories are really short. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, “the Kingdom” is like yeast, like treasure hidden in a field, fine pearls, or like a net thrown into the sea.  At first it seems like these stories are so random until Jesus gets to the end of these stories and sums it up with “everyone who is trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the householder who brings out his treasure that which is new and old.”

          I like to think what helps hold these Kingdom stories together is an understanding I call “Eyes, Hands, Heart of faith.”  First what you need are eyes of faith.  Eyes of faith see more than just what is on the surface and aren’t distracted simply by what is shiny or flashy.  Eyes of faith see both the actual and the potential.  Hands of faith look not to grab and get but to work with, sort out, and mold.  Hearts of faith cherish what is godly, lasting, and pure.  When a person develops these traits of Eyes, Hands, and Hearts of faith they are like a householder who enjoys the treasures of his house both old and new.

Let me give a short illustration of this eyes, hands, heart of faith.  It’s like the caring teacher whose eyes of faith sees in the class clown not just a goof off but a natural born leader.  Having seen that in her student her goal of working with this student is not simply to control and shut down the class clown but to redirect and encourage and mold that leader she sees in him.    And when (or if) that disruptive student begins to lead the class in a positive way she lets him go forth, instead of holds him back.  She holds his transformation in her heart to give her joy and motivation for the next student.

Too often we are blind to the actual and the potential in the world around us.  At first glance it would be so easy to look at a mustard seed and conclude its too small to be bothered with.  It’s too easy to look at yeast and conclude its too small to make a difference.  But don’t we know, looks can be deceiving?! Jesus’ story encourages us to have “eyes of faith” so when we look at things; whether that’s situations, relationships, or people we look at them with a godly perspective that acknowledges the actual but also  recognizes the potential. 

Think about it.  What do you see when you look at a mustard seed.  How many of you got a super tiny mustard seed glued to a pendent or card during your Sunday School days?  If it didn’t have that womping big thing it was glued to you’d never actually notice a mustard seed.  A mustard seed is actually super tiny but looking at the tiny speck of a seed its important to recognize its potential to become a pretty big deal.

But you know that won’t happen if you hoard it and hold on to it. Those mustard seed pendants never amount to much, simply because they were mounted to be looked at rather than planted to grow. A mustard seed or yeast only meets its potential when it’s put into action.  Yeast left out of the recipe doesn’t end up doing much but it doesn’t take much yeast added to a recipe to do a lot. 

If we think God’s kingdom.  A kingdom of grace and mercy, a kingdom of love and forgiveness. And we can think in the world we live in of fame and fortune God’s kingdom isn’t very shiny.  We can look at a world filled to the brim these days with chaos, hatred, and hostility that God’s kingdom of love and forgiveness are ingredients that are too small to do much.  But Jesus says have eyes of faith that see the actual and the potential- like a mustard seed or yeast. Yeah actually its beginnings are small but don’t underestimate its potential.

But for those items to reach their potential requires hands that are willing to shape and mold and let go rather than grab and grip and hoard.  For those of us that have eyes of faith to see God’s kingdom of grace and mercy and its potential for love and forgiveness we also need hands of faith.  It does very little good for the world if those of us inside the church who know of God’s seeds of grace and mercy grab, grip and hoard them. 

The mustard seed and yeast help illustrate the actual and potential of God’s kingdom.  They also help illustrate the need have hands of faith, that plant the mustard seed, that measure out the yeast and knead it into the bread.  Hands of faith that willingly let go and allow that small seed, that small ingredient to do its thing to produce a greater, bigger, better, product.

I think many Christians are actually pretty good at having Eyes of faith but we think our hands of faith are supposed to hold on to God’s kingdom instead of plant it.  We think our hands of faith are supposed to keep a firm grip on the yeast of God’s love rather than knead it into our lives and the lives of those around us.  We think if we grab and grip God’s kingdom with our hands of faith that’s how we’ll keep it.

I think Jesus’s tells the next couple stories of the hidden treasure and fine pearl illustrate the next spiritual truth.  If you want to hold on to God’s kingdom.  God’s kingdom of love and mercy, grace and forgiveness you don’t do that with your hands.  You need your hands free to be working in the kingdom, working for the kingdom.  So how do we keep God’s kingdom? We hold it in our hearts not our hands.

Jesus tell the story of the man goes and actively sells all he has so he can buy up the field with the hidden treasure.  The merchant sells all he has to buy up that one great pearl.  They let go of all that other stuff in order to keep the one things of greatest value. Their eyes perceived the actual and the potential and with the joy that was in their hearts they put their hands to work to secure it.  Its that joy in our hearts that possesses the kingdom, not our hands.

I like the illustration of the roller coaster I heard from a youth worker.  I related so well to it.  As a kid he was scared to death of them.  As a teen he would get on them to fulfill a dare but never enjoyed it- he white knuckled through ever hair-raising twist and turn and occasionally let out an embarrassing cry of terror.  But then a girl he liked invited him to ride with her.  She raised her arms the entire way and screamed with delight.  He couldn’t understand it.  How could such a petite little thing not be petrified?  How could she find such joy out of such a death-defying feat?

He got up the courage to ask her why she liked roller coasters so much?  She replied, “I’m scared to death of them, but I can’t help loving them.”  Not expecting that answer he kept prodding her, “Why ride em if you’re scared to death of them??!”  “I used to hate them until my friends pried my hands off the safety bar and I found out I didn’t have to squeeze the bejeebers out of that bar to stay on the ride. Now its still scary but its also fun and exciting because I trust the ride.”

The youth worker concluded his story by saying “Life is like a roller coaster ride.  Its got twists and turns and dips and doodles, low bridges that look like they’ll take your head off and blind corners where you can’t see the track ahead of you.  You can be in fear for your life and white-knuckle grab hold of anything around you or you can trust the ride and enjoy the heaven out of it.”

What’s your 2020 year been like?  One heck of roller coaster ride isn’t it?  Here’s a mustard seed of faith I want to give you… You’ll find it in our second lesson on page 6 of the bulletin at the top of the page Romans 8:38- Paul has just finished listing all the things that make life a roller coaster ride- hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword (and he probably could have added pandemics) he says this “No in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Life may not be a smooth ride, it’s probably not gonna be an easy ride.  In fact, its going to be an awful lot like a rollercoaster.  But if you can trust the ride, if you can trust God’s got ya…that little mustard seed of faith held in your heart not your hands… ya might just be able to stop white-knuckling and powering through everything and be able to throw your hands up and yell with delight.   Life’s a roller coaster ride, let the love of God in Christ Jesus from which nothing can separate us be… that mustard seed of faith that gives me the eyes of faith to see the actual and the potential.  The heart of faith that helps you and me to hold on to what’s lasting so we can let go with the hands of faith, so our hands of faith are free to help and share and mold faith.  All this helps us trust life’s ride and better yet enjoy it.  Amen.