A sermon preached by the Rev. Linda Harrison
Prop 12 (17); July 30, 2017
1 Kings 3:5-12; Psalm 119:129-136; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
The Dominion of Heaven is like leaven mixed into flour … not yeast that comes in those yellow and red packets, but leaven … think of sourdough starter.
For those who have never baked sourdough bread, you either get “starter” from someone who has been baking sourdough, or you make it yourself. It is nearly a week long process beginning with flour and water, adding more flour over the days, discarding portions of concoction, adding more flour, discarding more portions, and waiting for the mixture to bubble and ferment. As long as you have the starter, you must continue to “feed” it weekly with more flour and water, in this way it remains “alive” and there is always leaven on hand when you want to bake more bread. Often, family and friends share their starter with other bread bakers once they have their own starter made. The person to whom it has been passed must continue to feed the starter, and will likely pass some starter on at some point.
The Dominion of Heaven is like leaven …
The Dominion of Heaven is like a small mustard seed buried in the ground … an unlikely plant to be intentionally sown in a field because when it grows, it becomes a large and invasive shrub.
Little things expanding and taking over …
And the leaven isn’t just “mixed” into a little flour. The Greek word is “hidden”. A little leaven is hidden into a huge amount of flour – three measures in fact, which is 30 to 40 pounds of flour! That’s a lot of bread!
If you remember the Genesis story (18.5ff), three strangers come to pay a visit to old Abraham and Sarah and Abraham offers hospitality by asking the guests if he “might bring a little bread”. He then rushes off to Sarah and requests that she take three measures of flour, knead it, and make cakes. That’s enough bread for an army and certainly more flour than any one person can knead.
The leaven is hidden. The seed is buried. And yet both take over and produce abundance.
I want the Dominion of Heaven, here, now. I don’t want to talk about it anymore or hear about it anymore. I want to be living in the love and peace and abundant grace and overwhelming mercy of God that Jesus keeps promising in the coming Reign of God.
Don’t you? Don’t you want God to swoop in and fix everything? Don’t you wonder why the Dominion is not yet here?
Then I turn to these texts … that which is hidden is nurtured and given a little time and brought to fruition. A little something that is hidden produces an abundance.
Even Solomon prayed for what was hidden within himself to come to maturity. He prayed for wisdom. I maintain that Solomon already possessed that inner wisdom or he would not have been wise enough to ask God’s guidance and wisdom in leading the people of Israel. I hear his prayer as a request that God guide Solomon in the right use of the wisdom already within him, bringing to light what is hidden in his depths.
The Dominion of Heaven is like leaven hidden or a mustard seed buried or wisdom needing to be nurtured.
The Dominion of Heaven is within.
The Dominion of Heaven is love and mercy and grace and compassion that result in the flourishing of all creation.
The Dominion of Heaven is within.
We don’t need to wonder where it is or why it isn’t here, because it in fact is here … within each of us. It is already within our hearts. Solomon prays for wisdom, for discernment to follow God’s laws, God’s commandments, God’s statutes, God’s Torah … and what is God’s law? As the ancient rabbis say, the Law is to love God and love neighbor as oneself, the rest is commentary.
Love. God’s love. That is the law of God.
It is already within us, in the depths of our being, waiting to be brought to the light of day. Like Solomon, we pray for the wisdom of God’s love to guide us. We pray for the strength to love those we have a hard time loving.
Again, to love means to recognize the basic humanity of the one standing before you, to recognize that every person is also created in the image of God just as you are.
As we pray for love and to love, we share the love, like the leaven or the sourdough starter, we pass it on. Our small actions and words of love, once hidden, come to fruition and we find we are living in the Dominion of God sharing God’s abundance with everyone we meet.
Will everyone want our sourdough starter? Probably not. And we offer it anyway because we never know if or when they just might feed that starter and let it expand in themselves and then pass it on to others.
So we pray. We pray. We pray. We pray. We pray for the guidance of God. We pray for the love already hidden inside us. The same as leaven in flour or a seed in the soil, and we nurture the love through prayer so that it germinates and grows and rises and overflows.
Prayer brings the love that is hidden in us to fruition. Let God’s love be evident in our lives and let us pass on the leaven of love so that we share a bit of the Dominion of Heaven in our own corners of the world.
Blessed be God forever.